Carving an Uncertain Path: The Experiences and Legacies of Trinity and Amherst’s First Women

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“All the world over, so easy to see, people everywhere just want to be free.”  The 1968 school year began with The Rascal’s topping the Billboard Charts,[i] and students everywhere were taking their lyrics to heart.  Be it Vietnam, Nixon, Civil Rights or Women’s Rights, campuses across the country overflowed with activism and controversy.  Among elite colleges in the Northeast—traditionally all-male institutions—a tidal wave of progressive change was taking place, the highlight of which was the admission of women at many of these schools.  With widespread student support, and administrative consent (albeit for reasons other than equality), Trinity accepted their first women for the 1969-1970 school year. At the same time, when the subject of co-education was raised at Amherst College, the student body’s ambivalence and the administration’s opposition culminated into a failure to integrate fully for another five years, later than almost all of their peers.  While the administrations and trustees of both Trinity and Amherst showed profit-driven motives for co-education—which resulted in their unwillingness to adequately support their first women—the prevalence of opposition among Amherst students and officials resulted in Amherst’s first women having a more difficult experience than the first women to attend Trinity.

While the Trinity administration’s motives for implementing co-education placed economics and academic competitiveness above equality, the student body’s support for co-education evidenced a progressive campus community.  Evidence of the administration’s reasons for admitting women can be found in a private memorandum written by Robert Fuller, the Dean of Students at the time of the first admission of women, to Theodore Lockwood, who served as president of the College from 1968-1981.  In the report, Fuller explained how co-education would allow Trinity to increase their academic competetiveness, writing, “we could replace the less qualified among the men we are now admitting with women who were the academic equals of the upper half of our entering men.”[ii]  According to Fuller, this would prevent Trinity from falling behind their peer institutions, including Swarthmore College, Wesleyan University, and Williams College.  He also claimed that accepting women will decrease the economic burden the College faced, writing, “The admission of women would reduced this demand [for scholarships], because a family seldom considers sending a daughter to an expensive private college unless it can pay her way.”[iii]  While the Fuller memo points to the administration’s profit-driven motives for implementing co-education, evidence shows that the student body was ready to welcome women to the College.  A poll taken by the Trinity Tripod in October of 1968, less than a month after Fuller wrote his report, showed that 76% of students were in support of having females as classmates and peers.[iv]  This proves that, while the administration may not have been ready to accept women for reasons of social progress, they would find at least some level of support from the student body.

            Although they finally bowed to the pressures of competition in 1974, the Amherst administration and Board of Trustees were initially very reluctant to admit women, and their hesitance was initially matched by ambivalence on the part of the student body.  It was not until the early 70’s that the tide of student support for co-education switched in favor of the admission of women.  Discussion surrounding co-education at Amherst gained steam around the same time that Trinity admitted it’s first women, yet the College claimed that the problems surrounding a switch to co-education were too great to overcome.  According to Joan Annett, who took classes at Amherst as a part of the “12-College Exchange” in 1970, wrote, “The feasibility of coeducation at Amherst is, undeniably, a complex issue; however, most of the obstacles involved are not as insurmountable as many of the officials of the College would have us believe.”[v]  Despite the rapid acceptance of co-education among elite Northeastern colleges, the Amherst administration managed to paint the difficulties attached to co-education as being too difficult to overcome.  And while any resistance to co-education prior to 1970 by Trinity officials and trustees was counterbalanced by strong student support for co-education, this was not the case at Amherst.  In December of 1968, two months after 76% of Trinity students had declared their support for co-education, only 49% of Amherst students did the same.[vi]  It was not until 1973 that the support for the admission of women began to grow among students and faculty, and the administration finally decided to appoint a committee to study the benefits of transitioning to co-education.  A Boston Globe article from November of 1974 reported that, “there was considerable opposition to it by the alumni…however, as other schools began to accept women and pressure for the change built up among Amherst faculty and students, the trustees last year agreed to consider at this year’s meeting if a study could show its benefits to the college.”[vii]  The results of this study finally convinced the Amherst community to accept co-education, but the absence of active support for co-education over the last few years would prove to predicate an uphill battle for Amherst’s first women—one that they would find themselves undertaking with very little external support.

