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Educational Equity Policies and the Centralization of American Public Education: The Case of Bilingual Education

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 87, No. 4

Madeline Mavrogordato, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University


Sixty years ago, federal guidelines regarding the instruction of special populations in American public schools were nonexistent. Racial minorities, language minorities, women, the poor, and those with physical and mental disabilities had not been identified as groups that needed special protections. Much has changed since then. Federal legislation that is designed to ensure that all of these groups have access to equal educational opportunities in the United States is now in place. This article examines the evolution of policies surrounding bilingual education to illustrate that the need to ensure the educational opportunities of certain student populations compelled the federal government to become more involved in the governance and oversight of American public education. The implementation of such federal “protection policies” designed to expand educational opportunities for traditionally underserved groups of students ultimately fortified and solidified the federal government's more pronounced role in public education.


Madeline Mavrogordato is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. She is a predoctoral fellow in the Experimental Education Research Training program funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Her research investigates how the social context of education, implementation of education policies, and school governance shape educational outcomes for underserved students, particularly immigrants and English language learners.