CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
The Road to Democratic Education in 2017
Welcome to the New Year from the Center for Collaborative Education!
I was asked to write a New Year’s blog with a set of whimsical New Year’s resolutions. Yet, I found myself staring at the computer screen thinking, these are not whimsical times. So I am writing with a spirit of rededication to the work that is most important to CCE.
We are entering uncharted territory. We have a president-elect who has disparaged Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, African Americans, and people with disabilities, who wants to build a wall to prevent people of diverse races, ethnicities, and cultures from entering our borders, who is proposing appointments who threaten our civil liberties that have been fought (and died) for over decades and centuries, who belittles climate change in favor of continued corporate pollution and concentration of wealth in the hands of few.
And make no mistake – the woman who our president-elect has proposed to be appointed Secretary of Education and oversee the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, is right in line with him. The DeVos family, billionaires themselves, has been aligned with the Koch brothers every step of the way. It is no wonder, then, that Ms. DeVos, a woman who attended an elite private Christian school, comes to the education secretary position with a history of promoting school choice, vouchers, and charter schools. DeVos was a prime architect of Detroit’s charter school system, widely regarded as one of the worst in the country. She calls education an “industry,” claiming that public education as we know it is “a closed system, a closed industry, a closed market. It’s a monopoly, a dead end.” We have every right to fear that we may have a federal education secretary that leads this country down the path of privatizing education, resulting in deepening opportunity gaps for low-income, Black, Latino, and English language learner students.
The positive news is that in this past year we have experienced many victories in the struggle for a more just public education system. Loud protests and initiatives, big and small, have created cracks in the standardized testing movement, resulting in the passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which now requires multiple indicators for making determinations of school quality and student progress. At the same time, it enables up to seven states to create locally designed accountability systems that meet certain technical quality criteria. In reaction to the videotaping of Black and Latino students being assaulted by school resource officers, the school-to-prison pipeline is garnering greater attention; efforts are underway in many cities to re-examine disciplinary and exclusionary systems that result in far too many Black and Latino students being denied a quality education. More districts are beginning to understand that systemic and disparate opportunities to learn deny Black, Latino, and English language learner students a fighting chance to graduate with multiple opportunities of college and career ahead of them. The growth of youth organizing groups signals that the new generation can be a powerful voice in the movement toward equity and excellence in the public schools.
Here in Massachusetts, despite being outspent by dark, out-of-state money by almost two to one, a grassroots movement resulted in a resounding defeat (62-38%) of a statewide referendum to raise the charter school cap. As I noted in an earlier blog post, “Communities of color have chosen – no longer can charter advocates [and their funders with “dark money” pockets] make the false claim that they are representing the majority of families of color in urban school districts.”
These are all signs that we can be successful in rallying around principles of equitable and excellent public schools. We don’t have to stand by and watch. We can reaffirm and act on our beliefs. Which brings me to CCE’s new year’s resolutions:
We look forward to working with everyone in forging a path of democratic, equitable public education for every student.