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Perspective | Achieving equity together

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The following is Deanna Townsend-Smith’s “Final Word” from the Nov. 11, 2023 episode of Education Matters on recent events aimed at building a network of organizations in North Carolina pushing for educational equity.

Together we can achieve so much more. The Color of Education Summit brings together educators, policymakers, researchers, students, parents, community members, and other key stakeholders focused on achieving racial equity and eliminating racial disparities in education. Color of Education is a partnership between the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity, the Public School Forum of North Carolina, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and the Center for Child and Family Policy. The intent of Color of Education and Mapping the Movement is to bring a collective together to accomplish common goals and objectives by sharing information and resources while creating a synergistic commitment to action. These events help to keep us focused and give us hope that change can be achieved when we strategize, organize, and plan for the future we want to see. 

This year’s Color of Education Summit was informed by common priorities and resources discussed over the past year during the Mapping the Movement convenings where we focused on:

Report after report confirms these priorities along with our state’s constitution which details recommendations and rights which we all have a responsibility to ensure are implemented. As our namesake Dr. Dudley Flood often says, we already know everything we need to know about how to eradicate educational inequities; however, we must have a willingness to stay committed to ensuring that every child receives a quality education. Each of the aforementioned goals are important to protecting and supporting every child. 

As we work to protect and support each child it is important to elevate their experiences to help inform policy and practice. As students have so eloquently outlined, representation matters as it instills aspiration, and students want and need to understand the past to continue the progress we have made as a nation.

The State’s constitution forever guarantees education for each child. In 1997 the Supreme Court in Leandro v. State defined a sound basic education as:

  • “Sufficient ability to read, write, speak English and sufficient knowledge of fundamental math and physical science to enable students to function in a complex and rapidly changing society”
  • “Sufficient fundamental knowledge of geography, history, basic economic and political systems to enable students to make informed choices about issues that affect the student (personally, or in the student’s community, state, and nation)”
  • “Sufficient academic and vocational skills to enable the student to successfully engage in post-secondary education or vocational training and to compete with others in further formal education or gainful employment”

Statutes such as the Parents Bill of Rights  — which are fundamentally unconstitutional — strips students of their guaranteed right and limits educators’ ability to fulfill the basic requirements of the constitution. Moving  the arc of justice requires action by the people which includes students impacted by the education they receive. Through Color of Education and Mapping the Movement we are building and expanding a coalition which will work together to ultimately eradicate systemic inequities. 

If you missed this year’s Color of Education we plan to provide an opportunity to subscribe to a limited number of the sessions available through the end of 2023. For information about the Color of Education and Mapping the Movement visit the Dudley Flood Center’s website at

Thank you for taking time with us to learn and think about education.

Deanna Townsend-Smith

Dr. Deanna Townsend-Smith has been working in education for over 20 years and earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2014. She has worked and gained expertise in a variety of roles, including as a teacher, mentor, new teacher coach, administrator, Director of Board Policy and Operations for the North Carolina State Board of Education, and currently as Senior Director of the Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity & Opportunity.