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The Every Student Succeeds Act and Multicultural Education: A Critical Race Theory Analysis

by Floyd D. Beachum - 2018

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is now the educational law of the land. It replaced and revised what was known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). ESSA represents a movement from more federal oversight to more state and local control. Although this transitional time period is one of great potential and excitement, educators and policy makers might also want to remain cautious. This next educational era of ESSA is still plagued by the problems of the past era. Teachers and administrators are still struggling to turn around low-performing schools in many U.S. urban areas; many urban educational issues, like high-dropout rates, gang influence, and low student engagement, are still inextricably linked to the socioeconomic problems that exist in local communities. This analysis first seeks to explain the purpose of ESSA. It then outlines the current plight of many students of color in the United States. Next, critical race theory is used to contextualize and categorize persistent problems that face the implementation of ESSA for these students of color. Finally, the author proposes ways to address the stated problems for school leaders and policy makers.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is now the educational law of the land. It replaced and revised what was known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Although NCLB provided all schools with increased accountability measures, significant sanctions, and encouragement to address persistent achievement gaps, it also was very prescriptive and viewed as punitive by many (Blankstein & Noguera, 2004; Hoy & Miskel, 2003). ESSA represents a movement from more federal oversight to more state and local control. It also has the potential to provide high academic standards, assist high-need students, support local educational innovations, and improve low-achieving schools (Alliance for Excellent Education, Center for Law and Social Policy, & National Youth Employment Coalition, 2016). Although this transitional time period is one of great potential and excitement, educators and policy makers might also want to remain cautious. This next educational era of ESSA is still plagued by the problems of the past era. Students of color and in poverty still lag behind their White and more affluent peers, according to academic indicators (McFarland et al., 2017). Similarly, students of color are still disciplined more often and more severely than their White peers (Rausch & Skiba, 2004). Teachers and administrators are still struggling to turn around low-performing schools in many U.S. urban areas; many urban educational issues, like high dropout rates, gang influence, and low student engagement, are still inextricably linked to the socioeconomic problems that exist in local communities. This analysis first seeks to explain the purpose of ESSA. It then outlines the current plight of many students of color in the United States. Next, critical race theory is used to contextualize and categorize persistent problems that face the implementation of ESSA for these students of color. Finally, the author proposes ways to address the stated problems for school leaders and policy makers.

ESSA represents a new direction and era for education in the United States. At the same time, it builds on a long history of U.S. educational improvement efforts (see Table 1).

Table 1. Educational Reform/Legislation, Year of Origin, and Goal

Educational Reform Legislation/Effort



National Defense Act


Provided funding to U.S. schools on all grade levels, initiated by the launch of Sputnik.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act


Provided additional funding for U.S. primary and secondary education. Started programs such as Bilingual Education and Title I.

A Nation at Risk


Called for comprehensive reform of American education and teacher training.

Educate America Act (Goals 2000)


Established numerous goals for all U.S. schools to meet by the year 2000.

Improve America’s Schools Act


Reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and supported efforts such as dropout prevention, public charter schools, and educational technology.

No Child Left Behind Act


Initiated high-stakes testing, greater accountability, and penalties for U.S. schools.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act


Established a fund of more than $90 million for education, mostly to prevent teacher layoffs and school repair/modernization. It also included the Race to the Top initiative of $4.35 billion to incentivize states to engage in innovative reforms in K–12 education.

These reform efforts establish the commitment to continuous improvement in American education. The most recent iteration of educational reform comes in the form of ESSA.


The Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 10, 2015. ESSA still includes accountability, but states have more flexibility in choosing their goals. Accountability plans must still be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education. States must identify and intervene to assist low-performing students, and they must also intervene in high schools where the graduation rate is less than 67% (Klein, 2016). Schools must also develop evidence-based plans to help struggling learners. These can include students of color in vulnerable communities and/or special needs students (Meibaum, 2016). States must still test students in reading and math in Grades 3–8 and once in high school. States also have to adopt “challenging” academic standards. This could include the Common Core, but it is not mandated (Sharp, 2016). The accountability for English language learners will move from Title III to Title I; the intent is to make it more of a priority. Only 1% of students can be given alternative tests (e.g., special needs students; Hess & Eden, 2017). NCLB’s “highly effective teacher” requirement is no longer valid. Now, what is known as the Teacher and School Leader Innovation Program will give grant money to school districts that make the commitment to experiment with performance pay plans and other ideas to improve teacher quality (Klein, 2016). Overall, there seems to be a new commitment to educational excellence.

