It is week 62 of our new reality and for more than a year in this roundup we have focused on the emergency responses needed to meet the needs of students as the pandemic disrupted American education.

Now the country is shifting from the emergency response period of the pandemic to one of recovery, and the question is not how to keep schooling going while school buildings are closed, but how to ensure the largest influx of federal education funding in history actually helps all the students and families that sacrificed so much in the past year.

As we seek to recover, rebuild and renew our commitment to education, our students deserve MORE than a return to normal, they deserve to believe in better.

In this special edition of the roundup, we are introducing a new vision for American education focused on five promises to America’s students to provide them with the education they deserve.

Believe in Better

Believe in Better is a new agenda for a new era in American education, grounded in five promises to America’s students.

Across the 50CAN network, and together with partners in communities around the country, we will work to secure:

  • The education that’s right for you, because every student learns differently.
  • Tutoring and care for every student in every community.
  • A world of open and connected learning, so that you have the tools you need to strengthen your community and succeed in life.
  • A family’s right to know what’s working–it’s all about accountability.
  • A clear path to the career you choose. It’s about finding your fit, and your pathway to a meaningful life.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing more stories of students and families, working hard alongside allies and advocates to deliver an education system of the future that puts the needs of students at the center of everything we do.

  • The task this week is to renew our commitment to every student in every community by sparking a conversation about the new promises we should make to America’s students in this new era.

As we shift into this new phase of education advocacy, it’s important to recognize that we aren’t starting from scratch. Over the past several months, the local campaigns within the 50CAN network have secured a number of wins that point the way forward to fulfilling the five Believe in Better promises.

Learning pods and direct payments
Transform Education Now (TEN) in Colorado helped organize hundreds of parents in a successful campaign that resulted in the Adams 12 district making learning pods an option for all parents and the Commerce City district providing families with $1,600 in direct grants for educational expenses.

Equitable funding
ConnCAN is on its way to securing hundreds of millions of dollars in new resources this year for Connecticut students through a new approach to funding that is more equitable and student-centered. The bill corrects for the unjust underfunding of the state’s high-needs communities while providing Connecticut’s public charter schools with their largest funding increase in over a decade.

Special needs scholarships
GeorgiaCAN secured a historic expansion of eligibility for the state’s special needs scholarship program by including students diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, ADHD, epilepsy and other medical conditions which impact their ability to learn. The result is 55,000 more students having the ability to choose the education that’s right for them.

Free summer tutoring
TennesseeCAN secured $120 million during a special session to create a Summer Tutoring Corps that will serve 200,000 Tennessee students. Executive Director Victor Evans, writing about the need for summer tutoring to address learning loss in an op-ed this past spring, said it best: “We believe that high-dosage tutoring directly tied to regular classroom content may be the most cost-effective solution and offer the most immediate results to address learning loss and help students catch up.”

WiFi on Wheels
The team at HawaiiKidsCAN launched WiFi on Wheels, a program that ensured that students in Hawaii’s rural communities had access to broadband internet. Fifteen vans, outfitted with a router, cables and rooftop antenna allowed students to access their digital learning. The team also championed direct support to families and secured a second win when Governor Ige announced that the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program will provide eligible families with $50 a month for broadband services.

A device for every student
ConnCAN’s advocacy for all students to have electronic devices so they could effectively learn paid off when Governor Lamont agreed to spend over $43 million in federal funds to ensure every student would have a laptop and high-speed internet access. ConnCAN continues to work to make access to technology a student right, and has seen early progress with a statewide initiative to expand broadband access further, leveraging recent federal funding.

Measuring performance
In January 2021, TennesseeCAN received a key victory when the legislature passed a bill that preserved the requirement for standardized testing despite the challenges imposed by the pandemic. The bill included stipulations that every district needed to ensure that assessments would be taken by at least 80% of students.

Tracking learning loss
JerseyCAN led the way forward in shining a spotlight on children’s needs in the Garden State with the release of the first, and so far only, public study tracking learning loss during the pandemic in the state. The report is the first step in an effort to bring much more information to families to help them navigate through the recovery phase of their educational journey.

Career readiness for all
The team at HawaiiKidsCAN secured an innovative win with SB 516, which establishes that families have a right to know about how well their childrens’ schools are preparing them for career-readiness. The bill also sets the goal of ensuring every child will emerge with the industry-recognized credentials necessary to secure a job that will allow them to earn the level of income needed to stay in Hawaii when they leave the public education system.

Computer science education
GeorgiaCAN helped ensure schools in the Peach State are preparing students for the workforce of tomorrow by expanding computer science access to all middle and high schools in the state.

This school year has been a year of challenges but also one of innovation. Below are some of the new approaches to education that have inspired us and informed the Believe in Better agenda.

‘Ohana Pods, on the Hawaiian island of Lana’i, provides a service to link parents together to form learning pods and advocate for equitable funding.

Workspace Education, a co-learning, collaborative homeschool space in Connecticut, offers an innovative new modelfor parents who want more control over the design of their children’s education.

VELA grantee and 50CAN National Voices fellow, Isis Spann, created her own learning pod, FUNdamentals of Learning, to help students struggling during the pandemic.

Change Summer is an organization that is running innovative summer camp experiences that connect students from under-resourced communities.

TennesseeSCORE provides both a resource guide and a seminar for effectively implementing high-impact tutoring.

High school students from Success Academy Charter Schools in New York were celebrated for launching a tutoring program to help younger students.

Skate Surf Science is a new learning program in Florida that allows students to connect their passions for surfing and skating with science, ranging from physics to marine biology.

yes. every kid. showcases the Idaho Strong Students Program with parents working to deliver a more flexible and open school system.

EdNavigator created a helpful guide for parents to understand state tests, along with resources on how best to use the results to change your child’s education experience.

The National Parents Union is working to ensure parents have the resources to keep tabs on how their state and local district are spending federal funds from the American Rescue Plan.

Washington DC Public Schools surveyed and hosted roundtable conversations with parents to solicit their feedback on how to spend federal funding.

Excel in Ed launched Pathways Matter, a curated set of resources and case studies for policymakers to create career and technical education programs aligned with their workforce needs.

MESA Charter High School co-founders, Arthur Samuels and Pagee Cheung, implemented a new 13th grade initiativeto provide increased support and effectively transition high school students into college.

Hawaii educator Mili Lafflin celebrates the passage of SB 242, a bill that requires every school in the state to offer computer science education courses by the year 2024. The bill will significantly impact students’ access to a world of open and connected learning, while also giving them new skills for the jobs of the future.

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


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