We move beyond theory and ideas to steps that you can take, and we point you in the direction of leaders and organizations that are doing the work. We “rise up” the buried treasure of programs, tools and models created by school districts, charter networks and entrepreneurs that are effectively supporting the needs and aspirations of students of color.
The RISE UP Coalition Action Agenda includes the following components:
- Big Ideas: We define eight Big Ideas aligned to a set of themes that are at the core of a reimagined education system that centers families and communities
- Priorities Map: We identify five Priorities within each Big Idea that specifically addresses the “how” of systems change
- Policy Perspectives: We put forth a set of Policy Perspectives that represent the actions that need to be considered at the federal, state and local levels
- Demonstrations: We launch a clearinghouse of best practices, programs and tools that are supporting the needs and ability to thrive for students of color.
On June 30, 2021 we released the Big Ideas and Priorities Map. On August 4, 2021, we will release the Policy Perspectives and Demonstrations.
We invite you to utilize the Action Agenda as a flexible guide to inform your work and practices and hope that you will join us as an advocate and/or ally for this work.
How do we reimagine education systems that are centered in families and communities?
Our Big Ideas outline a core set of tenets that school systems and schools can employ to inform the design, development and implementation of solutions to support the vibrant diversity of students.
Accountability and Assessment
Achievement Honors Context
Accountability and assessment must “do no harm”. Eliminate the inequitable emphasis on tracking and exclusion. Understanding a student’s academic performance is paramount but represents a single dimension. Measurement systems must acknowledge the value of gains and growth and account for a holistic context for learning including academic, cognitive, wellbeing and identity.
Family and Community Engagement
Families Are Co-Designers
The pandemic underscored the role schools play in supporting basic needs -- including food and childcare -- as well as teaching and learning. Schools are centered in communities and, as such, cannot exist without embracing families as co-designers. Schools have to move beyond surveys to engage families as partners in co-constructing dynamic and adaptive learning and wellbeing infrastructure.
Innovative School Models
Community is Innovation
The education system continually seeks to bring innovation into communities of color rather than honor the innovation that is resident within. The definition of education innovation is not in the bells and whistles; it is in the ingenuity of community-based models and tools that reflect the vibrant cultural spirit and fabric of the people. Honor communities by investing in what works by definition of the people who are proximate, not outsiders.
Students are not monolithic. Every student’s life experience is rooted in cultural language, behaviors, values and norms. Healthy school environments value culture by not anchoring in conformist disciplinary policies and actions. If learning is to be student-centered then it also must be culture-centered. Acknowledge the culture and community that students live and breathe everyday.
Every Identity Matters
Learning devoid of the diversity of students' heritage, languages, gender and experiences is at the root of inequity in education. Recognize that each and every student has an identity that must be welcomed in their learning experience. Build personalized systems and supports that expand pathways and opportunities for students based on their identity and personal dreams and aspirations.
Professional Learning and Talent
Every teacher wants their students to succeed and lead healthy, productive lives. The profession of teaching has been deprecated by mechanistic policies and an intentional reduction of the diversity of the workforce. Teachers and students are sharing a human experience complete with mutual social and emotional impacts. We need to restore the human factor to teaching and purposefully increase the diversity of the workforce as a reflection of the importance of every student benefitting from diverse voices and experiences.
Wellness and Relationships First
Schools have cultures -- and an opportunity emerging from the pandemic to reimagine culture centered in wellness. Social emotional health is critical to student academic success and requires a holistic approach that continually understands students wellness as a factor in their academic performance. Counselors, peer-to-peer connections and mentor relationships are no longer nice-to-have.
Mindset Transforms Systems
Systems are a reflection of leaders’ willingness and openness to change. Addressing conditions and barriers requires an innovator's mindset, capacity as a leader to learn and acknowledgement that people who are proximate need to be at the decision table. Transformation is not about disruption -- it is combining lessons learned and equitable best practices with wholly new approaches and models for building the future that has yet to be imagined.
What actions can we take to create the mechanisms to sustain community-centered practices?
