Marc Porter Magee Ph.D is the CEO and founder of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

It’s probably the sociologist in me, but I’m a sucker for archetypes. It’s great when you can find one that quickly captures a mixture of traits and conveys them to a diverse audience in a simple phrase. For example, saying 50CAN is full of “Type A” personalities is a great shorthand for explaining our work environment. But the key to a good group of archetypes is not forcing people into a pigeonhole.

In the world of education reform, it’s easy to get pegged as an Athenian debater advancing the latest and greatest idea for fixing our schools or a Spartan warrior itching for another fight with the unions. These are comfortable places to live, each tribe with its own leaders, lingo, culture and supporters.

If you don’t neatly fit into either of those camps, it can leave the folks around you disappointed and confused. You are off the grid on their mental map. Why aren’t you publishing more reports on blended learning, I thought you cared about ideas? How come you aren’t going to the mattresses over that teacher contract, I thought you were committed to fighting for kids?

But when I think about who we are working so hard to recruit onto our team, it’s not the Athenian debaters or the Spartan warriors, but the Roman builders we’re looking for.

At 50CAN, we believe deeply in ideas, but applied ideas—tested, proven and reality checked against the experiences of the people getting the best results in educating kids. VP of Policy & Research Gretchen Guffy didn’t just write about statewide data systems and dashboards before she came to 50CAN, she built them.

We also aren’t afraid of fighting for what we believe in, but when we take on a fight, it’s a thoughtful, strategic and calibrated effort designed to ensure that at the end we have built a new, better system, not just torn the old one down. Founding Executive Directors Maryellen Butke and Vallay Varro are demonstrating through their actions that they are not only passionate about fighting for what’s right but also seeking out common ground (following in the footsteps of the path blazed by ConnCAN CEO Alex Johnston).

This “built to last” ethos not only informs how we approach our annual policy campaigns but also how we run the whole 50CAN organization. By bringing together a diverse group of professionals deeply committed to their craft, we are working to build the systems, tools and know-how to create powerful, lasting movements in our states.

If that sounds like your kind of education reform, I hope you will consider becoming a supporter. And if you think you might want to make Rome your career, we just might have a spot for you on the team.


Thanks to Flickr user pedroqtc for allowing us to use the photo of the Pantheon under a Creative Commons license.


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