Governmental Policies

Successive U.S. governments have implemented many policies aimed at improving African American education. Schools were once legally segregated, and African American children often assigned to inferior schools, before people like Ruby Bridges challenged these policies in the 1960s. However, scholars, such as Gary Orrfield of Harvard, observe that many African Americans continue to be effectively segregated from other races in low-scoring schools. Some desegregation programs, such as that in Seattle, Washington, have been opposed as stepping over the original goal of simply creating freedom to attend schools nearby their communities to making certain politically determined racial percentages a goal in itself.

Multiculturalism has been introduced to be more inclusive of African American and other minority cultures and history. Most school districts have also adopted diversity policies to encourage the hiring of more minority teachers and staff. Many progressive education curriculum reform policies, such as reform mathematics and inquiry-based science, were designed to be more inclusive of minority students and cultures and learning styles.

As in the larger majority community, there remains a split between conservatives who believe that individuals should concentrate on a race-blind programs to master the same content as the most educated ethnic groups, and liberals who believe that the long historical legacy of discrimination and exclusion remains the largest impediment to equality in education. They emphasize race-conscious policies and the continued application of affirmative action and desegregation principles.