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How To Learn More About Educational Inequity

Looking for ways to learn about the challenges our educational system faces and what you can do to address them? See our list of must-reads and must-sees.

Photo of a young student reading from a text book

By The TFA Editorial Team

December 21, 2018

You may know that our country has many public education challenges but maybe the extent to which they affect our country or some of the specifics are still unclear. Or perhaps you’ve always questioned whether or not there are solutions to remedy the systemic issues our schools face.

Spend some time learning more about educational inequity in America and the people and organizations working to address it. Even if you just have a few free hours, there are many ways to educate yourself and others on the issues in our education system, and discover the role you can play in addressing them.


If You Only Have An Hour

School segregation didn’t go away. It just evolved. (10 minute read)

Check out Vox’s 2017 story on modern-day school segregation attempts, which includes alarming stats on racial trends in public school districts.

Why We Say “Opportunity Gap” Instead of “Achievement Gap” (5 minute read)

Discover why we say “opportunity gap” when referring to the difference in academic performance between students from low-income communities and affluent areas.

Teached: A Series of Short Films Volume I (10-20 minute watch)

This series of short documentaries examines various inequities in the school system and workforce, and shows how leaders around the country are working to close the gaps.

How Change Happens (3 minutes watch, below)

How Change Happens

Watch TFA’s new video on lasting change in education can happen, and what it sees as its role in making it a reality.

If You Have A Few Hours

If you have a few free hours to learn more, here are a few articles, short videos, and an important podcast we recommend adding to the list above.

The Opportunity Myth (30 minute read)

Read TNTP’s recent report outlining the ways that public education is letting down its most at-risk students. It analyzes the impact that key resources, like grade-appropriate assignments, can have on students’ trajectories.

Leaning In On Hope, Truth, and Community (5 minute read)

Read (or watch) the remarks that TFA’s CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, gave to incoming corps members in summer 2018, which includes her thoughts on what children need to be successful.

Teach Us All (80 minutes watch)

This important documentary explores the impact of educational inequity on other parts of society, including the criminal justice system. It’s currently available for streaming on Netflix.

This American Life: “The Problem We All Live With” (60 minutes listen)

One This American Life reporter shares details of her experiences of reporting on school integration, and how some communities respond to these efforts. Discover more podcasts about educational inequity to add to your playlist.

If You Have A Few Days

If you have more time to dedicate to learning about education inequity, we recommend checking out all of the articles and videos above, plus these additional items:

Reading with Patrick (319 pages)

This memoir by a TFA alumna, Michelle Kuo (Arkansas ’04), recounts her time spent working with one of her teenage students, Patrick Browning, who was imprisoned a few years after Michelle was his teacher. Read more about the author and book.

Separate and Unequal (27 minutes watch)

PBS’s Frontline series has produced several episodes on school segregation and inequality. The Separate and Unequal episode explores how the “community school movement” is creating greater divide for students in Baton Rouge, LA.

Waiting For Superman (107 minutes watch)

This emotional documentary follows the lives of five students as they traverse challenging educational experiences. With clips from educational advocates like Geoffrey Canada and Michelle Rhee woven in, this film gives an honest portrayal of education in America today. The movie is available in its entirety for free online.

If You Have Even More Time

In addition to all of the item above, there are countless articles, books, memoirs, documentaries, and more the explore both the challenges and recent victories in our educational system. While this list isn’t exhaustive, if you have even more time, we recommend reading Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Tatum, Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol, and There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz.

A few great additional documentaries to add to your queue are Dropout Nation by PBS Frontline, Rise Above the Mark, America to MeAmerican Promise, and The Lottery, all available for streaming.

Finally, there’s no better way to gain perspective on public education than by volunteering at a school. You could help provide support to a teacher needing additional hands, whether in the classroom, lunch room, or storage room. Reach out your local school district or teachers you know to see how you can help.