April 27, 2024 3:01 pm

NPE Mourns the Loss of Jeannie Oakes, a Warrior for Equitable Schools

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The Network for Public Education mourns the loss of Jeannie Oakes, a brilliant thinker, researcher, and warrior for equitable educational opportunity.

Jeannie began her career as a high school English teacher. She once said, “I could not figure out how I could be a brilliant teacher in the morning and a terrible teacher in the afternoon” as she moved among tracks in her school.  She became a researcher and went on to write the brilliant Keeping Track, a book that inspired so many schools to decrease ability grouping and open gates of opportunity to disadvantaged students.

According to Burris, “The last time I saw Jeannie, we were both presenting to the U.S. Department of Justice the importance of desegregating classrooms, not just schools. She never stopped fighting for equity—throughout her career and beyond. I was then, and I am still, in awe of her smarts, warmth, and wonderful ability to understand the big picture and communicate those understandings to those she met.”

Even while fighting a brutal cancer for five years, one that she knew would not end well, she kept on teaching her friends with periodic email updates that were always both positive and fearless. In that last battle, she was telling us, “This is how you do it. This is how you fight with grace, dignity, and hope.” Rest in peace, dear friend of public education. Yours was a life well lived.