Thank you, Steve, and thank you for helping lead NPR’s expanded education coverage.

It’s a pleasure to be back talking ith education riters again.

I kno it can be tough ith cutbacks in nes operations to keep the beat thriving. !ut you do a
great service to your co""unities, to teachers, to parents, to children, and to the full#range of
education stakeholders by digging deep into our nation’s educational challenges.

I ant to give a special shout#out in this regard to Stephanie !anchero, $%&’s previous
president. She covered 'PS hen I as in 'hicago and covered education throughout the
(ba"a ad"inistration. She is a top#notch )ournalist*tough but fair*and I kno she ill carry
her talent for exa"ining education policy to the +oyce ,oundation.

Today I ant to take a fe "inutes to talk about a land"ark "o"ent that transfor"ed our
nation’s schools. Sixty years ago, this last Saturday, the Supre"e 'ourt issued the Brown v.
Board of Education decision, striking don +i" 'ro school segregation.

I often say that education is the civil rights issue of our generation. I ant to elaborate on hat
that "eans##and ho the pursuit of e-uity runs like a ribbon through the $ducation .epart"ent’s
progra"s and the initiatives launched by President (ba"a.

%e have all folloed the backlash against .onald Sterling’s bigoted re"arks. It’s a backlash that
as entirely fitting. !ut as outraged as e are by the ords of one "an, here is the outrage
over our nation/s achieve"ent gaps and the fact that "illions of our children still don/t receive
e-ual educational opportunity0

In Brown, the Supre"e 'ourt struck don the 1separate but e-ual2 doctrine, affir"ing the value
of integration. !ut a Supre"e 'ourt opinion can’t fully "ake e-ual opportunity a reality on the
ground*in schools, in classroo"s, or in hearts and "inds. So, Brown is not )ust part of our
history. It is part of our future.

Sixty years after Brown, education re"ains an urgent civil rights issue for four reasons.

,irst, hile Brown struck don de jure segregation as unconstitutional, de facto school
segregation has orsened in "any respects in the last to decades.

Since 3443, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black
students ho attend highly#segregated schools, here 45 percent or "ore of students are students
of color.

6ere in the South, "ore than a third of black students attend such racially#isolated schools7 in the
Northeast, "ore than 85 percent do.

&s you kno fro" your on reporting, educational opportunity and diversity can vary idely
a"ong urban and suburban districts ithin a short drive of each other. In Ne 9ork 'ity, even a
fe blocks can "ake a huge difference, as state co""issioner +ohn :ing recently pointed out.

+ohn called the achieve"ent gaps beteen affluent and poor students 1a disgrace.2 I agree. That
disgrace is painfully at odds ith the &"erican pro"ise that if you study and ork hard, you
should have an e-ual opportunity to get a -uality education, no "atter your ;ip code or skin

Second, education re"ains a civil rights issue because the !ron ruling sparked a seeping
expansion of the entire concept of educational opportunity. Brown helped propel the passage of
I.$&. It helped drive the adoption of Title I<. It helped lead to the creation of Title I and Pell

This seeping expansion of e-ual educational opportunity to protect disadvantaged students,
girls and o"en, students ith disabilities, >=!T students, and $nglish#language learners
"eans that education re"ains an urgent civil rights issue in ays that ould have been
uni"aginable ?5 years ago. To take one exa"ple, hen Brown as handed don##in fact, as late
as the 34@5s##"illions of children ith disabilities ere routinely denied access to the general

Today, e also have a "uch "ore sophisticated understanding that ensuring e-ual opportunity
"eans "ore than )ust striking don +i" 'ro las.

That’s a third reason hy education re"ains the civil rights issue of our generation.

Today, e orry both about achieve"ent gaps and opportunity gaps. !ecause e haven’t
provided access to high#-uality early learning to all fa"ilies, "illions of children enter
kindergarten already behind their peers at the starting line of school. That is profoundly unfair.

That’s hy President (ba"a’s groundbreaking Preschool for &ll plan is not )ust an early learning
proposal##it’s a critical civil rights initiative.

&nd hen children aren’t getting the full benefit of educational technology because of their
inco"e or ;ip code, it/s an in)ustice. &nd that’s hy President (ba"a’s 'onnect $d initiative to
expand high#speed Internet access to 44 percent of &"erican students is also an e-ual
opportunity initiative.

