In 1970 the Shaker Schools embarked on a long journey toward greater equity in public education. Reflections on how far we have come and what work must still be done.
By Jennifer Proe
At a time when public school districts across the nation were struggling with forced integration through busing, the community of Shaker Heights led the region – and indeed the nation – in providing an example of a peaceful, voluntary effort to help right the racial imbalance that existed in our schools.
Shaker’s effort took place against a tumultuous backdrop. Only 16 years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional.
When Medgar Evers tried to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1963, he was murdered. That same year, Alabama Governor George Wallace blocked the doorway of a University of Alabama admissions office to prevent two black students from entering.
In Cleveland, the NAACP filed suit in 1973 alleging the city school district had created and maintained a deliberately segregated system, a case that would last for 25 years.
Today, the concept of equity in education has come to encompass more than racial balance. We now strive to provide an inclusive, equitable experience for all students regardless of their race, religion, culture, socioeconomic status, ability, and sexual or gender identity.
In Shaker Heights Schools, those efforts are nothing new, but rather the continuation of a long arc of social progress.
Paula Hooper, SHHS ’79, whose family participated in the Shaker Schools Plan by sending their students from Moreland to Malvern, sums it up this way: “My experiences at Shaker helped me to realize that there’s a difference between equality and equity in education. Equality means everyone gets the same thing. Equity means that everyone gets what they need to become successful.”
In the following pages, seven people share their experiences in the Shaker Schools over the past several decades, as they relate to equity in education and social justice. Their reflections demonstrate both how far we have come and what work must still be done.