Critical Race Theory and Education: SERC’s Perspective

Critical Race Theory (CRT) and education have recently attracted considerable local and national attention. Here at the State Education Resource Center (SERC), we feel an important duty to add our perspective, as an agency that supports schools in developing effective and equitable classroom practices. In addition, as the state of Connecticut put its trust in us to lead the coordination and development of a prominent new course of studies under Connecticut Public Act 19-12: An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Black and Latino Studies in the Public School Curriculum, the local discussion about CRT has directly included SERC.

SERC’s vision is “Equity, Excellence, Education,” and under our mission we serve as a catalyst for educational equity through providing resources and information. Over the last two decades, we have intentionally dedicated ourselves to understanding why racial gaps have been so persistent even when factoring in all other drivers of educational inequities. Through our research, Critical Race Theory emerged as a foundational framework to understand structural racism.

CRT is a theory, not a curriculum taught to students. As with other theories, it guides educators in their practice to serve all students. We learned that CRT: 1. strives to advance a social justice framework; 2. explains how race and racism are organized and operate; 3. aims to redress social inequalities; 4. is typically interdisciplinary and embraces multifaceted disciplines and/or research methods; 5. tends to be organized around core questions that reach into several disciplines; 6. draws upon paradigms of intersectionality; and 7. recognizes that race and racism work with and through gender, ethnicity, class, and sexuality as systems of power.

Through all of this research; exhaustive interviews; years of close collaboration with educators, students, and families; and often painful reflection on our own knowledge base and personal experiences, we have developed the most accurate interpretation we could about the role of racism in our schools and our society. As a professional learning educational organization, we are able to provide educators and students access to the results of our extensive learning, for them to discover, reflect, critically interrogate, critically interrupt, and add their own insights, for truly understanding the intersection of race and racism is both a personal and collective effort. We believe educators, students, and families are up to the challenge; they have been partners with us on this journey all along.

We know how confusing and disruptive some of these concepts can seem—because we felt it too. But it became impossible to ignore the legacy of racism and its impact on our educational system.  We could not discount students’ lived experience with race and because of their race. These are their stories, and they have gone untold for so long. We are committed to staying on this journey of advocacy and support as students and educators share their experiences and build their capacity to help make things better for our communities.

Our current national discourse reminds us that conversations about race and racism are not easy. Our collective memories hold centuries of history that we must acknowledge. However, we should use this moment as an opportunity to commit ourselves to change the dynamics of the discourse. We see the African American/Black and Puerto Rican/Latino Course of Studies as a significant first step to creating a vision for how racial equity and cultural responsiveness result in improved student performance, strong relationships among educators and students, and effective school-family-community partnerships.

It is a long process to become intentional about dismantling systemic racism. We are 20 years into it ourselves, and the learning continues. First and foremost, we are here as a resource. SERC will continue to identify policies and practices that enable educators and students develop, enhance, and maintain cultural competence, cultural responsiveness, and critical consciousness regarding race, racism, and social justice.

SERC welcomes anyone who wants to learn more about what they’re hearing. We thank everyone who has become engaged enough to make their voices heard.

The State Education Resource Center

SERC is a quasi-public agency established under statute to serve the CT State Board of Education in supporting educational equity and excellence

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