%hen students of color and students ith disabilities are disproportionately suspended or
expelled, and hen that disciplinary action ste"s fro" discri"inatory policies or practices, it’s a
civil rights violation.

%e’ve knon about this ine-uity for years. !ut not until Aarch, hen e released the 'ivil
Rights .ata 'ollection, did e find out that black preschool students*essentially four#year olds
*are also "uch "ore likely than hite children to be suspended.

(ur expectations of hat constitutes a orld#class education have risen dra"atically since
Brown. %hen I as groing up in 'hicago, you could drop out of high school and still land a
)ob in the steel "ill, the stockyards, or a factory. That’s no longer the case. No, you need a
postsecondary credential or degree to have a fair chance of succeeding.

That’s hy, in a knoledge#based, globally co"petitive econo"y, access to ST$A courses and
&P classes is also a civil rights issue.

The 'R.' results shoed that !lack and 6ispanic students account for close to B5 percent of
high school students, but constitute )ust a -uarter of students taking &P courses and exa"s, and
only C5 percent of enroll"ent in calculus classes.

& ne analysis that e have run of student access to advanced ST$A and &P classes shos that
&"erican Indian and Native &laskan students are "uch less likely than students in other ethnic
groups to attend high schools that even offer &P classes, calculus, or physics.

&nd )ust ?D percent of black students*only to#thirds*attend a high school that offers
calculus. !y co"parison, D3 percent of hite high school students have the option of taking
calculus, as do D@ percent of &sian#&"erican students.

The botto" line is that students of color, students ith disabilities, and $nglish learners don’t get
the sa"e opportunity as their hite and &sian#&"erican peers to take the "ath and science
courses that figure i"portantly in preparing for careers and college.

This du""ying don of expectations is devastating to fa"ilies, co""unities, and ulti"ately to
our nation. %e can’t continue to relegate talent and potential to the sidelines.

The 'R.' survey is an incredibly rich resource, a survey of every public school in the Enited
States. I encourage you to dig into it aggressively to report local stories on educational e-uity.

This urgent need to close opportunity gaps is hy the President/s FG55 "illion Race to the Top#
(pportunity proposal is essential.

It ould provide ne "oney to states and districts to use data to identify and correct these
disparities. &nd it ould drive resources*such as "ore &P classes, or behavioral supports that
i"prove school cli"ate*to the schools, teachers, and students that need the" the "ost.

I ould add that no one has been hurt "ore in recent years by lo standards and a lack of
accountability for student learning than our "ost disadvantaged students.

%ithout accountability, there/s no expectation that all children ill learn. %ithout accountability,
there/s no urgency. %ithout accountability, ithout "eaningful assess"ents of student learning,
parents don/t have an ob)ective ay to kno hether their children are getting the education they

%ithout accountability, there/s no i"perative to face hard truths about our education syste". &nd
the hard truth is that our lo#inco"e students are less prepared than "iddle#inco"e students, and
our "iddle#inco"e students are less prepared than students in "any high#perfor"ing &sian and
$uropean countries. &ccountability isn/t )ust about lo#inco"e students##it/s about all students.

%ithout accountability##ithout a straightforard syste" of knoing hich students are
learning##e cannot fulfill the pro"ise of Brown.

I kno ne evaluation syste"s are i"perfect and can be unsettling for teachers. !ut tell "e
another ay to figure out hich teachers are succeeding and hich are struggling, and ho e
can help "ore teachers excel. %e need to learn fro" districts here "eaningful evaluation and
high expectations are coupled ith real support and teacher leadership##districts like
6illsborough 'ounty and .enver.

So, as you cover state efforts to i"ple"ent higher standards*and efforts by so"e on the
political right and left to alk aay fro" high expectations and accountability for results*I
hope you ill ask the hard -uestionsH Tell us ho lo standards and a lack of accountability can
benefit poor children0 Sho us here children at risk ill be better off if e )ust stop setting
high standards, stop evaluating, and stop pushing for better assess"ents of learning0

%e all kno hat that looks like##tragically, in too "any places, it/s the education syste" e
have had for decades. Proficiency rates in so"e schools in the single#digits7 high schools here
half the students drop out.

