Art of Teaching Director Denisha Jones Publishes New Book, Pushes for Racial Equality in Education

Filed under:


Dr. Denisha Jones, director of the Sarah Lawrence College Art of Teaching graduate program, has long been an advocate for young students and for their opportunity to receive an excellent and equitable education based not on arbitrary standards, but instead on how children actually develop. She’s an advocate for re-thinking and updating many common education practices and policies, like testing, to reflect the voices of classroom teachers and knowledge from the field.

In addition to her leadership at Sarah Lawrence, Denisha is the co-director of Defending the Early Years and a leader in the Black Lives Matter at School initiative, a coalition of educators organizing for racial justice in education. As part of this, she and colleague Jesse Hagopian are co-editors of a new book, “Black Lives Matter at School” which the Washington Post writes, “springs from a movement that started several years ago to resist racism and imbue anti-racism in school curriculums as well as educational practices and policies.”

The movement brings action to classrooms across the country, with thousands participating in recent years, the Post writes. “[Black Lives Matter in Schools] sponsors an annual event called Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action in early February, with the aim of teaching students about Black identity and history, restorative justice and related issues.”

Denisha’s advocacy for racial justice in education extends far beyond the classroom. During an education forum as part of the 2020 presidential campaign, Denisha’s question to then-candidate Joe Biden went viral. She asked: “If you are elected president, will you commit to ending the use of standardized testing in public schools?” 

Biden responded (full video below), first giving a shout out to Sarah Lawrence: “I’ve been there, that’s a great school!” He then went on to the subject at hand, saying, “Teachers should be able to determine the curriculum in their schools… I think it’s a big mistake to move in a direction where it’s all about evaluating a teacher or student based on testing. Teaching to a test underestimates and discounts the things that are most important for students to know.”

Sarah Lawrence College has practiced test-optional admissions for more than a decade and most courses, instead of using a cumulative final exam, require students to demonstrate mastery of a subject by completing a conference project, whether it be a scientific inquiry, a piece of original research, anthology of creative writing, or another pursuit a student and faculty member devise. As then-candidate Joe Biden said to Denisha, “You’re preaching to the choir.”

About Sarah Lawrence College

Founded in 1926, Sarah Lawrence is a prestigious, coeducational liberal arts college that consistently ranks among the leading liberal arts colleges in the country. Sarah Lawrence is known for its pioneering approach to education, rich history of impassioned intellectual and civic engagement, and vibrant, successful alumni. In close proximity to the unparalleled offerings of New York City, the historic campus is home to an intellectually curious and diverse community.