The first generation of women at Trinity found that, while the administration was often ambivalent to their struggles, they could rely on the support of certain portions of the student body and the faculty.  In the classroom, while isolated instances of prejudice were certainly present, women reported that the system as a whole treated them with fairness.  One member of the class of 1979 reported that they “don’t remember being treated any differently than [their] other male classmates.”[viii]  Not all of the early women at Trinity corroborated these reports of academic equality, including another member of the class of 1979 who recalled that they “felt discrimination against women by faculty, in the classroom—blatant—with words.”[ix]  While Noreen Channels did not report the majors of the individuals quote in her survey for the sake of privacy, the disparity in academic experiences had by Trinity’s first women suggests that the integration of women into the classroom was welcomed differently by different academic disciplines.

Outside of the classroom, Trinity’s first women faced numerous, terrifying struggles, but reported that they were able to find support among the student body, which they found especially vital in the absence of administrative support. One member of the class of 1979 recalled the reluctance of the Administration to act on their behalf, saying, “Even though there were a significant number of physical assaults on women, there was essentially no college-sponsored remedy,”[x] while a 1984 graduate remembers, “the response of [a male administrator], when told of a gang rape of a women at Trinity (at a frat) by male students, was ‘boys will be boys’”[xi] The actions of the Trinity administration during the first years of co-education explicitly speak to their priorities; the reputation of the College was a far higher consideration than the health, safety, and wellbeing of its female students.  Another member of the class of 1979 provided a recollection that, while providing further evidence of the College administration’s skewed priorities and general apathy to the safety of women, spoke to the courage of a more progressive student body that recognized female students as their peers, and recognized their safety as being an important issue.  She recalls,

My friends and I were outraged when there were a number of rapes and assaults (1974-75) and TC would not post composite drawings of the men who were responsible.  We were told it would hurt the reputation of the school.  The make students, without the help of the school, organized escort services and in 2 cases that I witnessed, the students cornered and/or beat up 2 men who’d been assaulting or planning to assault women.  One of the suspects was caught in my dorm bathroom, hiding with a knife.[xii]

The above passage, while highlighting the failure of the Trinity administration to support their first female students, makes it clear that these students were not entirely along in their difficult journey.  Brave male students, without any support from the College, stood by Trinity’s first women as they faced the incredibly daunting challenge of integrating into the campus community.

            The first women to attend Amherst, in light of the broad resistance to co-education, often felt that they were unwelcome and excluded. From when they first stepped on campus, the first female students were made to feel as though there presence was opposed and their admission was illegitimate.  Alissa Reyness, a 1981 graduate, reflected on the hostile campus culture, saying,

When school started that fall, there were rumors about coeducation.  Rumors that the majority of the alumni, and many students and faculty were against it.  The decision (so the rumors went) had not been based on notions of equality and equal access, but on economics:  Amherst was losing out in the application pool to the now coeducational Big Three.  Another rumor was that the high proportion of attractive women that first year was an intentional sop to the unwilling students, alumni, and faculty.[xiii]

Reyness’ account of the rumors that were circulating campus during their first year it very easy to imagine how unwelcome women felt in the Amherst community.  However, the hostility went beyond the campus murmurings and was sometimes far more direct.  One female member of the class of 1981 an incident where she realized how blatant and universal the hostility could be.  She writes,

One very strong, clear—and still sad—memory I have was of a reunion dinner in 1980.  The president at the time came in to speak and he was booed—by a lot of people there—because he had been instrumental in the coeducation of the College.  For me it was like a deep wound—to see this great man treated badly and disrespectfully like this—and also to feel that these people—alumni—hadn’t wanted me at the College.  I’ll never forget this scene.  I found a male friend after this and tried to explain my hurt to him and he didn’t even understand.[xiv]

The first women at Amherst, as evidenced above, felt isolated and unwelcome on their own campus.  Emily Cooperman of the class of 1982 described “a whole atmosphere, a kind of culture, in which [she] felt [her]self clearly a foreigner.”[xv]  This experience differs from that of Trinity’s first women in that women at Amherst felt that they were ostracized on a more universal level, and they felt that they were without allies.

