This Is What a Movement to Improve Education for All Students Looks Like

Apr 3, 2018 12:00:00 AM


I've struggled with a particular notion for many years: Do the education reform efforts of the last 25 years constitute a "movement"? How do the efforts of so many dedicated, passionate individuals compare to other notable social movements in the U.S., such as civil rights, women's suffrage and same-sex marriage? While there has been tangible progress over that time, [pullquote]most signs tell us we are nowhere near the critical mass needed to see improvement at scale.[/pullquote] Too many students continue to languish in systems designed to do just that. Reform hasn't been a straight line. Sometimes we move too fast; other times too slow. Often we're myopic, or fueled by a righteous hubris that's a moral hazard of this work. In the end, we're human and as prone to shortcomings as any other collective endeavor. Still, I'm proud of the progress we've seen. That every student is capable and deserving of an equitable education is no longer debated. There are now entire networks of schools proving the brilliance and potential of their students, regardless of background.

Where Do We Go Next?

I'm left asking, again, what might a cohesive movement to improve education for all students look like? Part of what's missing is ensuring the voices of those directly impacted by educational inequity remain heard. This includes students, parents, advocates, community leaders and practitioners. Over the past year I've gotten to know Allies for Educational Equity, a grassroots organization working to collectivize the voice and impact of a diverse group of education reformers. As I've heard Allies founder Lea Crusey say repeatedly, "At our best, we in the education reform community recognize and value the commonalities we share across a variety of perspectives." [pullquote]Sure, we have disagreements, both small and large, about the right path forward, but we certainly have much more in common than not.[/pullquote] Allies for Educational Equity is a crucial cog in fostering a more cohesive reform movement. Students and parents care little about whether one is a Democrat or Republican, or a charter proponent or skeptic. What parents want to know is, "Are you serving my child, and are they set up for success?" Many of the more than 150 Allies from 28 states and D.C. are themselves parents with those same questions. Many aren't. And that's the most potent facet of the organization: Education reform isn't a monolith and the true power of our diversity remains untapped. As one of the most diverse states in the country, New Mexico knows a thing or two about working across lines of difference. We have much to offer and also to learn from Allies outside of the land of enchantment. We’re not billionaires or millionaires. Yet our collective resources and voices are immense. And we already know how hard this work is, because we are the ones in schools, communities, nonprofits, legislatures, think tanks and town halls every day. We are the right people to do this work and fuel a true movement. This is why I'm excited about the work of Allies and having so many fellow New Mexicans joining this movement. And, as our state motto Crescit eundo states: We Grow As We Go. Together we go farther than otherwise possible.

Seth Saavedra

Seth Saavedra is a New Mexican, born and raised. Fueled by his upbringing in public housing and public schools, he has an unwavering commitment to improving New Mexico's public schools, particularly for those students and communities who are least served by the current system. Seth was formerly a middle school teacher in Bridgeport, Connecticut, through Teach For America. He triple-majored in English, philosophy and economics at the University of New Mexico and went to Del Norte High School before that. He's a proud advocate, agitator, and alchemist. He's a self-admitted green chile addict. He spends most of his time with family and meandering around New Mexico.

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