A New School Year Resolution

I’m bad at setting New Year's Resolutions (except that one about flossing, thank goodness), but I’m great at setting School Year Resolutions.

My first year? Survival, obviously.

My second year? Creating a culture of high expectations.

My third year? Using data to drive instruction.

You get the picture.

It’s the beginning of a new year, and I’m finding myself again engaged with the work of setting intentions that will drive our work at Open Up Resources.

As I reflect, I realize we’ve done a ton around high-quality curriculum. We started by working with high-quality curriculum writers to create the best programs possible. We then released them as Open Education Resources (OER) so that every school can access to them no matter what resources they have—a concept that was previously unheard of in the K–12 space. People were skeptical at first (after all, could something free really be quality?), but we persevered and went on to show the world that our curriculum was setting a new bar, and the schools that have implemented our curricula will attest to that.

So, we’ve figured out how to do the curriculum piece, and we’ll continue to do it because it’s still necessary. And while high-quality curricula are a key component to education equity, I find myself struggling with the reality that race, class, and zip code are more predictive of student achievement than any other factors. There is critical work to be done to interrupt these patterns of inequity. 

It’s this ugly reality and my core belief in the inherent brilliance of EVERY young person that is pushing me toward my resolution for the year—I am personally committing myself to serving as an agent of social justice and will use my leadership as a force to achieve equity.

Equity is especially at the forefront of my mind because of what I’m seeing as a parent. My daughter, Penelope, started TK two weeks ago in Oakland Unified. This picture is captured the morning well—Penelope was all smiles while my husband and I held back tears behind our sunglasses.

Her elementary school offers one of the few TK programs across the district, and as a result her classroom is beautifully diverse: representing the wide spectrum of cultures, languages, social classes, and family structures found in one of the most diverse cities in the nation. But when I look at Kindergarten, there’s a lot less diversity and it continues to dwindle as the grades go on. Many white, affluent families with the privilege to select other schooling options are pulling their kids from this neighborhood public school. 

What I see happening in Penelope’s school is representative of the massive school segregation we see across the city. Our newest curriculum, Reading with Relevance, shines a light on this inequity in their novel study for The 57 Bus. Look for yourself at this table from their analytical activity, “A Tale of Two Oaklands”.

What do YOU notice here? What do wonder about how income and race produce a chasm of opportunity? How do income and race produce a chasm of opportunity?

This chart was particularly stirring for me when I recently visited Little Rock Central High School and the tiny museum across the street. I hoped to feel inspired, but as I walked around the museum, I cried.

It’s 2019—a full 62 years after the Little Rock Crisis—and my own community is still struggling with segregation.

And Oakland isn’t an anomaly. Our whole country is struggling. What’s happening in my backyard is likely happening in your backyard.

We have so much work to do, and every one of us plays a part in this. We can’t pretend these issues don’t exist, and we MUST equip a new generation of young people with the skills they need to understand, question, and change the inequities they see.

This year, I am fiercely committed to observing, reading, collaborating, and learning in service of ensuring that Open Up Resources contributes to lasting solutions that drive equity in schools.

I hope you’ll join me. I hope you’ll join Open Up Resources. And if you’re an active educator, I’d love the opportunity to visit your district, school, and classroom. I’d love to have you by my side as I go on this journey.