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

Any time you are pushing change from the outside you should expect that (legitimate) questions will be raised about whether you know enough about what is actually happening on the ground to help, not hurt, the cause you are fighting for.

Two questions that are often raised about those of us advancing education reforms are: 1) do they really understand what it takes to be a successful classroom teacher or school or district leader? and 2) do they really understand the needs of the families most affected by the achievement gap?

One way to answer those questions is to try to give you a qualitative sense of the staff we have recruited for this effort. If you spend a little time on our staff page I hope you come away with a strong sense of the committed team we have brought together and the backgrounds and experiences they bring to their work. If you are curious about any of the experiences of any staff members, please take a moment to reach out to them. I promise they will be responsive to your questions.

Being empiricists at heart, we also think crunching the numbers can play an important role in providing another perspective on the staff, where they come from and the kind of backgrounds and experiences they bring to their work.

Here are the current numbers in terms of educational experience:

Executive Directors:

  • Classroom teacher: 75 percent
  • School staff, district staff or board of education: 100 percent

All Staff:

  • Classroom teacher: 38 percent
  • School staff, district staff or board of education: 57 percent

And here are the current numbers in terms of demographics and background:

Executive Directors:

  • People of color: 75 percent
  • Parents did not graduate from college: 100 percent

All Staff:

  • People of color: 38 percent
  • Parents did not graduate from college: 43 percent.

Since they are setting the direction of our campaigns, it is particularly important that our executive directors understand the needs and perspectives of both teachers and the families most impacted by the achievement gap. While the initial numbers on our first four executive directors is strong on both fronts, it is even stronger in the particulars of the individuals we have hired and I would encourage you to spend some time on their staff pages learning more about their stories.

In terms of the overall staff, I’m very proud of the initial 21 professionals we have attracted to this work. Every one of them is bringing something special to our work. I hope you will spend some time on our staff page to learn more about why they got involved, their diverse experiences and the perspectives they bring to this effort.

In terms of the numbers, while the 50CAN team is more racially and ethnically diverse than the US population as a whole (38 percent versus 28 percent in the US), as a staff we are also less likely to have parents who didn’t graduate from college than the population as a whole (43 percent versus 61 percent in the US). I think we can do better on both fronts and as we grow we are going to continue to work hard to actively recruit candidates from diverse backgrounds. A year from now I would like to be able to report that both the number of people of color and the number of staff with parents who didn’t graduate from college has increased.  

In terms of educational experience, more than one-third (38 percent) of the 50CAN staff are former classroom teachers and more than one-half (57 percent) are veterans of schools or districts. As an education advocacy group, I would love to see these numbers continue to increase in the year ahead and the growing number of teachers who are getting involved in our campaigns and the campaigns of other ed reform groups is helping create a strong pipeline of talent to do just that.

OK, your turn. How important is educational experience and personal background in education advocacy? What is the right way to measure progress in these areas? How do you think 50CAN is doing? Let us know in the comments.





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