The idea of educational excellence in U.S. schools is indeed a noble endeavor. Excellence “is a value that is espoused in schools on a daily basis as educators encourage students to do their best. The word itself brings to mind ideas of superiority, dedication, and high quality” (Obiakor & Beachum, 2005, p. 7). Unfortunately, U.S. educational reform efforts can also come into conflict with other educational values, such as equity. Educational equity supports the notion that students should receive what they need (some more, some less). This does not necessarily mean that students would receive equal funding, supports, and so on. Equity does not always mean equality (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004). They further explain that “Equity, however, recognizes that the playing field is unequal and attempts to address the inequality” (p. 21). The need for equity in this situation recognizes that students in the U.S. are sometimes treated differently because of their social identities (e.g. race/ethnicity, gender, social class, sexual orientation, language, ability status, etc.). This position is supported by the work of numerous scholars (Capper, Frattura, & Keyes, 2000; Dentith & Peterlin, 2011; Khalifa & Gooden, 2010; Milner, 2010). In the school reform discussion, it is reasonable to recognize that educational equity efforts many times are superseded by attempts at educational excellence. Similarly, Spring (2005) stated, “Efforts to create multicultural school systems were defeated as the new law mandated standardized tests and state standards to regulate the school curriculum to ensure that a single culture would dominate the schools” (p. 461). According to Obiakor and Beachum (2005), “Equity and excellence in education have not always been used in unison; sometimes they find themselves in opposition to each other” (p. 14). The need for greater equity in American K–12 education comes from the persistent problems that still plague the schooling experiences of far too many students of color.


Students of color, especially African American students, continue to face significant challenges while going to school in the United States. A broad view of the educational situation for these students seems bleak. Kunjufu (2001) stated:

African American students comprise 17 percent of the U.S. student population. African American teachers comprise 6 percent of U.S. teachers. African American males comprise one percent of U.S. teachers.

There is no staff of color in 44 percent of schools.

Of inner city teachers, 40 percent transfer within five years.

One of every three African American males is involved with a penal institution while only one of ten male high school graduates is enrolled in college.

Only three percent of African American students are placed in gifted and talented programs.

If an African American child is placed in special education, 80 percent of the time the child will be male.

Thirty-three percent of African American households live below the poverty line.

In light of Brown vs. Topeka in 1954, schools have become more segregated since 1971. (pp. vii–viii)

Furthermore, annual reports consistently signify the persistent problems with educating youth of color. According to the Economic Impact of the Academic Achievement Gap in Schools report:

Avoidable shortfalls in academic achievement impose heavy and often tragic consequences, via lower earnings, poorer health, and higher rates of incarceration.

For many students (but by no means all), lagging achievement evidenced as early as fourth grade appears to be a powerful predictor of rates of high school and college graduation, as well as lifetime earnings. (McKinsey & Company, 2009, p. 6)

The Closing the Graduation Gap report indicated:

As this report and other research have shown, two very different worlds exist within American public schooling. In one, earning a diploma is the norm, something expected of every student; in the other, it is not. The stakes attached to graduating have never been higher. This applies equally to the individual dropouts facing diminished prospects for advancement and to the nation whose prosperity and place in the world in the years to come depends on the next generation’s ability to rise to the challenges that await. (Swanson, 2009, p. 30)

This information highlights the deep difficulties faced by students and begs the question, where do these problems originate? One the one hand, students are surely responsible for their own educational journeys. They do have to take personal responsibility for their learning. At the same time, the essence of racial and ethnic bias has little to do with student effort and more to do with the social construction of race in America.