            Since these first women bravely carved their way through Trinity and Amherst, both institutions have come a long way in terms of treating women fairly, but both still have a long way to go.  One member of the class of 2016 reported that she has thus far had a “fair classroom experience,” but that “Trinity is a male-dominated social institution.”[xvi]  Another member of class of 2016 spoke of the mistreatment of female faculty that still exists at Trinity, saying that, “My advisor is leaving for [another University]…because she can’t deal with how she’s treated as a woman by her colleagues.”[xvii]  This student also noted a present stigma surrounding the Woman and Gender Studies program at Trinity, saying that, “[as a Woman and Gender Studies minor,] people assume I’m a feminist who doesn’t shave their legs.”[xviii]  The experience of women at Amherst has come a long way since co-education.  One member of the class of 2015 said, “I don’t see my experience at Amherst as being as scripted by my gender as I think I might have felt soon after co-education.” However, she noted that “many classroom spaces are still male-dominated, and men will speak disproportionately to the number that are in the class.” [xix]  While the framework laid by the first women at each of these institutions has done a great deal to improve the female condition at Amherst and Trinity, continuing to fight for equal treatment is still of the utmost importance.

The first women to attend both Trinity and Amherst faced an incredibly daunting battle, and found that their respective administrations did little to support them.  However, support among male students at Trinity (which was largely absent at Amherst), resulted in Trinity’s early female graduates finding a support network that was not present at Amherst.  Women at each school, with or without allies, fought for their safety, their rights, and the opportunity for their voice to be heard.  While both schools have made tremendous progress, women in the NESCAC and beyond are still fighting for the same rights, and it is my hope that by better understanding where the battle has been, we are all better equipped to fight for a better, more just future.

 Special Thanks to Rob Walsh, Peter Knapp, Jack Dougherty, and the staff of the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections Library for their invaluable help with research.

[i] “The Hot 100 Archives.” Text. Billboard, January 2, 2013.

[ii] Robert Fuller, “The Admission of Women Undergraduates to Trinity College,” September 30, 1968.

[iii] ibid.

[iv] “76% Support Coeducation in Tripod Evaluation.” Trinity Tripod. October 11, 1968, Vol. LXVII, No. 8 edition.

[v] Joan Annett, “Coeducation at Amherst: A Feminine View,” Amherst Alumni News XXII, no. 3 (Winter 1970): 3–5.

[vi] “Amherst and Coeducation: A Summary.” News of Amherst College: Amherst College Bulletin 63, no. 6 (March 1974).

[vii]McMillan, Gary. “Amherst College to End Male Tradition, Trustees Decide to Admit Women Next Fall.” Boston Globe, November 3, 1974.

[viii].Noreen Channels, Survey of the Trinity College Alumnae Conducted in the Spring, 1990 (Hartford, Conn., United States: Trinity College, 1990). Pt.4, P.10.

[ix] ibid. Pt. 4, P.17.

[x] ibid. Pt.3, P.5.

[xi] ibid. Pt.3, P.15.

[xii] ibid. Pt.3, P.6.

[xiii] Auban Haydel and Kit Lasher, The Fairest College?:  Twenty Years of Women at Amherst (Amherst, MA, 1997). P.13.

[xiv] ibid. PP.10-11.

[xv] ibid. P.29.

[xvi] Monteleone, Isabel. Interview with Isabel Monteleone, Trinity College, Class of 2016. Interview by Evan Turiano. Face to Face, April 21, 2014.

[xvii] Reny, Olivia. Interview with Olivia Reny, Trinity College, Class of 2016. Interview by Evan Turiano. Face to Face, April 20, 2014.

