Education Organizing, Policy Advocacy and Restrictive Language Policies: How Activist Organizations Define and Remedy Educational Inequality for English Learners in a Post-Proposition 227 Era
Given the failure of traditional educational reform strategies, education organizing is increasingly seen by equity reformers as a promising alternative approach to attain more equitable schooling for students learning English in under-resourced communities. Dozens of organizing groups have entered the field of education reform in the last decade, helping to change the landscape of education politics in powerful ways. In the Southwest, many of these groups hope to remedy the deplorable state of education for English learners, as evidenced by high drop-out rates and poor test scores, and counter the onerous effects of education policies that position English as the superior and legitimate language to be learned in school.
This activism around education has been examined very infrequently either by scholars in education or by scholars of social movements. Moreover, almost nothing is known about how these groups grapple with, make sense of, and ultimately take action around English learner issues. This study begins to fill this gap. Relying on a blended conceptual framework which draws from studies of equity reform in education, scholarship on education organizing and social movement theory and employing a comparative case study design, this study documents how activist groups use a variety of tools to advocate for English learners and hold the system accountable for their learning opportunities and outcomes.
Specifically, the study examines how a coalition focused on equity education policy for English learners, and three of its constituent groups, define problems and their sources; the types of strategies used by these groups aimed at remedying problems identified; and the extent to which organizational factors influence both the problem identification process and the kinds of campaigns and tactics utilized in moving equity agendas forward.
The findings illustrate how activist groups focus not only on a wide variety of issues around English learner policy and practice situating agency and the problem identification process within the context of lived experience but they also differ in the way organizers conceptualize the primary sources of inequality and thus offer distinct approaches in where to locate valuable time and resources aimed at remedying it.