The Diverse Charter Schools Coalition is the newest member of the America Forward Coalition. The following post was written by Sonia Park, Executive Director of the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition to introduce our network to the Coalition’s work catalyzing and supporting the creation and expansion of high-quality diverse public charter schools through strategic research, advocacy, membership activities, and outreach. To learn more about the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition, please visit its website at http://diversecharters.org/.
We all know that the most effective way to address long-term social change is through innovative thinking. The solutions of the past do not necessarily accommodate the challenges of today’s world, which is more connected and more rapidly changing than ever before.
We must take action, challenge assumptions, and examine our problems anew.
Yet we all take different approaches in how we accomplish this.
At the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition (DCSC), we are committed to the same type of transformative action as all of the members of the America Forward Coalition: achieving measurable results for those who need them most. For us, the best way to do that is through creating an intentionally diverse charter school experience.
It’s why we are committed to supporting the expansion of an ever-growing number of American public schools—including many charter schools—that will embody the diversity of our nation’s people, while preparing the children in their care to pursue higher education, meaningful and sustainable work in a global economy, and an equal role in a more cohesive and connected participatory democracy.
However, this work is not accomplished from the top down. It requires the dedication of leaders across the educational spectrum who are equipped with the skills and resources they need to navigate the unique challenges of cultivating an inclusive classroom that both supports and builds upon engaged student learning.
It’s about more than demographic diversity, about checking boxes that fill a quota and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done. It’s about building inclusive school communities—from the students to the teachers and administrators—and empowering everyone involved with the core skills of cultural competency that can serve as the cornerstone of success for the rest of their lives.
Our newly launched School Launch Program is one of many ways that we plan to accomplish this.
The goal of the program is simple in theory: prepare aspiring leaders to create and lead high performing, intentionally diverse charter schools, culminating in the opening of up to four new charter schools by 2021. The program is 12 months long, with our host school sites supporting a paid-residency experience that culminates in the launch of a new school.
The program was created because we need leaders who understand and value high-quality diverse schools. Again, it’s about more than demographic student diversity. The success of these schools relies on effective leadership, a collaborative culture, strong family engagement, an equitable and inclusive environment, and rigorous instruction that leads to higher-than-local-average academic results for students. For any school to effectively cultivate an inclusive community, it needs leaders who understand these and other pillars of success.
We know schools like this are in high demand. While only few charter schools in the US enroll racially and socioeconomically diverse student populations, parent demand for diverse schools of choice continues to grow. The waiting lists at many of our member schools across the country reflect that demand.
We’ve also seen the positive impact that schools like this can have on students, which is truly all the confirmation we need of the value of our work. Diverse schools improve academic and socio-emotional outcomes and foster the development of responsible, tolerant, and culturally competent young adults.
Yet to truly cultivate a diverse learning environment, diversity of leadership matters. It’s why we are actively recruiting and supporting our men and women of color who can teach, inspire, and lead the next generation of students in classrooms that accurately reflect the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic realities of the country we live in.
By doing so, we will not only prepare the current generation to be active leaders in education reform, but we will also empower the next generation to be the kind of innovative thinkers we need to properly create sustained social justice change.
Sonia Park is the Executive Director of the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition. Sonia has over 18 years of experience in school start-up, support, accountability, and development. She has a background in organization and school development, support, and accountability in relation to school-based, district, state and federal policies and practices. Sonia has worked with numerous organizations including the US Department of Education, NY State Education Department, NYC Department of Education, and Manhattan Charter Schools.
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