[xviii] ibid.

[xix] Ellis-Moore, Kyra. Interview with Kyra Ellis-Moore, Amherst College, Class of 2015. Interview by Evan Turiano. Email, April 22, 2014.

Research Proposal

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Research Question:  Next year will be the 45th year since the admission of the first undergraduate women to both Trinity College and Yale University.  How did these to institutions experience co-education different in terms of the factors that led to the admission of women, the experiences of the first women to attend these institutions, and long-term effects of co-education?

Relevance:  The late 1960’s were a tumultuous period on college campuses across the country.  Controversy surrounding the presidency of Richard Nixon, the involvement of the United States in the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights movement was leading to activism and protests on an almost constant basis on college campuses.

“All the world over, so easy to see, people everywhere just want to be free.”  The 1968 academic year at Trinity and Yale began with the Rascals topping the Billboard charts, and students were taking their words to heart, protesting against Vietnam, in favor of Civil Rights, and for the right of women to attend their institutions.  Many NESCAC schools were in the midst of co-education movements in the late 60’s, and much of the Trinity community, including 76% percent of the student body (according to a Tripod poll), many members of the faculty, and the Dean of Faculty, Robert Fuller, were in favor of beginning to admit women.  They provided a wide range of reasoning, from social equity to improved academic discourse to the College’s financial health.  1968 found Yale as one of the final Ivy League schools that hadn’t either adopted co-education or named a sister school, and student pressure was beginning to escalate rapidly.  Even when Yale did first admit undergraduate women, it did so at a rate of 1 woman to every 7 men, and the fight for true co-education went on for another several years until Yale adopted a progressive “sex-blind” admissions policy.

Research Strategy:  I plan of answering questions motives for co-education, the process of co-education, and the long-term effects at Trinity and Yale.

To begin, I plan on using databases to find academic writing on the pros and cons of co-education from both the 1960’s and today, and am interested in seeing what has changed in the discourse of co-education during this time.

Next, I plan on using primary sources from both institutions regarding the era leading up to and immediately following the admission of women.  At Trinity, this will include issues of the Tripod, the Fuller Memo, the Lockwood interviews, and other sources available at the Watkinson.  From Yale, this will include the Sarrell Papers, the Records of Office on the Education of Women, and other documents.  This week I will contact a friend of mine who is an American History major at Yale for more information on how to make best use of the Yale archives, and probably will make a visit to the Yale library once I have made adequate plans to do so.

Finally, I will find interviews with some of the earliest women at Trinity and Yale, including the anniversary documents prepared for Trinity that are available at the Watkinson, and similar documents at Yale.  I will then compare these with the modern experience of women at these colleges, which I hope to gather through personal interviews and with the help of Professor Hendrick in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Department.  I also plan on drawing from the findings of prior Ed. Reform students who have written on co-education, including 2013 graduate Devon MacGillivray


“A Survey of Co-education in the Ivies.” The Harvard Crimson [Cambridge, MA] 4 Oct. 1974

Philip M. and Lorna Sarrel papers, 1966-2007 (inclusive), 1966-1980

Barreca, Gina. Babes in Boyland. N.p.: Lebanon, 2005. Print.

Miller, Beth K. The Evoluation of Coeducation at Trinity College, 1969-1983. Hartford: Trinity College, 2003. Print.

Trinity College Sit-in Watkinson Library Document Compilation

Dean of Faculty Robert Fuller, Memo to President Lockwood, “The Admission of Women Undergraduates to Trinity College,” 30 September 1968

Trinity Tripod Selected Articles, 1968-1970

Race to Nowhere: Illuminating a Problem, Still Searching For Solutions

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In their 2009 Documentary Race to Nowhere, Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon paint a startling image of today’s school system in America.  Rather than helping children to learn and to find themselves, Abeles and Congdon argue that the pressures of school are making our kids unhealthy, teaching them to cut corners, and failing to actually help students learn and grow.  They identify different pressures that children endure at both at home and in school, yet find it harder to point to solutions that are both realistic and effective.  While Abeles and Congdon point accurately to unhealthy pressures that the school system places on children, they have mixed success in proposing solutions, falling short on specificity and practicality.

