The exciting news came out yesterday that the CityBridge Foundation, transitioning as of January 1, 2017 to become the nonprofit CityBridge Education, will begin incubating and creating new schools and revolutionizing already exciting ones in alliance with the traditional and charter school sectors. The organization’s aggressive goal is to “redesign or launch 25 innovative public schools within five years” in Washington, D.C. with the mission of “advancing equity and opportunity for all children.”
CityBridge Foundation co-founder, president, and personal hero Katherine Bradley has turned to recently named chief executive officer Mieka Wick to lead this charge. I’ve worked with Ms. Wick for years at the CityBridge Foundation and frankly with her in this new role I have no doubt that success is the only possible outcome.
The effort is a natural outgrowth of the work of the foundation. It has been providing financial and other support to promising charter and DCPS schools since its creation in 1994. A list of partner schools can be found here. In fact, Ms. Bradley was co-chair of the search committee that led to Kaya Henderson becoming chancellor. Since 2013, CityBridge has been managing the awarding of grants to new or redesigned schools as part of Breakthrough Schools: D.C. modeled after the national Next Generation Learning Challenges competition.
It is also a natural outcome of the fact that here in the nation’s capital after 20 years of public school reform only 25 percent of students are scoring as college or career ready on the PARCC standardized examination.
So how will the group’s efforts become a reality? From Wednesday’s press release:
“CityBridge Education will find teachers, leaders, and school teams with the ideas and the drive to create new, better models of school. Educators will be connected to structured design work, portfolio management, networks of talent, and the significant resources needed to launch or transform schools. We will build a cross-sector (district and charter) cohort of educators, regularly sharing their experiences (successes, as well as failures) in order to speed adoption of promising practices and transformative ideas. Our work will serve these innovative educators, all united in the belief that school can deliver results that honor the talent and potential inherent in children.”
There is one fundamental principle that will guide these efforts, and that is best explained by Ms. Wick:
“Although we expect a real diversity of schools in our portfolio, there is one principle animating all our school creation work: Our unifying imperative is equity. For far too long, schoolchildren in D.C. and other urban areas have been subject to a “narrative of disinheritance”—the persistent inequities of experience, resources, and perceived worth, based on race, class, or story. Great schools can disrupt and redirect that narrative. When designed thoughtfully, schools can be places where students—regardless of race or socioeconomic status—are secure, valued, and can stretch for significant accomplishment; they are places where love and justice thrive. Equitable schools always deliver academic results, but they do so in a way that develops in students key habits of autonomy, mastery, and independent thought. Only then, with schools that foster authentic human agency, can we say we have achieved our goal of intentional equity.”
It’s going to be an extremely interesting 60 months.