Race is more of a social construction than a biological fact. With this understanding, there is only one race, the human race. The caveat to this reality is that racism is real, and your race/ethnicity can significantly impact your life experiences. The notion of race is constructed in such a way that it advantages some and disadvantages others. In the United States, Whiteness is socially constructed in opposition to Blackness (Ignatiev, 2009). To be White or associated with things perceived to be White gives one advantage, attention, and/or privilege (Bergerson, 2003). Thus, to be Black or be associated with Black is to be disadvantaged, ignored, and/or targeted (Harro, 2000; Perry, 2003). According to Perry (2003), because of how we are socialized in American society (Harro, 2000), Whites can internalize negative perceptions and deep down believe that “to be African American is to be lazy, criminal, from broken families, rebellious, emotional, and disrespectful of authority” (p. 75). Put another way, “to be white was not to be Black” (Perry, 2003, p. 73). This is not to stigmatize all White people and to say that they all actively feel this way or act on racial biases. Instead, it allows us to understand that there is a high level of social messages that we all receive. These messages impact what we think about race/ethnicity, gender, social class, language, sexual orientation, and so on (Harro, 2000). For Whites, the messages reinforce messages of superiority, while making their race/ethnicity seem normal. Conversely, the socialization process targets people of color and identifies them as the Other. None of us is immune from this socialization process, and so we all are impacted in some kind of way. As a group, we also get unearned benefits or disadvantage depending on our race/ethnicity. Perry (2003) wrote, “African Americans are implicated in the political and cultural definition of what it means to be white like no other racial minority” (p. 76). Thus, the general perception of many in the United States of all races is that Whiteness (i.e., White people) is generally good, and Blackness (i.e., Black people) is generally bad. This now ensures that one group is viewed more positively than the other.

The social construction of race operates in covert and complex ways. According to (Schmidt, 2005), racism (and privilege) operates on individual, institutional, and cultural levels. Individual racism usually means overt acts against people of color such as violence, jokes, and discriminatory hiring practices. These are clear manifestations of racial bias. On the institutional level, racism becomes an unseen aspect of our organizational lives. Institutional racism can be defined as “the network of institutional structures, policies and practices that create advantages and benefits for whites, and discrimination, oppression, and disadvantage for people from targeted groups’’ (Wijeyesinghe, Griffin, & Love, 1997, p. 93). In schools, this plays out as policies or race-neutral practices that have clear racial outcomes, such as the disproportionate number of students of color who are suspended or expelled (Anderson & Ritter, 2017; McCray & Beachum, 2014a). Institutional discrimination also occurs when students of color are misidentified, misassessed, and miscategorized with regard to being placed into special education programs (Asola & Obiakor, 2016; Bakken & Obiakor, 2016; Obiakor, Beachum, & Harris, 2010). The cultural level of racism is not only invisible, but it also permeates many aspects of American society, including business, music, art, media, education, and law. Tatum (1997) described this kind of racism as smog in the air that we all breathe. This smog comes in the form of cultural messages that constantly reinforce racially coded messages that “affirm the assumed superiority of whites and assumed inferiority of people or color” (Tatum, 1997, p. 6). For instance, television news tends to overreport negative stories about people of color (Dyson, 2003), classical music is usually relegated to music of a certain time period and created by Whites (Dyson, 1996; Schmidt, 2005), standards of speech and dress are normed according to White preferences (Wijeyesinghe et al., 1997), and standards of beauty are defined by markers such as White skin, blue eyes, and blond hair (Dyson, 2003; Schmidt, 2005). As racism operates on one side of the symbolic coin, Whiteness operates on the other side. Haviland (2008) explored the covert complexity of Whiteness by describing three characteristics:


Whiteness is powerful, yet power-elusive;


Whiteness employs numerous techniques to maintain its power;


Whiteness is not monolithic. (pp. 41–42)

With this explanation, Haviland (2008) recognized that Whiteness does include significant power in terms of controlling resources, determining outcomes, hiring/firing, deciding what and who is accepted and rejected, and controlling the recognition of what reality is valid and invalid (Roediger, 2002; Tatum, 1997). At the same time, this power is significantly enhanced by the denial of its very existence. In Haviland’s study of White teachers in White-dominated settings, she discovered a variety of ways in which Whites employed various techniques to maintain their power. These power-maintaining techniques included the following:

Affirming sameness


Agreeing and supporting

Praising and encouraging

Teacher and student caring

Socializing and sharing personal information

Focusing on barriers to multicultural education. (p. 47)

Although some of the items listed appear to be positive, it should be reinstated that these seemingly race-neutral behaviors were in fact deployed as an excuse to avoid, a barrier to, or a distractor from, actually addressing race or privilege in more authentic ways. At the same time, Haviland (2008) noted that Whiteness is not monolithic; thus, all White people are not the same. They are at different levels of experience, understanding, comprehension, and awareness in terms of their own privilege. In summary, racism can operate on individual, institutional, and cultural levels. Moreover, these levels are interconnected and move in the direction of the superiority of Whites and the inferiority of people of color (Schmidt, 2005; Tatum, 1997). At the same time, Whiteness manifests itself as a powerful force that many deny; it also employs various tactics to maintain power. Therefore, one does not have to be an active participant in either of these concepts to benefit. Their very existence automatically serves the interests of the majority in the United States to the detriment of the minority population. To counter and interrogate these powerful notions, scholars of color developed critical race theory.


Critical race theory (CRT) is a model for understanding and interpreting how race and racism work in American society. It can be described as “a body of legal scholarship . . . a majority of whose members are both existentially people of color and ideologically committed to the struggle against racism, particularly as institutionalized in and by law” (Bell, 1995, p. 888).

CRT originated from what was known as critical legal studies (CLS). This was a form of legal inquiry proposing that power interests override precedent (and principles) in reference to legal judgments.

Critical legal theorists fundamentally question the dominant liberal paradigms prevalent and pervasive in American culture and society. This thorough questioning is not primarily a constructive attempt to put forward a conception of a new legal and social order. Rather, it is a pronounced disclosure of inconsistencies, incoherences, silences, and blindness of legal formalists, legal positivists, and legal realists in the liberal tradition. Critical legal studies is more a concerted attack and assault on the legitimacy and authority of pedagogical strategies in law school than a comprehensive announcement of what a credible and realizable new society and legal system would look like. (West, 1993, p. 196)

Although CLS signified a change in legal thought and interpretation, it still was not comprehensive enough for scholars of color. Therefore, they started to separate and form their own movement and approach. These founders of CRT included Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Alan Freeman, and Mari Matusda. “CLS scholars critiqued mainstream legal ideology for its portrayal of U.S. society as a meritocracy but failed to include racism in its critique. Thus, CRT became a logical outgrowth of the discontent of legal scholars of color” (Ladson-Billings, 1998, p. 21). While CRT proved to be a great tool in the legal arena, its application also spread to fields like education.

The application of CRT to K–12 education provided a powerful new perspective for scholars to use when addressing issues like race and racism. A major breakthrough for the inclusion of CRT in education came in 1995 with the Ladson-Billings and Tate publication of the article, “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education,” which appeared in Teachers College Record. This signified a call to critical scholars and scholars of color to explore the tenets of CRT and look for educational applications to research. Some major tenets of CRT include:

1. Racism is a permanent aspect of American life.

2. Skepticism toward legal-based claims of “neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness, and meritocracy.”

3. The challenging of historical and support of contextual/historical analyses.

4. The recognition and importance of the voice and stories of people of color.

5. The emphasis on interdisciplinary approaches.

6. The dismantling of racial oppression as well as the elimination of oppression in all of its forms.

7. Whiteness as property. (Beachum, Dentith, McCray, & Boyle, 2008; Matsuda, 1993)

Although all of these tenets are important, the three that are most applicable in this case are the permanence of racism, objectivity/colorblindness/neutrality, and Whiteness as property. As policy makers and practitioners implement ESSA, this implementation occurs within a context of racial problems and privilege.