Abeles and Congdon point to parents and home life as one source of unhealthy stress that school-age children endure.  Rick Simon, principal of the Wheatley School in Old Westbury, NY, observes a pressure on children born into wealth to match or exceed the financial success of their parents.  He says, “We’re a New York City suburb, [with] high-powered parents who are very competitive themselves…they want to talk about how their kid is going to Harvard or the equivalent, and I worry about what happens when their kid isn’t going in that direction” (Abeles, et al. 0:06).  Students, intentionally or not, are made to feel as though their happiness later in life rides entirely on their perfection in school.  In the race to our best colleges and universities, the pressure students feel at home goes beyond academics.  Parents insist that achievement requires a range of extracurricular successes, including sports, clubs, the arts, and community service.  In a forum on stress, Jessica, a senior at Carondelet High School in California says that “everyone expects us to be superheroes,” pointing to the unrealistic ideal that students our held to, which ultimately harming their wellbeing (0:09).  When asked about the pressure that they place on their children, the parents interviewed by Abeles and Congdon report that they are simply relaying the stresses that they experience from peers and schools.  Stacy Kadesh, a parent and private college counselor, admits, “Even though we know we shouldn’t be pushing our kids, inadvertently, we are…I’m also feeling the pressure that they need to work really, really hard” (0:10).  In the blog on Race to Nowhere’s companion website, Abeles references an article by clinical psychologist Jeff Mitchell where he refers to this irrational fear and pressure as “Havard or Walmart Syndrome” (Abeles).  In his paper on the subject, Mitchell describes the syndrome by saying, “This is a societal disease, a virus of an idea that has spread through the LinkedIn generation and its children.  It is a conviction, stark and unforgiving, that one’s children will either (1) get into Harvard or (2) spend their lives working for Walmart” (Mitchell).  In proposing means by which to remediate the unhealthy stress children experience at home, Abeles and Congdon implicitly concede that there is little parents can do, other than be loving supporters of their children, without drastic changes to how our schools work.

Students feel tremendous pressure to get into top colleges Race to Nowhere (0:37)
Students feel tremendous pressure to get into top colleges
Race to Nowhere (0:37)

Race to Nowhere illuminates the negatives effects of the overwhelming volume of work children receive, as well as the pressure to achieve, at primary and secondary schools.  Darrick Smith, a teacher in Oakland, CA, views the unforgiving regiment of work and extracurriculars imposed on kids as misguided, saying, “when you have students that have three, four hours of homework, after [sports] practice or work…and their whole future is on the line, at that moment, its no longer about learning” (Abeles, et al. 0:23).  Abeles and Congdon make the argument that our insistence to driving every student to be perfect is leading to a failure on the part of schools to actually educate kids.  Race to Nowhere emphasizes unrealistic expectations as a leading cause of this failure of schools, as well as of student stress.  Stacy Kadesh says, “We are teaching the majority of our kids as if they are in the top 2%” (0:37), and psychologist Madeline Levine, PhD expanded on this by saying, “Every kid is expected to by [going to top colleges] and that’s just not the way it works, there’s a bell curve…smart has many different definitions” (0:39).  Levine makes an important point through her connection between unrealistic expectations and our narrow definition of academic success.  Abeles and Congdon argue that our measures of success do a disservice to a wide range of students.  Carmel, Indiana student Allison told Abeles and Congdon that she is, “very disappointed that there’s no artistic, right-brain kind of measurement of success” (1:02).  Abeles and Congdon make persuasive claims as to how are schools are making our kids unhealthy and unprepared, but find that practical solutions are difficult to achieve.

