The National Equity Project joins the thousands of educators and other Americans who have applauded the new “Education Declaration to Rebuild America.” We join our advisory board member Linda Darling-Hammond and our colleagues from the Coalition for Community Schools, the Opportunity to Learn Campaign, the Applied Research Center, the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence, and many others in signing the Declaration.
We have observed the Declaration’s basic point in our work repeatedly, that “by focusing solely on the achievement gap, we have neglected the opportunity gap that creates it.” Among its many important points, we find especially salient these:
Opportunities to learn should not depend on zip code or a parent’s abilities to work the system.
School systems must function as democratic institutions responsive to students, teachers, parents and communities.
As we’ve “raised the bar” for achievement, we’ve cut the resources children and schools need to reach it. We must reverse this trend and spend more money on education and distribute those funds more equitably.
Learning should be a dynamic experience through connections to real world problems and to students’ own life experiences and cultural backgrounds.
The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students. When we judge teachers solely on a barrage of high-stakes standardized tests, we limit their ability to reach and connect with their students. We must elevate educators’ autonomy and support their efforts to reach every student.
Discipline policies should keep students in schools. We must cease ineffective and discriminatory discipline practices that push children down the school-to-prison pipeline. Schools must use fair discipline policies that keep classrooms safe and all students learning.
This Declaration. The federal Equity and Excellence Commission earlier this year. The Gates Foundation’s efforts to partner with teachers. Do these signal a substantial shift in the national conversation about education change and equity? A similar declaration was made a few years ago that is still an active initiative: the Broader Bolder Approach. This project, co-launched by another NEP Advisory Board Member, Pedro Noguera, advocates for school communities to meet basic needs such as health and nutrition and other poverty-related opportunity gaps.
All this entails more conversation about the Why of equity, and these statements also include recommendations about the What (more equitable funding, more basic services, more early learning, better professional development). Where efforts tend to struggle is the How, how to get from your vision of change to the concrete changes on the ground. In complex systems, that is not a simple straight line process. The Collective Impact authors have begun addressing that recently. That space between the Why, the How, and the What is where the National Equity Project works with our partners.