The permanence of racism asserts that racism is a permanent and persistent component of American society. The “permanence of racism suggests that racist hierarchical structures govern all political, economic, and social domains” (DeCuir & Dixon, 2004, p. 27). By recognizing the pervasive nature of racism, one can also properly center racism. “One of the main tenets of CRT is the centering of race and racism” (Bergerson, 2003, p. 52). In schools, this tenet helps to explain microaggressions and low expectations. Microaggressions are personal interactions or encounters that end up subordinating, insulting, or angering people of color. Microaggressions can be defined as “stunning, automatic acts of disregard that stem from unconscious attitudes of White superiority and constitute a verification of Black inferiority” (Davis, 1989, p. 1576). They “can take the form of negative stereotypical comments, racially insensitive jokes and even well-meaning comments that are actually uninformed” (McCray & Beachum, 2014a, p. 399). For students of color, these interactions can come from other students as well as teachers or administrators. The permanence-of-racism tenet in CRT highlights the idea that these types of interactions are commonplace and should not be so easily ignored or downplayed.

Similarly, the notion of racism as permanent also explains why many educators have low expectations for students of color. This component of CRT supports the notion that there can be a lingering bias against students of color. Again, because of how we are all socialized in U.S. society, educators can internalize negative stereotypes, images, and perceptions of people of color (Harro, 2000; Tatum, 1997). This can result in having low expectations for these students as well as viewing them through a deficit lens. According to (Villegas & Lucas, 2002):

Teachers [and school leaders] looking through the deficit lens believe that the dominant culture is inherently superior to the cultures of marginalized groups in society. Within this framework, such perceived superiority makes the cultural norms of the dominant group the legitimate standard for the United States and its institutions. Cultures that are different from the dominant norm are believed to be inferior. . . . Such perceptions inevitably lead teachers to emphasize what students who are poor and of color cannot do rather than what they already do well. (p. 37)

What we believe ultimately comes out in what we do as educators. Thus, teachers or school leaders who operate from a deficit perspective can lower expectations for students, leading to negative outcomes such as academic underperformance, student self-doubt, and disillusionment with school (Beachum & McCray, 2011). “The problem is that far too many teachers and educational leaders have had low expectations for so long that cultures of failure and apathy pervade many schools [especially many urban U.S. schools]. In educational leadership in particular, leader attitude and perspective is a vital key to success” (McCray & Beachum, 2014b, p. 93). CRT asserts that racism is immovable and cannot be eradicated because it returns in different forms (Delgado, 1990). In schools, it can take the form of microaggressions or low expectations. Similarly, colorblindness and neutrality lead to other problems in schools.


Colorblindness is the idea that color or race does not matter. It is evident in the quote, “I only see kids; I do not see color.” This statement is naïve at best and insulting at worst. People of color want to be seen and respected for who they are. To not see color is to not see these people and to willfully ignore color and race. “Proponents of colorblindness argue that decisions should be made without taking race into consideration. The problem is that most whites cannot practice true colorblindness. In fact, whites attribute negative stereotypes to people of color while at the same time espousing their opposition to blatant racism” (Bergerson, 2003, p. 53). In education, a teacher can claim to treat all students the same but may over-refer boys of color to special education or consider them to be “slow learners.” “The idea of colorblindness allows racism to persist in more subtle ways. The result is that the more ‘white’ a person of color appears and acts, the better” (Bergerson, 2003, p. 53). This too can be problematic if students feel they have to conform too much or totally assimilate to the point that they lose a sense of self-worth and community connection (Tatum, 1997).

CRT also levies a significant critique on the notion of neutrality. The concept here is called neutrality of the law. It indicates that laws, statutes, and educational policy (such as ESSA) have nothing to do with race and that written policies and laws are sufficient with regard to addressing equality (Beachum et al., 2008; Khalifa, Dunbar, & Douglasb, 2013). This also includes policies and practices related to discipline in schools. School discipline policies are thought to be neutral, and they are as written; the problem is in their application. “Students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds experience disproportionate disciplinary consequences compared to White students” (Sugai, O’Keeffe, & Fallon, 2012, p. 198). According to Skiba and Knesting (2001), African American students did not misbehave at higher rates than their White counterparts; they did, however, receive harsher disciplinary measures for lesser infractions. Students of color also were vulnerable to disproportionate discipline when they were accused of subjective infractions.