Race to Nowhere provides recommendations to administrators Race to Nowhere (1:23)
Race to Nowhere provides recommendations to administrators
Race to Nowhere (1:23)

While some of their solutions are effective, many of the proposals made by Abeles and Congdon fall short in terms of practicality.  In the end of the film, they use the Blue School in New York City as a model of effective schooling.  While the Blue School makes effective use of pedagogical theories such as Reggio Emilia and Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences (1:14), the school’s annual tuition of over $34,000 demonstrates that this sort of learning environment is often unattainable for many students (  While tuition-free schools that use the Reggio Emilia model of alternative learning and student respect are emerging (for example, CREC has a Reggio Magnet elementary school in Avon, CT) (Smith), sweeping reforms to education such as Reggio Emilia have historically tended to create more problems then they solve if they are misguided in their implementation.  In The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch conveys her wariness of reform movements, writing, “The fundamentals of good education are to be found in the classroom, the home, the community, and the culture, but reformers in our time continue to look for shortcuts and quick answers…we will, in time, see them as distractions, wrong turns, and lost opportunities” (Ravitch 225).  If a widespread implementation of the Reggio Emilia philosophy in the United States falls into the same traps as countless other reform movements have, I fear that we will end up with a continuation of our current educational failings.

In Race to Nowhere, Abeles and Congdon shed light on the alarming realities of how primary and secondary schools are failing American students.  The cumulative stress students experience from home and school leave them overly stressed and underprepared.  However, Abeles and Congdon’s proposals prove that practical solutions are hard to find.  They promote the Italian Reggio Emilia philosophy of pedagogy, yet this reform is not only difficult to afford, but is at risk of falling into the same failures as past reforms.  What our students need and deserve is a society that recognizes that financial success isn’t the only route to happiness, and a society that doesn’t rob children of their formative years through stress and homework.

Works Cited:

Abeles, Vicki. “Harvard or Walmart Syndrome.” Web log post. End the Race Blog. Race to Nowhere, 22 May 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

Mitchell, Jeff. “Harvard-or-Walmart Syndrome.” Jeff Mitchell Associates, Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

Race to Nowhere. Dir. Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon. Prod. Vicki Abeles. Reel Link Films, 2009. Online.

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.

Smith, Josephine D. “Principal’s Message.” Reggio Magnet School of the Arts,  Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

“Tuition and Tuition Assistance.” Blue School, Web. 22 Feb. 2014.


Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

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Step 1: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are not better than a coin toss.

Step 2: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

I personally find it difficult to believe any performance rating if the chance of getting the same rating in the future are virtually random.

Step 3: Plagiarize any portion of the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, with a citation the original source (using any academic citation style). Remember, even if you include a citation, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

It’s hard to trust any rating of teacher performance when the odds of getting the same rating next year seem 50/50 at best (Ravitch 271).

Step 4: Properly paraphrase any portion of the original text by restating the author’s ideas in your own diction and style, and include a citation to the original source.

According to Ravitch, these performance ratings lose their credibility when the sharp year to year fluctuations in teacher standards are taken into account (Ravitch 271).

Step 5: Properly paraphrase any portion of the original text by restating the author’s ideas in your own diction and style, supplemented with a direct quotation of a key phrase, and include a citation to the original source.

Ravitch claims the performance rating system to be highly unreliable, noting that it is, “difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are not better than a coin toss.

Works Cited

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. Revised and        Expanded ed. New York: Basic, 2010. Print.



Sheff Movement Reflects on the Past While Recommitting to Its Future

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On the coming 26th of April, Sheff Movement leaders and supporters will join to reflect on 25 years of successful advocacy and to look forward to their future efforts of scholastic integration. Since their triumph in the landmark case, Sheff v. O’Neill, the Sheff community has worked tirelessly in an effort to promote a mission of “Quality Integrated Education for All Children.” This coming anniversary will not only serve as a celebration of the Movement’s success thus far, but as a reminder and promoter of future goals for the organization. This past Saturday, February 8th, Sheff movement leaders met with representatives from Hartford Public Schools, the Capitol Regional Education Council, and several allied groups as they do monthly, to discuss their upcoming education and advocacy agenda. Two major topics of discussion: the newly proposed Parent Organizing Plan and the proposed agenda for the current Connecticut Legislative session.

