Walk a Mile in My Shoes Campaign:
Special Education, Race and the Achievement Gap
District of Columbia Parent Advocacy Action Team (PAAT)
Brightbeam is a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and a brighter future for every child. Using the power of communications, we shine a light on communities that challenge decision-makers to provide the learning opportunities all children need to thrive. We help strong voices tell powerful stories that unite and move their communities to action. Brightbeam amplifies these stories through a variety of digital platforms, including Education Post, Citizen Ed, Project Forever Free, and more than 20 local and regional sites that spotlight education issues nationally. We also sponsor on-the-ground initiatives, projects or organizations that align with our mission. To learn more, visit brightbeamnetwork.org.
Why Activism and Advocacy Matters
The futures of millions of children have been dimmed by an education system that continues to fail them. That’s why we use the power of communications to shine a light on communities that demand better — so that every child gets an education that leads to a brighter future. When credible community voices have access to a network of powerful communications tools, resources and platforms, they can lead critical conversations within their communities that inform, inspire and motivate others to demand quality educational opportunities from local decision-makers.
The Parent Advocacy Action Team is an initiative of brightbeam DC affiliate as led by Chioma Oruh of Chi Bornfree, LLC, as the DC Lead Activist of the greater brightbeam network. PAAT leaders are passionate about ensuring a quality education for every child, regardless of race, family income, geography, or special needs. They believe families should have access to a wide array of educational opportunities, resources, and information that are tailored to their children’s needs. They are active and influential leaders in their community who are ready to use their voice to mobilize their fellow community members in support of achieving better opportunities for all children. With support from the brightbeam Activism and Communications team, Communications Activists identify and communicate about education issues that are most pressing and meaningful in their communities. They develop powerful messaging, stories and communications strategies designed to inspire, inform and initiate actions from community members to pressure local decision makers into supporting issues of educational opportunity and family autonomy within the K-12 education system.
About Race and Disability in the District of Columbia Public Schools
(from the 2017 AIR Report, “Looking Back to Move Forward”)
- The largest portion of DCPS Black students attend schools in Ward 8, serving a quarter of the city’s black students;
- Ward 8 also serves a quarter of the city’s at-risk students (defined via DC Law as students that are from low income families, who are homeless or in foster care, or are over age high school students);
- Wards 6 and 7 enroll more than 15% of DCPS Black students and 30% of at risk students;
- Almost 70% of DCPS Latino students, many of whom are English Learners, attend schools in Wards 1 and 4;
- Ward 3 enrolls more than 50% of DCPS white students;
- Wards 5,7, and 8 serve very low percentage of White and Latino students, indicating these wards are composed almost entirely of Black students; and
- Special education students are distributed fairly evenly across the wards, with the smallest portion enrolled in Ward 2, which also has the lowest total enrollment.
Community Activism & Communications
- Develop the Walk a Mile in My Shoes Campaign:
- Integrating brightbeam network’s report called The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All
- Meet bi-weekly to discuss issues pertaining to the intersection of special education and race;
- Co-host bi-monthly public meetings that invite city leaders to discuss and debate topic areas pertaining to the achievement gap, special education and race;
- Collectively develop a list of agreed upon demands to be presented to the State Board of Education and the DC Council;
- Develop a blogging roster, requiring members of the Action team to publish (video or written) content on achievement gap between white students and black and brown students;
- Each member of the Action Team are required to collaboration with an organizational partner to host an event that that discusses The Secret of Shame Report within the context of Black and Brown students with disabilities.
- Develop a measurable communications and action-oriented plan designed to:
- Create a sense of urgency among members of the community to hold leaders accountable for improving achievement gaps for black and brown children with special needs, including mental health.
- Pressure leaders to develop a well-resourced and publicly monitored plan for improving educational outcomes of children in their care.
- Consistently engage and activate residents to keep leaders on the hook for making progress.
Strategic Partnership & Coalition Building
- Identify, plan and engage in strategies that build strong partnerships with local education advocacy groups
- Build relationships with local media and decision-makers
- Develop opportunities to collaborate with families, educators and education influencers/allies on local issues
- Participate in brightbeam-sponsored convenings and events designed to help you network and support your activism and communications
- A history of working, volunteering and or supporting the DC K-12 special education policy/reform
- Deep knowledge of education-related challenges and opportunities in Washington, DC
- Able to commit at least 5 hours a week to PAAT brightbeam DC related activities
- Proven abilities to mobilize constituents for action
- Keen understanding of power/targets and how to push decision-makers
- Demonstrated passion for brightbeam’s mission
Desired Skills & Experience
- Demonstrated understanding of educational equity issues related to diverse students, families and educators
- Strong interpersonal skills, including the ability to successfully relate to and motivate others
- Personal relationship with a student with a disability, special health care need, including mental health
- Developed relationships with strategic partners locally and or nationally
- Clear written and verbal communications skills
- Understanding of and experience using storytelling as a persuasive communications tool
- Familiarity and understanding of how to use social media to advance a cause
- Ability to amicably in work in teams
All PAAT leaders will receive a $500 monthly stipend for the time and commitment to brightbeam DC campaign.
Commitment to Diversity & Inclusion
Studies have shown that women and people of color are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they meet every one of the qualifications as described in a job description. Our top priority is finding the best candidate for the job and if you are interested in the position, we would encourage you to apply, even if you don’t believe you meet every one of our qualifications described.
Applications close on Friday, July 10, 2020.