What will it take to ensure that all children have an opportunity to learn, regardless of their background or which school they attend? This is the question we discussed during our latest webinar, “Strategies for Lifting All Children Up," part of Schott Foundation’s Grassroots Education Series on July 28.
During the webinar, Executive Director Kevin Welner of the National Education Policy Center and Executive Director Taryn Ishida of Californians for Justice discussed the importance of systemic reforms, not just school-centric reforms, when working to close the opportunity gap — and both are urgently needed.
Welner addressed the fact that kids who live in low income areas usually face “twin disadvantages” – fewer resources within and outside of schools – and urged that “responsible policy makers cannot avoid the reality that closing the achievement gap means seriously addressing these multiple obstacles.” He emphasized that there are no quick fixes and that a deep sustained reform is needed. In moving forward, Welner proposed that we stop destabilizing the system, recognize the hurdles, and engage in the deep sustained reform that is necessary to address the wide array of pressing issues, from poverty to racism.
Taryn agreed that one doesn’t work without the other when it comes to school-centric reforms and systemic reforms. She explained that Californians for Justice’s framework is to look through the eyes of their young people, and she highlighted the value of ensuring that the people who are most impacted by these problems (youth, parents, families, and teachers) are leading the solutions.
Both Kevin and Taryn suggested that we prioritize working with others in order to maximize effectiveness. Kevin explained that by stepping outside our issue-based silos we can gain a better understanding of the whole range of lived experiences in underserved communities. Taryn urged organizations to find coalitions of people working in a different issue area in order to team up and work in broad coalitions toward shared goals.
As legendary feminist and civil rights icon Audre Lorde put it, "There is no thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives." The power of communities and advocates coming together to organize for systemic, cross-issue social change is key to keep in mind as we work to close the opportunity gap.
View the entire webinar here: