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Opportunity and Obligation

This past week, it was announced in the Washington Post that Clark Street Community School had earned recognition as a Gold Level School of Opportunity by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The Schools of Opportunity recognition honors schools engaging in research-based practices designed to close the gap in opportunities and foster excellence for all students. It is their goal to raise awareness about these successful practices for policymakers and practitioners in order to build capacity and improve learning outcomes for all students.

Students collaborate on a project in one of their seminars

It is a tremendous honor to be recognized among a group of amazing schools across the country. The ten selection criteria used by the Schools of Opportunity are grounded in the best research in learning science which indicates how schools can be redesigned in a manner which honors our obligation as educators to, as Gloria Ladson Billings challenges us, “repay the educational debt” to our most marginalized students and families. The Schools of Opportunity criteria are seamlessly aligned with both our belief that the traditional school system, by design, perpetuates historical oppression and our commitment to developing a prototype of a system whose design ensures that every learner maximizes their personal genius. And while we will take a moment to celebrate the fruits of our significant labor, our work has just begun.

We, and all educators, must take seriously the obligation we have to leverage the power we have to change the system from within. While it is painful to acknowledge that most of us have on some level been complicit with a system which does not serve many of our students in the way we have intended, it is a necessary first step. While educators have at times been oppressed by increased demands and shrinking resources, we must recognize the power we have to create a new reality for all students and families and act in the spaces where we can indeed make change. As the Washington Post headline says, we must use these success stories as a path to a way forward rather than take the far easier route of dismissing them as unique anomalies.

Students explore the nature preserve on a Spark Day

One of the greatest benefits of the Schools of Opportunity recognition is the chance to join forces with a national network of schools, researchers, and policy developers working together to push for meaningful change that moves well beyond a small number of schools of distinction. Our work is not about the accolades. While the stories of success and transformation fuel us, our ultimate goal is a future where every learner in every community throughout the world has the education they need to excel. At CSCS, we continue our work within our district to provide insight and inspiration as the district strives to ensure that each classroom and school is a place where every student wants to attend every day and thrives. We are excited to collaborate with others to extend the impact of our work through the Schools of Opportunity and National Educational Policy Center network.

As our nation and our world struggle to answer challenges beyond those we have ever faced, we must ensure that every school is a school of opportunity. We honor both the privilege and the responsibility we have to be a part of this work!


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2429 Clark St, Middleton, WI 53562, USA

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