Subjective infractions can include a student not moving from point A to point B in a timely fashion; talking to a teacher with a somewhat negative disposition; wearing articles of clothing inappropriately (i.e., sagging pants); and horse playing with peers. Objective infractions can include a student bringing a weapon to school; fighting with another classmate; bullying peers; etc. (McCray & Beachum, 2014a, p. 403)

When subjective infractions occur, there is a greater chance that bias comes into play, which negates the assumed objectivity of individuals and neutrality of the policy (Beachum & McCray, 2011; Skiba, Michael, Nardo, & Peterson, 2002). “Neutrality is a problem because whites consider whiteness the norm; neutrality is perceived as equivalent to whiteness” (Bergerson, 2003, p. 53). While CRT casts doubt on notions of colorblindness and neutrality, it also recognizes how Whiteness as property operates.


In CRT, Whiteness itself can be viewed as property. Therefore, as property, it includes rights. The U.S. property rights discussion dates back to the days of chattel slavery (Harris, 1993). Green and Gooden (2016) wrote, “During chattel slavery in the U.S., property ownership was inextricably linked with race, citizenship, and human rights” (p. 12). Harris (1993) provided additional explanation:

According whiteness actual legal status converted an aspect of identity into an external object of property, moving whiteness from privileged identity to a vested interest. The law’s construction of whiteness defined and affirmed critical aspects of identity (who is white); of privilege (what benefits accrue to that status); and of property (what legal entitlements arise from that status). Whiteness at various times signifies and is deployed as identity, status, and property, sometimes singularly, sometimes in tandem. (p. 1725)

Thus, Whiteness can be a legal status; moreover, it has at least three property functions. These rights include the right to transfer (although nontransferability is actually a greater benefit in this case), the right to use and enjoyment, and the absolute right to exclude (Annamma, 2015; Beachum et al., 2008; DeCuir & Dixson, 2004; Harris, 1993; Pollack & Zirkel, 2013). “Whiteness as property has taken on more subtle forms, but retains its core characteristic—the legal legitimation of expectations of power and control that enshrine the status quo as a neutral baseline, while masking the maintenance of white privilege and domination” (Harris, 1993, p. 1715). Whiteness as property functions in more subtle forms within education. Beachum et al. (2008) explained that the K–12 educational impact of whites as property

helps us understand the ways that curriculum and the pedagogies . . . reflect the notion that the rights of citizenry in this country, evident in the lack of adequate curriculum materials and classroom supplies, and the exclusion of African American students from enjoyment and benefits of a rich and meaningful curriculum, situates Whiteness as a property with all of the inherent and promised opportunities and pleasures of public education deployed to Whites as a right but systematically denied to African Americans. Moreover, the low quality of teaching, the lack of teacher information of and access to new or relevant pedagogical methods suggests the lack of rights of teachers of African American students to gain new skills and develop stronger teaching methods. Property rights in the United States are understood as transferable, however, the alienability of certain property is severely limited and available only to Whites. Students of color, then, living in mostly segregated urban settings attending urban schools, do not receive the same rights of access and enjoyment of curriculum and quality teaching awarded to White students, who live and attend schools in mostly suburban, more affluent settings. (p. 203)

Property rights can include safe suburban schools, high-quality teachers and administrators, adequate resources, relevant and rigorous curricula, and the security of going to school in areas where it is likely that your teachers, administrators, support staff, and fellow students will be of your same race (the U.S. racial majority in this case). Green and Gooden (2016) stated that the people who possess and control this form of property are “often white parents, students, families, and community members” (p. 13) who may not be interested in promoting educational equity at the expense of the privileges they may enjoy. Whiteness as property then encompasses the right to transfer, to use and enjoyment, and to absolutely exclude. In general, this protects the educational advantages of the majority (use and enjoyment) while solidifying and promoting the educational disadvantages of certain people of color (nontransferability and right to exclude).


