By Tearsa Coates
Education Reform Now (ERN) kicked off Philos 2017, its 4th annual conference, in Washington, D.C. The room buzzed with energy as participants shared ideas for how to deliver quality public education in the U.S.
Stakeholders covered the gamut: policy makers, legislators, educators, benefactors, and parents - each advocating for transformational change on behalf of students. PAVE was well-represented by a strong cohort of board members from Parent Leaders in Education (PLE), its citywide network of parent activists.
A common thread across the various conversations: risk-taking, historical context, and parent/student voice are essential to providing a 21st century education.
Here are top insights from a panel discussion on Intersectionality, the overlap of social justice and education:
Build better schools with the community, not for the community
Naomi Shelton, of UNCF's K12 Advocacy team, inspired the audience to step out of its ivory towers and connect with the communities they serve. Naomi advised attendees to ask parents what they desire for their children, not dictate policies from personal beliefs. She also challenged the notion that education reform can be accomplished without addressing the issues of race.
Seek the most marginalized and learn from their experience
Mandatory sentencing, food deserts, poverty, segregation, and centuries of inequity all factor into the shortcomings of our current educational system. Rob Clark (YouthBuild Newark) and, writer, Clinton Smith say there is no simple fix - but sustainable change is possible if we seek to understand the nuances, historical context, and experiences of those least served. One example: Rob advised schools to survey school dropouts to learn why they left and what would have incentivized them to stay.
Use privilege to provide access
Center for American Progress (CAP) attorney Michelle Jawando explained that like it or not, certain people (particularly straight, White men) have greater access than others to vehicles for change. People of color are not often privy to the meetings where critical education reform decisions are made. Michelle's challenge for White colleagues: Overcome discomfort and ask "who is missing from this discussion?" Then, invite those voices to the table.
Philos 2017 promises to be full of shared insights and new discoveries. And PAVE's PLE is excited to use these fresh ideas to transform education in Washington, DC!