With the planning of the Movement’s 25-year Anniversary celebration underway, the day’s agenda focused largely on the goals for the event. One objective taking primary importance was the promotion of the Parent Organizing Plan. The first intention of the plan was to create the initial awareness among Hartford parents surrounding the level of education their children were receiving. It expanded upon this by then educating parents on the racial disparity within Connecticut school districts, most notably, the class and racial imbalance between city and suburb school zones, and the fundamental role this plays in a child’s educational opportunities. With this information in mind, parents would be better equipped to draw the connection between the goals of the Sheff Movement and the realization of equal educational opportunities for their children. As founder and co-chair (as well as mother of the historic case’s lead plaintiff Milo) Elizabeth Horton Sheff describes it, “People need to realize the connection between public policy advocacy and their children receiving a quality education.” Hopefully their outreach efforts will also help people realize, as we now do role the Sheff Movement plays in making this quality education a reality.

In addition to the Sheff Movement’s reflective and educational missions, policy advocacy remains an integral part of the Sheff Movement’s operations.  With the Connecticut General Assembly’s 2014 Regular Session now in its first week, Sheff leaders are ready to make their voices heard by Connecticut policymakers.  “We’re looking to organize for this legislative session,” said Mrs. Sheff.  The Movement’s organization was evidenced by their Legislative and Advocacy Agenda, which clearly outlined nine major points on which the Movement will seek to affect change towards equal access to education in the state legislature.  A particular focus of Sheff leaders during this legislative session is emphasizing high degrees of access and integration in magnet schools, with the agenda specifically including the creation of “dual language immersion magnet schools in the Sheff region” because, according to the Movement’s printed agenda, “studies indicate the dual-immersion model is strongly associated with closing the achievement gap between native and non-native English speakers.”  Other magnet school policy interests of the Sheff Movement include the continuation of state funding for free Pre-K magnet school tuition, and the development of the interdistrict magnet schools outside of the Hartford Area.  Another key point of emphasis is the opening of more Open Choice seats in suburban districts.  Sheff leader Phil Tegeler said that “the Commissioner [of Education] should be given authority to require districts to open seats,” although acknowledging it to be an uphill battle.  This is the sixth consecutive year that Sheff has asked this of the legislature, and they show no intention of easing off of this pressure.

John Humphries, the Movement’s Outreach Coordinator who recently met with several state legislators, raised an alarming statistic during the meeting.  Representative Doug McCrory told Mr. Humphries that over 100 of 169 school districts in Connecticut currently employ no teachers of color.  While not all attendees were ready to accept this shocking statistic without further research, and while it was noted that this statistic did not include minority individuals in school administrations and other leadership positions, it was agreed upon that, given the Movement’s position of the forefront of educational integration, the Movement would look further into this statistic and work towards increased diversity among educators.

The lesson to be gained from the Sheff Movement’s passionate, thorough, and organized advocacy was summed up well by Janée Woods-Weber, a representative from Everyday Democracy who attended the meeting: “We want [people] to not only reflect of the past 25 years, but look forward to the next 25.  People need to understand that Sheff [v. O’Neill] was not a static moment in time.”  Given the outstanding level of organization, work ethic, and persistence that were evident among the ranks of the Sheff Movement, we are confident that the next 25 years of Sheff will be as remarkable as the last 25 have been.

Madison Starr is a student at Trinity College (Class of 2016) studying French and American Studies

Evan Turiano is a student at Trinity College (Class of 2016) studying American Studies


Madison and Evan sitting alongside Sheff leaders, including Elizabeth Horton Sheff (fourth from the right
Madison and Evan sitting alongside Sheff leaders, including Elizabeth Horton Sheff (fourth from the right) [photograph courtesy of Jack Dougherty]

Learning Goals

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My learning goals for EDUC-300 are to explore how the history of education in the United States is connected to a greater social context, and to draw conclusions on how this is taking place in modern day education reform.