Making the Case for Social Justice Educators in America’s Schools

By John McDonald

New book, “Preparing and Sustaining Social Justice Educators,” details UCLA Center X’s efforts to transform teacher preparation, educator support, and schools through focus on social justice

Across academia, among philanthropists, and in the conversations of educators and advocates, one often hears lofty ideas and idealistic plans for “fixing schools” or “ reforming education.” They are often accompanied by calls for addressing the achievement gap of low-income, mostly Black and Brown students, to somehow address what is perceived as deficits in their thinking and learning.

Lofty ideas and plans are sometimes quite good, and offered with the best of intentions. But the reality is the real work of helping students learn and thrive falls to the educators who go to work every day in schools serving increasingly vulnerable students.  The teachers and principals who show up before the bell rings and stay after the school day ends,  the ones who hear the stories, see the tears and struggles, and applaud the successes.  The ones who see and understand the real and difficult challenges that place learning at risk, but that also can see the assets and strengths among the students, families and community that are too often ignored.  It is to these community educators, who are dedicated to the school communities they serve, that the heavy lifting of increasing learning, opportunity and justice falls. And they need real and meaningful training and support to meet that challenge.

Two educators at UCLA, Annamarie Francois and Karen Hunter Quartz, are shining a light on strategies to help K-12 teachers and leaders succeed in a new book that makes the case for the development and support of social justice educators.

Drawing on the experience of Francois, Quartz, and their colleagues and partners at UCLA Center X, the book, “Preparing and Sustaining Social Justice Educators,” illuminates the need for and challenge of developing and supporting educators who are not only committed to racial and social justice for their students, but those with the deep knowledge and skills needed for high-quality instruction and learning, and the perspective and resilience to disrupt educational inequality in pursuit of opportunity and justice.