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NASBE’s Fall Standard Focuses on Achieving Racial Justice in PreK-12 Education

Alexandria, VA  – Even as battles are waged over how K-12 instruction presents race, culture, and history in classrooms across the United States, public schools remain an essential part of a commitment to a just society in which all students receive excel­lent instruction and equal opportunities to learn, have the supports they need to thrive, and feel safe and a sense of belonging at school.

And as the authors in the fall issue of NASBE’s State Education Standard attest, our country is not there yet. Schools can progress toward educational equity only if, at every challenge, state leaders are willing to make decisions that put the needs of our most vulnerable students first.

Such is the argument made by John B. King Jr. and Denise Forte of The Education Trust. In the lead article, they remind state boards of education of their crucial role in creating and maintaining a racially just system and identify key areas for state leaders to focus on: leveraging federal relief funds to eradicate pre-COVID inequities; social, emotional, and academic development; educator diversity; and early childhood education.

National Urban League’s Hal Smith outlines six equity-driven principles state boards can use in leveraging community assets to drive policies and build systems that upend inequities and foster equity. Derrell Bradford of 50CAN reviews the troubled legacy of segregated schools and housing and explains how expanding school choice is fundamentally a racial justice proposition. He urges state leaders to see choice as a way to build a more “resilient, desirable educational enterprise that better equips students and families to find the education that works best for them.”

Constance A. Lindsay of University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill outlines how educator diversity improves student outcomes and thus is a marker of teacher quality. She identifies the barriers of entry for diverse teaching candidates, such as degree and licensure requirements, and how states can alleviate some of those barriers. She also suggests a solution in developing paraprofessionals, who tend to be more racially and ethnically diverse, as teacher apprentices.

Julie Sugarman and Melissa Lazarín address the plight of English learners during the pandemic and how states can build stronger, more resilient systems to better support these learners. As Hailly T.N. Korman at Bellwether Education Partners argues, if states can build coherent, silo-bridging systems to help students with the greatest needs learn—including those in foster care, the juvenile justice system, and those experiencing homelessness—all children will benefit.

The issue also highlights the work of several state boards that have advanced initiatives to promote equity. DC state board member Jessica Sutter and colleague Alexander Jue stress the importance of process and stakeholder engagement in crafting new social studies standards. Connecticut state board member Woody Exley highlights new ethnic studies courses in his state, Texas, and California. Arizona state board member Janice Mak urges boards to combat the fresh wave of discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Lastly, Vermelle Greene and Miya Simpson of the Maryland State Board of Education discuss the work of the Task Force on Achieving Academic Equity and Excellence for Black Boys, which Greene chaired. “By helping our Black boys, you’re going to help all of our students,” Greene said. It is her hope that Maryland’s pilot will provide a proof of concept for other states to replicate.

Read and share the racial justice issue of the State Education Standard.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at


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