Background/Context: Culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP ) represents educators who work toward academic excellence, cultural competence, and sociopolitical awareness (Ladson-Billings, 2014). Although some profess to embrace CRP , many educators neglect sociopolitical consciousness (T. Howard, 2003; Simmons et al., 2013; Young, 2010). Socio-politically unconscious and/or racially dysconscious educators cannot engage their students in sociopolitical consciousness (King, 1991; Ladson-Billings, 2014; Watts, Griffith, & Abdul-Adil, 1999). For a multitude of reasons, including neoliberal school reform, educators may reduce CRP to cultural celebration, trivialization, essentializing, substituting cultural for political analysis, or other compromised pedagogies (Apple, 2001; Belfiore, Auld, & Lee, 2005; Sleeter, 2012).
Purpose: In this article, we argue that neoliberal school reform models employing hyperaccountability and hyperstandardization, replete with their demands on educators of conformity and silence, obfuscate teachers as thinkers, disempowering the efforts of culturally relevant educators and making high test scores the sole focus of schooling. We also argue that CRP is even more needed now, especially its focuses on cultural competence and sociopolitical consciousness, given the recent highly publicized murders of Black youth (e.g., Freddie Gray, Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, and Renisha McBride).
Setting and Population: This article explores CRP in Philadelphia’s public schools before and after the state takeover in 2001 and the proliferation of hyperstandardization, hyperaccountability, and neoliberal school reform.
Research Design: This article is conceptual. It uses the historical narratives of Black educators to support the conceptual argument.
Conclusion: Though it is a professional gamble, it is possible to be a culturally relevant educator within the hyperstandardized, hyperaccountable neoliberal school environment. Such educators must be highly skilled masters of their craft, strategic, and subversive, adhering to all tenets of CRP and mandated curricula. This tension could affect educators’ professional standing, income, and job security. However, neglecting emancipatory pedagogies under the joint siege of hyperaccountability, hyperstandardization, and neoliberal school reform reifies the American racial, cultural, and socioeconomic caste system, and it does so through our schools. Unless educators risk subversively employing CRP , students from historically marginalized communities will continue to appear as standardized failures.