Our Priorities Map defines a baseline set of actions designed to embody and enable the conditions for the vibrant diversity of students to thrive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the compounding inequities in society that anchor the lived realities of communities of color. This public health crisis has unveiled the impact of institutionalized policies that are exclusionary, limited in scope or unequitably implemented. While all students have been impacted by this devastating pandemic, historically minoritized and underserved students — students of color, students experiencing poverty and/or homelessness, Emergent Bilinguals (also know as English learners under federal statute), students with disabilities, students in the foster care or juvenile justice system, immigrant students, and students who identify as LGBTQ — are disproportionately affected. Beyond interruptions to instruction, many of these students have experienced food insecurity, housing instability, unreliable access to remote learning technology, mental health issues, reduced access to student supports and education services and potentially the loss of a family member. The unprecedented global pandemic, in concert with a long-overdue racial reckoning in the United States, has deepened educational inequities as well as heightened stress and anxiety for students of color and exposed the unique challenges they face. This pandemic requires equity-focused leaders to think differently as they rebuild a school system where responsive policies, structures, and practices render equitable outcomes for students disproportionately impacted.
The country has a responsibility to invest, federally infused stabilization funds to wholly transform how schools work in partnership with communities to effectively support students. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) provides roughly $125 billion in one-time federal funds to states and local education agencies (LEAs) which translates to thousands of dollars of additional support per student. Far beyond responding to the immediate needs of COVID, we have an obligation to confront and address, head-on, the deep-rooted inequities that students of color have long been subject to in our public school system and society at large. We must reimagine an education system that authentically honors and celebrates the vibrant diversity of students and leads to equitable outcomes for all.
It is an urgent and timely moment to disrupt the policies that set the conditions in the education ecosystem. In this New Dawn, we propose to forge a new path. We will elevate best practices to inform policies and redesign ecosystems that allow all students to thrive. We will do this by recognizing their intersectional identities and defining them through an asset-based perspective rather than a deficit-based lens that feeds into the soft bigotry of low expectations and projects images of imperfect, at-risk children, and youth. While many of the policies outlined in the subsequent section are not new; these policy solutions are anchored in the explicit context of serving historically underserved students of color. The policy recommendations are also informed by the lived experiences and professional expertise of a national network of leaders of color working in various education systems and at multiple levels (national, state and local).
The RISE UP Coalition is led by people of color representing school districts, charter networks and organizations across the country. Collectively, this national coalition enjoys a broad diversity of perspectives and experiences, but also a common purpose and commitment to reimagine and transform the education system with policies that are supportive and responsive to students, their families, and educators. The coalition’s collaborative work has contributed to a priorities map that paves the path forward to an equity-driven, action agenda as well as a repository of demonstrations, and a policy blueprint that outlines priorities. The forthcoming recommendations are guided by the following policy principles:
- Enact policies and practices that lead to equitable outcomes for students of color who now represent the majority of students in U.S. public schools.
- Architect a new equity-based school ecosystem.
- Hold states and districts accountable to ensure that Students of Color receive equitable resources and supports.
To advance the above policy principles and make equity an actionable and tangible reality for underrepresented students, the RISE UP coalition proposes the following policy recommendations.
Policy Recommendation 1: Target resources to support students with the highest needs.
The unprecedented investment in education from the federal government reinforces the obligation that states and LEAs have to close opportunity gaps that existed prior to COVID-19. The total investment in K-12 schools through the combination of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in April 2020, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December 2020, and the most recent Covid relief package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), is nearly double the amount that was invested in schools through the 2009 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to address the impacts of the Great Recession. To ensure the equitable implementation of these funds by targeting students with the highest needs, states and LEAs should consider the following recommendations:
- Base education funding levels, during and after the recovery period, on funding needed for equitable outcomes.
- Sustain maintenance of effort in high need schools and LEAs.
- Adopt and sustain maintenance of equity requirements even after the stabilization funds from ARP sunset. Budget cuts must hold harmless programs focused on low income, students of color, and other historically underserved student populations.
- Ensure that federal stimulus funds are targeted to support traditionally underserved students who were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. This requires a clear system to monitor and report on the use of federal funds and how they were invested on students with highest needs.
- Ensure that federal stimulus funds and additional state funding are directed to programs that accelerate learning, language development, demonstrate effectiveness, and are responsive to students’ academic, social, and emotional needs.
