Guest Post: An Open Letter to the Education Reform Movement

Dear Education Reformers,

First and foremost, I would like to commend you for all of the work that you do. Many of you do this work because you believe that all children, regardless of zip code, should have access to a quality education. For your efforts to ensure that the underserved get a “fair shake.” I commend you. Thank you a million times over. I know students and families are thankful to have you on their side.

The best leaders are able to be led. Are you willing to do whatever it takes for the poor and disenfranchised to have a fair opportunity to live their dreams through a quality education?

Moreover, the purpose of my letter to you is to share the “glows as well as the grows”. Grows in this case is any attempts that you can make to galvanize your efforts to make the movement more powerful. “More powerful” in the sense of speaking with one voice, and acting as a collective whole. “More powerful” in the sense that you aren’t afraid to be lions, because right now its seems as if there are a lot of lambs on the Ed Reform side, at least from the outside looking in.

I’ve witnessed many debates with Education Reformers wasting time trying to convince folks that don’t want to be convinced about the power of school choice. We all know school choice and healthy competition work to better systems. Those efforts would be better served with you teaching parents how to self-advocate, as the families of the movement add much more power than any Twitter/Facebook/Media debate.

This past week, a strong message was sent to you by Anti-Reformers, those who oppose school choice. They were able to muscle the NAACP into passing a resolution placing a moratorium on charter schools. While I am extremely disappointed by the NAACP and their actions, as well as their treatment of the parents that traveled from Memphis to Cincinnati to have their voices heard, sadly I am not surprised.

If you noticed, shortly after the resolution was voted on and passed, the AFT, Ravitch, (tenured nobodies whom I refuse to make famous) and others against school choice were quick to release statements in support of the resolution. These statements highlight the fact that this was carefully thought out, and in this rare instance, you got “out-organized.”

While we can all agree that the NAACP resolution bears no fruit, it sends a powerful message in that you need to “step your game up,” in order to strengthen your movement.

There can’t be anymore “turn the other cheek,” or “kill them with kindness.” Those against school choice aren’t playing fair, and they certainly aren’t kind to those that think the poor should have school choice. Anytime anti-reformers can get one of the nation’s oldest civil rights groups to turn a blind-eye to the poor and disenfranchised, you know there’s a ton of work to be done. These families need you, and you can’t let them down.

That said, the vote to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts charter schools became that much more important for the Ed reform movement. You need to be beating the streets, having town halls at charter schools in Massachusetts, speaking with alumni groups of graduates of Massachusetts’s colleges and universities, meeting with fraternities and sororities.

Every vote counts, and you’ll need to ensure that Massachusetts sends a message loud and clear, and that message is school choice is here to stay! Think about the thousands of Black and Latino students who are on waiting lists for charter schools across this great nation. Parents have a right to choose schools for their children. No one should be standing in the way of school choice.

Currently as Ed Reformers, you operate in buckets. You must find a way to come together to share ideas and best practices to “reform your Ed reform movement”. This movement is powerful, but it has so much more potential if you organize and become more strategic, with a centralized message.

My suggestion is that you have at least one to two major conferences a year. You can have sessions focused on the needs of the people, and the needs of the movement. This way, you come out speaking in one voice, ready to oppose the opposition the same way they do you.

If you agree with the message, please share it. If you disagree, tell me why, and what we can all do to come up with something better.

Raymond Ankrum  is Executive Director/Principal of the Riverhead Charter School on Long Island. He is also a results-oriented school leader who  prides himself on his ability to put “students first”.  As a school turnaround specialist, Mr. Ankrum has consistently helped schools to make sizable gains in hopes of bridging the achievement gap for students in the hardest to move subgroups, which include but are not limited to Black and Latino students.  Mr. Ankrum is currently in dissertation for his doctoral degree at Northeastern University.  His dissertation focus is on “The Correlation Between Parent Involvement and Student Achievement in Urban Schools”.  Mr. Ankrum has an undergraduate degree from the University of Stony Brook, as well as three masters degrees, one from Stony Brook, one Morgan State University, and the last one from Teachers College, Columbia University.  Mr. Ankrum is a life-long learner who embraces the challenges in Urban Education

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