The implementation of ESSA does signal a time for new opportunities and approaches. It indicates that K–12 education in America is ready for a change. The change that is sought and needed must be something more than just the repackaging of NCLB (or earlier reform efforts). CRT could be a useful tool to explain the persistent problems facing many students of color, analyze seemingly race-neutral policies, and move closer to more equitable educational outcomes. Additional insight can be derived by returning to the tenets presented earlier. Although CRT states that racism is a permanent aspect of American society, it is not insurmountable.

Educational policies should incorporate opportunities for sincere dialogue (Freire, 2000). Sincere dialogue can lead to the kinds of meaningful discussions that change hearts and minds (Singleton, 2013). This kind of discussion should also work in tandem with efforts to raise level of consciousness. We cannot grow if we do not know. Having knowledge about inequalities and purposefully advocating for positive change addresses the CRT tenets of colorblindness and neutrality. Consciousness can move educators from the mindset of colorblindness to the mindset of colortalk (Beachum et al., 2008; Ryan, 2006). Colortalk, according to Thompson (2004), refers to “acknowledging racial identity, culture, racism, and racial privilege as factors that shape and color experience, colortalk recognizes that a person’s color is a significant dimension of her or his experience” (p. 26). Colortalk also rejects deficit perspectives of students and makes people more aware of microaggressions. According to Villegas and Lucas (2002),

 Awareness of the pervasiveness and longevity of the inequities in schools and of the structures and practices that perpetuate them can be disheartening for prospective teachers [and school leaders]. But it is essential that they recognize these realities. If they see schools through the rose-colored glasses of the meritocratic myth, they will unwittingly perpetuate inequities. (p. 58)

Both educators and policy makers should also recognize how CRT can be used to address assumed neutrality in certain educational policies.

Although the laws and policies seem race-neutral, the enforcement is race conscious. Technical efficiency alludes to administrator’s overreliance on science, predictability, and control. This is undergirded by a strong belief in quantitative data, empiricism, and

rationality. The CRT response would not totally reject all of these notions, but would interject the permanence of race because science and data can be used to avoid or mask race-related issues. Furthermore, the CRT position with regard to educational leadership

also places value on qualitative data sources and the importance of the voices and viewpoints of communities of color. (Beachum, 2012, p. 910)

With regard to Whiteness as property, educators, policy makers, and community members should work toward addressing the equitable funding and resource allocation for all schools without regard to geographic location. Starratt (1991) insightfully recognized that the social arrangements we see every day are not absolute and are open to change. Therefore, an educational arrangement that does not prioritize Whiteness as property is not far-fetched; it requires a different vision for our schools. A CRT analysis of educational policy can be difficult for some to understand or comprehend. It does require American society to face some ugly racial truths. Beachum (2015) stated, “Sometimes knowing the truth is not easy” (p. x). Once we know it, we have a responsibility to act on it to make our world a better place. Gorski (2006) stated that multicultural education’s downfall was educator’s valuing of peace over justice and comfort over change. For a better multicultural future, CRT can be applied to various contemporary issues for greater illumination and clarity. It is in this way, as Americans, that we can move more effectively toward the direction of both justice and change.


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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 120 Number 13, 2018, p. 1-18
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22339, Date Accessed: 6/19/2021 3:10:04 PM

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About the Author
  • Floyd Beachum
    Lehigh University
    E-mail Author
    FLOYD D. BEACHUM is the Bennett Professor of Urban School Leadership at Lehigh University, where he is also an associate professor and program director for educational leadership in the College of Education. He received his doctorate in leadership studies from Bowling Green State University, with an emphasis in educational administration. Dr. Beachum has a total of 22 years in education (K–12 and higher education). Before becoming a faculty member, he worked as a substitute teacher, student teacher, classroom teacher, and lead teacher for social studies. His research interests are leadership in urban education, moral and ethical leadership, and social justice issues in K–12 schools. Dr. Beachum has authored several peer-reviewed articles on these topics in several journals. In addition, his most recent books include Educational Leadership and Music: Lessons for Tomorrow’s School Leaders (2017) and Improving Educational Outcomes of Vulnerable Children (2018).
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