In college I took a year off to ork in "y "o"/s after#school tutoring progra" in inner#city
'hicago. (ne of the students I tutored as a basketball star studying to take the S&T. 6e as a
great kid ho had done all the right things, including staying aay fro" the gangs. 6e as an
honor roll student ith a 1!2 average. &nd he as functionally illiterate.

The syste"##his schools##had failed hi", not the other ay around. !ut there as no
transparency, no accountability for the syste". %here as the outrage0

&sk parents, and they/ll tell you that they are big believers in accountability and evaluation. So to
"y friends, "y colleagues, "y allies in public education##school board "e"bers, ad"inistrators,
unions, and teachers##I ant to say this as clearly as I canH &voiding accountability ill
under"ine public confidence in public schools. It ill propel "ore parents to look elsehere for
educational options.

Since the ti"e of Brown, hat "ight be called the paradox of progress has played out in our
schools. (ur students have "ade enor"ous progress, and yet the rising significance of education
in the global econo"y has "ade &"erica’s large achieve"ent gaps so "uch "ore conse-uential.

The progress since Brown is nothing less than pheno"enal##and it’s not )ust li"ited to the fact
&"erica has its first black president.

In 3485, feer than C8 percent of young black adults co"pleted high school7 in C53C, al"ost @5
percent of black students graduated fro" high school on ti"e.

.uring the sa"e ti"e#span, the percentage of young black adults ho earned a bachelor’s degree
or higher increased seven#fold, fro" about G percent to C3 percent. !ut the catch is that for all
our progress, it’s not nearly enough to fulfill the pro"ise of Brown.

The fourth and final reason that education is the civil rights issue of our generation is that
discri"ination continues to persist in too "any places. Ay depart"ent’s (ffice for 'ivil Rights
receives roughly 35,555 co"plaints a year.

('R/s )ob is to enforce the la. &nd that "eans telling a school district in Texas that they cannot
punish a young o"an for led conduct because another student raped her in a school band

It "eans telling a district in 'olorado that they cannot ignore a hostile environ"ent for >atino
students and staff.

It "eans telling schools in a Ne 9ork county that they cannot syste"atically reduce the grades
of students ith disabilities by a "ultiple of 5.?4.

&nd it "eans telling a principal in rural &laba"a that he cannot )ustify disparities in offering &P
courses at predo"inantly#"inority high schools because he feels black students can’t succeed in
advanced courses.

So for these four reasons, education is very "uch the leading civil rights issue of our generation.
School re#segregation7 the expanded reach of las regulating e-ual opportunity7 the elevated
i"portance of education and opportunity gaps7 and the continued persistence of discri"ination7
all co"bine to "ake closing opportunity gaps a "oral i"perative.

Enfortunately, in C53B, e don’t treat ine-uality and ine-uity in schools ith the urgency and
seriousness of purpose it deserves.

Too "any &"ericans today have beco"e co"placent about our educational perfor"ance. &nd it
asn’t alays that ay.

&fter the tribulations of the 'ivil %ar, 6arriet !eecher Stoe rote that the freed"an, -uote,
Ipleaded for teachers as a necessity of life.I

%hen &"erica as buffeted by a "assive ave of i""igration a century ago, parents started a
grass#roots "ove"ent to create public high schools. The book Middletown, a classic study of life
in Indiana, reported that education then 1evokeJdK the fervor of a religion, a "eans of salvation,
a"ong a large section of the population.2

.uring the desegregation orders of the 3485s and 34?5s, people "arched to protest +i" 'ro
schools. They ere beaten, spat on, fire#hosed, and even killed.

'an e honestly say today that in the E.S., education, -uote, 1evokes the fervor of a religion and
a "eans of salvation02 'an e honestly say that e plead for great 1teachers as a necessity of
life02 I don’t think so.

Regrettably, education is a second#tier issue in national elections. It rarely co"es up in
presidential debates. Ay guess is that so"e reporters in this roo" share "y concern that
education isn’t treated ith "ore seriousness at the national and local level.

Nor is the proble" li"ited to :#3C education. The federal govern"ent provides "ore than F385
billion a year to college students and institutions of higher education. &nd yet parts of the higher
education establish"ent have reacted ith dis"ay at the very idea that the federal govern"ent,
ith significant public input, ould seek to create a ratings syste" that gives students and
fa"ilies a better sense of the value of their college education and taxpayers/ F385 billion

So I ant to encourage you to use your knoledge and expertise to co"bat co"placency, to ask
the hard -uestions about accountability, and to aaken "ore people to the real#orld toll of
educational ine-uity.

