Derrell Bradford is the president of 50CAN: The 50-State Campaign for Achievement Now. In his role, Derrell leads 50CAN’s SPARK work, and trains and recruits local leaders across the country to serve as executive directors of state CANs, advocacy fellows, and citizen advocates. He also leads the National Voices fellowship which focuses on education policy, media, and political collaboration.
Derrell previously served as the executive director at New Jersey’s Better Education for Kids. At B4K Derrell worked to secure passage of the tenure reform legislation TEACH NJ. Prior to B4K, Derrell spent nine years with New Jersey’s Excellent Education for Everyone (E3) as director of communications and then executive director. While there he also served on the state’s Educator Effectiveness Task Force.
Derrell frequently contributes to education debates in print, digital, radio, and TV media. He serves on several boards dedicated to putting the needs of students and families first, including Success Academy Charter Schools, yes. every kid., the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, the advisory boards of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame and the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the PIE Network, and was the founding board chair of EdBuild. A native of Baltimore, Derrell attended the St. Paul’s School for Boys and received a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania.
You’d have to be asleep, plugged into the big machine not to see that there is a crisis in American education. It affects low-income and minority kids the most, but it also creates conditions that diminish opportunity and freedom for everyone.
Education “wakes you up.” It unplugs you. I want that for everyone.
Why I love my job:
I feel passionately about a lot of things, but nothing engages me more than working to make sure every kid has the same chance I did to attend a great school or have a great teacher. I won the school lottery as a kid. My opportunities and the people who taught me filled me up. I can’t think of anything more fulfilling than pursuing that end for all kids.
My connection to public schools:
There is a promise about education in this country; we tell kids that we’ll give them one but in too many instances all we give them is a seat in a place called school. “Public school” needs to be about the goal — that every kid gets a fair shot at a quality education regardless of who their parents are — not about who runs the schools.
What I’m bad at:
Is this a trick question? Too many things to enumerate here, I assure you.
The image that represents why I work at 50CAN:
This red house is where I spent most of my nights as a kid. My family loved me, but it’s a long way from this corner in southwest Baltimore to college. I know the role school played in my life. I won’t let anyone tell me what education can’t do for our kids.