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Making the Connection between the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the current-day movement to ensure Quality Education for All Children in America

On December 16, 2009, Algebra Project Founder and President Bob Moses met with attorney John Doar at Doar’s offices in NYC. Doar served as First Assistant then Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division in the US Department of Justice from 1960-1967, playing a significant role in many events of the Civil Rights Movement. Moses reconnected with Doar this winter to learn from him historical points regarding the US DOJ’s research into voter registration in Mississippi and Louisiana leading to federal passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In particular, voter registration cases showed that whites had universal suffrage no matter what qualifications they might have had, whereas blacks were subjected to various literacy tests. The US DOJ found decades of documented inequity within the public schools, so that even if everyone were re-registered and required to take the same test, the poor quality of education for blacks would have resulted in continued inequities in registration.  Therefore the solution had to be what was included in the Voting Rights Act – registration by age and residence without any other requirement.
This historical perspective informs the context of today’s effort to organize a national conversation about Quality Public School Education as a Constitutional Right (QECR). According to Moses, the movement of the 1960s got Jim Crow out of public accommodations, voting and the national Democratic party, but did not get Jim Crow out of Public Schools. Enormous inequities remain.
What we need today is a constitutional amendment guaranteeing quality public school education for all children in America, so that our youth are prepared to enter and contribute to the growing, global, knowledge-based economy. That requires literacy in mathematics as well as reading and writing; and it means improving teaching and learning in the lowest performing schools throughout the country.
Building upon more than two decades of research and curriculum development around mathematics education for low-income and low-performing communities, the Algebra Project is pursuing this goal in a number of ways:

Continuing research on quality education, and building a national network of schools through
NSF-sponsored Cohorts Model.
Partnering with and supporting efforts such as QECR and The Young People’s Project.
Offering professional development workshops for teachers across the country.

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