9our colleague &"anda Ripley ca"e up ith an innovative ay to study education in &"erica.
She spent ti"e both ith E.S. students ho did a year abroad, and ith students fro" other
countries ho ent to school here.

She concluded in her recent book that students in high#perfor"ing countries are doing better than
in the E.S. because they are "ore serious about school. &nd that seriousness, that sense of
educational purpose, has its roots in policy and culture.

The high#perfor"ing counties she looked at set high standards for hat students should learn,
and "easured "astery ith tests that "attered*)ust as states in the E.S. are starting to do.

&t a panel I "oderated ith &"anda, students fro" South :orea, !ra;il, =er"any, and &ustralia
all said that school here as easier than at ho"e, even if they ere attending top high schools

:orea is one nation that takes education seriously. :orean teachers get extra pay and career
reards for orking ith the neediest kids. Their children ho need "ore, get "ore7 our
children ho need "ore, get less.

No, both :orean and E.S. citi;ens believe that the caliber of teachers "atters tre"endously.
The difference isH They act on their belief. %e don/t. %e talk the talk, and they alk the alk.

6ere in the E.S., I don’t kno of a single school district out of "ore than 38,555 that identifies
the "ost successful, hardest#orking teachers and principals, and syste"atically provides
incentives and support so that they can help the co""unities and schools ho need the "ost

I don/t kno of a single district that syste"atically identifies every student ho needs longer
school days and longer school years to learn, and provides it.

%e have achieve"ent gaps and opportunity gaps. !ut "ore i"portantly, e have a courage gap
and an action gap.

%hat is outrageous is that e don/t have a knoledge gap##e kno the i"portance of extra
ti"e and getting great teachers before the children ho need the". Entil adults sho the courage
to close the action gap, e on/t be putting children/s needs first.

Ay challenge to you ould be to either find districts that close the action gap, or prod districts
about hy they aren’t doing a better )ob of getting students the support they need to close
achieve"ent gaps.

President (ba"a/s Race to the Top (pportunity proposal asks states, districts, and schools to
take a hard look at expenditures against outco"es to anser )ust that -uestion.

In fact, nearly every "a)or educational initiative that the (ba"a ad"inistration has advanced
ai"s to i"prove outco"es for underserved students##fro" the Preschool for &ll initiative to
expanding Pell =rants.

,or all the challenges in ensuring e-ual opportunity, the history of Brown also provides
opti"is" for thinking e can "ake genuine progress in expanding e-uity.

In the years of "assive resistance after Brown, it is easy to forget that "any people thought that
the South ould never integrate its classroo"s. !ut as it turned out, Southern schools "ade
substantial progress toard integration in the "id#34?5s.

It/s true that the fight for e-uity re-uires political courage and hard ork. $ven co""on#sense
steps can take unco""on courage.

In fact, that’s the path that leaders in Tennessee have folloed in recent years, tackling the tough
issues head#on.

Tennessee, hich had one of the loest bars in the country for proficiency, raised its acade"ic
standards in C535##even though the proportion of students rated proficient in "ath on state
assess"ents plunged, fro" 43 percent to G8 percent, in grades three through eight.

The state also invested heavily in strengthening the -uality of classroo" instruction and
reva"ped teacher support and evaluation.

Those controversial but co""on#sense decisions helped "ake Tennessee the only state that
reported a striking )u"p in "ath and reading achieve"ent in both fourth grade and eighth grade
on the C53G N&$P.

Tennessee/s exa"ple, and the history of Brown, gives "e opti"is", to paraphrase .r. :ing, that
the "oral arc of our schools is long, but it bends toard )ustice##and )ustice "eans true e-uity
and opportunity for all.

9our reporting, your truth#telling can help "ake our nation and our school leaders fulfill the
pro"ise that in &"erica, education is, and "ust be, the great e-uali;er.

9our investigative skills and your expertise can "ake Brown not a hall"ark of the past but a
harbinger of the future.

Thank you*and no I’d like to open up for -uestions.

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