“I charge each and every one of you to not forget the fierce urgency of now.”
The 2019 PIE Network Summit closing included this advice from Walter Blanks, a communications associate for the American Federation for Children (AFC), and the first private school choice program recipient AFC has hired. In addition to Walter, early college high school graduate Satchel Bellard and Prichard Committee Student Voice Team member Sadie Bograd urged advocates to bring students into the decision making process, and provide them with relevant tools and experiences to pursue their goals.
“THIS IS WHY WE DO THE WORK.” -SCOTT LABAND, COLORADO SUCCEEDS PRESIDENT & PIE NETWORK BOARD CHAIR
These insights from the next generation of leaders were a fitting bookend to three days packed with ideas for spurring innovation in education advocacy. Earlier in the week, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath welcomed Summit attendees to Austin with a call to keep pushing for a great education for every learner. Network leaders also discussed how they’re moving from empowering parents to putting parents in power—and how families driving change can transform both advocacy and our education system.
The Eddies!—annual, advocate-nominated awards—provide an opportunity to feature excellent policymaking and advocacy campaigns from the past year, telling the story of how education policy was advanced one state at a time. For every effort that didn’t quite make the finish line, somewhere else, the broader movement moved the dial for kids. Both the winners and nominees help us celebrate the progress made by the movement—together. You can find the entire slate of Eddies! nominees here.
Game Changer of the Year: Stand for Children Washington, Black Education Strategy Roundtable, Partnership for Learning, Democrats for Education Reform Colorado, and BEST NC
Advocates in Washington, Colorado, and North Carolina led separate, breakthrough campaigns that addressed a single issue: traditionally underserved students are placed in advanced courses less frequently than their peers—even though they are equally prepared. These concurrent campaigns, led independently by each state-based organization, highlight the power and synergy of leaders making smart policies serve their students.
“ONE THING THAT’S ALWAYS ATTRACTED ME TO THIS POLICY IS THAT IT CHANGES THE CONVERSATION OF WHAT’S POSSIBLE.”
While the policy in each state looks different, their mission is the same—reduce historic barriers to advanced course access for underrepresented students. Learn more about each state’s policy here, and check out first person insights from advocates who worked to make these policies a reality:
- Virginia Barry, Stand for Children Washington
- Brenda Berg, BEST NC
- Prateek Dutta, Democrats for Education Reform Colorado
Network MVP: Kenya Bradshaw
Vice President, Community Engagement & Policy, TNTP
Kenya Bradshaw leads TNTP’s work to advocate for lasting policy change that reflects the priorities of students, families, and their communities. Since the launch of The Opportunity Myth—which has reached more than 100,000 people—Kenya has helped stakeholders across the country act on the report’s findings.
In Connecticut, she helped members of seven community organizations develop a vision for a statewide education system that supports students’ and parents’ educational goals. In Washington, D.C., she influenced the State Board of Education’s decision to assess student access to grade-appropriate content and instruction. When she’s not working to expand community input and advance policies around critical issues like teacher diversity, she stays busy in her own community. She’s served on numerous community boards, including the Girl Scouts of the Mid-South, Tennessee Pre-K State Advisory Council, and Common Ground, a local racial reconciliation effort. She is also an Aspen Fellow and member of Education Leaders of Color’s (EdLoc) Leadership Committee.
Best Defense: NewMexicoKidsCAN
Defense of High-Quality Assessments
The students and educators of New Mexico have made impressive strides in recent years. Thanks to their hard work and the support of families and communities, academic growth and achievement trends are rising at the fastest rate in years. Even more impressive, students have achieved these improvements by meeting the challenging expectations laid out in New Mexico’s academic standards, which are designed to address the demands of the future workforce.
Unfortunately, this progress is now at risk. In January 2019 the Governor issued an executive order to discontinue PARCC and move to a new assessment. A new statewide assessment system could usher in an era of lower academic expectations. While state tests are politically unpopular, there is consensus from teachers, families, education advocates, and business and higher education leaders that an objective assessment of student learning is critical to provide information on how all students are progressing and ensure no students fall through the cracks. When assessment results point to major gaps in achievement, especially for certain student populations, it should be a call to take action and offer further support, not to retreat from high expectations or to hide the truth about student needs.
In “A Test of Resolve,” NewMexicoKidsCAN and co-author Teach Plus New Mexico offer principles to help inform the selection of the state’s next assessment. Modeled after a similar case-making resource from JerseyCAN, leaders urge the department to build on the momentum demonstrated by the state’s students and educators and maintain high expectations for students.
Best Ensemble Cast: DFER Colorado, Colorado Succeeds, Stand for Children Colorado, Teach Plus Colorado, Colorado League of Charter Schools
When Colorado passed full-day kindergarten in 2019, many observers remarked that it was bound to pass because it was the new governor’s signature education initiative. The reality is it was far from a sure thing, particularly with a hefty price tag and a number of competing initiatives being championed by the new Democratic leadership in the legislature. PIE Network members DFER Colorado, Colorado Succeeds, Stand for Children Colorado, Teach Plus Colorado, and Colorado League of Charter Schools provided both the air cover and the ground game needed to push the bill from the starting line over the finish line. Their steadfast commitment as a coalition is the reason Colorado families can now count on kindergarten as an option in their district.
Best Kept Secret: The Education Trust-West, EdVoice, Teach Plus California, Data Quality Campaign
After decades of fits and starts, and advocacy from a wide range of organizations, California has finally committed to investing in building a statewide student longitudinal data system with the passage of the California Cradle-to-Career Data System Act. This has truly been a decades long struggle, with California, the home of Silicon Valley, digging its heels in as other states built robust student data infrastructures. Despite the frustration, the myriad advocates did not give up. The national pressure (and support) from DQC was unrelenting, and state advocacy organizations, like EdVoice, The Education Trust-West, and Teach Plus California kept the pressure on publicly and within the Legislature and Governor’s office, highlighting all the questions that cannot be answered about California’s students and schools. Advocates hope that the state will benefit from their recalcitrance and learn from the many states that came before California as the Cradle-to-Career Data System is created.
Most Actionable Research: TNTP
The Opportunity Myth
School-level resources (grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and high expectations) can help students make big academic gains—and prepare them to reach the big goals they have for their lives.
The Opportunity Myth followed nearly 4,000 students in five diverse systems to learn more about their experiences in school. What they found was unnerving: classroom after classroom filled with A and B students whose big goals for their lives are slipping further away each day—not because they can’t master challenging material, but because they’re rarely given a real chance to try. TNTP’s research gives policymakers a new perspective on the root causes of inequity in our schools, while highlighting four in-school resources that can help students make big academic gains—grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and high expectations—along with an entire toolkit of actionable resources to help make these resources a reality for more students. Nearly 6,000 leaders, educators, and advocates have already pledged to work toward providing these resources more consistently in their schools.