- Fund research on innovative programs that are showing evidence of academic success and language proficiency for students of color and Emergent Bilinguals.
- Collect and compare data of students who returned to in-person instruction and the data of virtual learners to gain a better perspective of the potential inequities that emerged in different learning environments. This data should be used to tailor professional development opportunities, direct funds to address learning gaps, and identify new policy proposals.
Policy Recommendation 2: Redefine student success to meet the needs of the whole child.
Students deserve to see themselves as people who are supported in their learning journey regardless of where they started or the challenges they face along the way. Similarly, the needs, talents and identities of students must be honored and addressed comprehensively to safeguard each child’s wellness and safety, and to support long-term success. Redefining student supports and success requires the following policy shifts:
- Expand the definition and metrics of student success to still include, but go above and beyond academic learning.
- Consider and address conditions that can impact student learning at various levels and scales.
- Share power with parents to jointly define student success and identify the resources needed to actualize the vision of success.
- Establish a transparent, culturally and linguistically responsive feedback loop to engage parents in their child’s academic and social development progress.
- Require assessment data to be shared with teachers in a timely and practical way that enables them to tailor instruction for student growth and success.
- Ensure that parents, educators, and leaders of color are meaningfully engaged in shaping the future of assessments and accountability measures.
Policy Recommendation 3: Meaningfully engage and serve families and communities in the school ecosystem.
Schools should be student-centered, honor the family’s cultural and language backgrounds, understand their local context, and authentically engage the community as valued partners in the decision-making process.
- Redesign education ecosystems to meet the comprehensive needs of students through an array of wrap around services and supports.
- Invest in partnerships with community-based organizations to provide extended learning opportunities and culturally and linguistically responsive support services.
- Ensure families have access to broadband internet, technology, and digital literacy support.
- Invest in creating and expanding authentically diverse community-led and indigenous school models.
- Create competitive grant funding to invest in developing, piloting, and scaling, innovative school models based on evidence that support children of color.
- Establish and/or expand programming geared at engaging parents/guardians, including monolingual families, in the schooling experience of students.
- Continue to offer virtual options for family engagement as technological platforms have proven to be an effective tool to facilitate communication and participation of family and community members.
Policy Recommendation 4: Acknowledge that educators are the key to healthy and meaningful learning experiences.
More than half of our nation’s public-school students are students of color, but nearly 80% of the teacher workforce is White. It is vital that our children have role models and leaders in their lives and in each classroom, who reflect their racial, cultural, or linguistic background from an early age to boost their opportunities for success. Furthermore, the social, emotional, and academic benefits of the racial and ethnic diversification of the educator workforce are widely documented. The diversification of the educator workforce (including teachers and administrators) benefits all students, as such, it should be prioritized by school systems.
- Create a task force to diversify the educator pipeline and develop, advance, and retain talent.
- Establish an Educator Diversity Data Dashboard to collect and report teacher recruitment and retention rates by racial and ethnic demographic data as well as language diversity, and to collect and report on promotions and professional advancement of educators of color.
- Support Grow Your Own programs that recruit and prepare a diverse workforce including high school students, local community members, paraprofessionals, after-school and tutoring providers to pursue a teaching career.
- Dedicate funds to enhance educator training programs aimed at culturally and linguistically sustaining practices that intentionally address the belief gap that leads to implicit bias practices and differentiated treatment of students of color.
- Provide funding and professional development to address the well-being of educators.
- Use data to inform teacher preparation, practice, and professional development.
Policy Recommendation 5: Focus school culture on wellness and relationship-building.
Approximately 14 million students attend schools with police presence but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 48 states do not meet the recommended student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1. At the same time, policies that result in corporal punishment, out-of-school suspension, and expulsion have been shown to disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities and result in profiling. This does not have to continue being a reality for millions of American students.
- Properly equip schools with the tools and resources to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the shift back to in-person instruction.
- Provide trauma-informed support to address the disproportionate impact of COVID on students of color.
- Strengthen data collection on school discipline disaggregated by race and ethnicity and publicly report findings.
- Adopt policies that address the over-identification of students of color and students with disabilities in school discipline actions.
- Adopt restorative discipline policies and reduce exclusionary practices.