Distinguished scholar Dr. James Earl Davis came to Fordham University this month to deliver an address analyzing the need to alter the common approach to education reform.
The lecture, titled “Reforming Education Reform: Leadership and Transmitting Inequality in Schools," was given as this year's Barbara L. Jackson Lecture. This is the third year for the program, which honors a progressive Fordham graduate school education professor.
Davis, who studies the experiences of young black men and boys, crafted his speech on education equality around that subject. He described black youth as a signal of what's the worst and not working in education.
“We have much to learn about how to produce more equitable educational outcomes, particularly for low-income minoritized students who continue to challenge our best practices and policies," Davis said. "Too many of these students experience academic death and also physical death at the hands of systems more interested in protecting self-interest."
Davis called for putting a new emphasis on the role schools have in stamping out or supporting inequality, which may even be incidental as many are under the pressure of carrying out reform mandates that come from higher authorities. Davis urged teachers and administrators alike to resist this pressure and look harder to find what's right for their particular students and school, rather than what's expected.
“I didn’t want to suggest that all education reform was bad,” he said. “We have growing evidence of a number of whole school reform initiatives — sort of broad system and systemic initiatives — where we’re getting some positive effects. But just to take a reform initiative and to say it’s going to be effective in all settings, in all schools, with all students—that is so naïve and dangerous.”
Davis is the Bernard C. Watson Endowed Chair in Urban Education at Temple University.