Harvard Law & Policy Review
In late July 2011, an estimated 5,000 individuals converged on Washington, D.C., to protest the direction of state and federal education policy. Fueled by social media, the Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action was a grassroots effort organized largely by teachers, with principals, school board members, and activists lending support. Featured speakers included prominent education figures, like historian Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol, a former teacher known for his writings on school inequalities. Specific points of contention focused on high stakes testing and test-based accountability, key elements in the Obama Administration’s Blueprint for Reform and Race to the Top initiative. Attacking student poverty was a repeated rallying cry.
Among the groups joining the protest were advocates for the 5.3 million “English learners” (ELs) who comprise 10.7% of the K–12 school population. These students, mostly from immigrant families, need additional English skills to achieve on par with their English-proficient peers. Though they represent more than 150 languages, seventy-three percent come from homes where Spanish is the dominant language. Their education raises red flags at times related more to conflicts over American identity and failed immigration policies than to sound pedagogy.