As a true learning organization, we have taken the time over the past several months to reevaluate the best way to fulfill our mission and build a strong culture of achievement on each Democracy Prep campus. To this end, the Office of the Superintendent (OOTS) is excited to announce three new priorities that Democracy Prep will focus on beginning in the 19-20 school year. OOTS reflected on where Democracy Prep needs to go next to provide the best possible education for our scholars. We believe these priorities, if implemented with fidelity, have the potential to move our network and the 6,500 scholars we serve to where we need to be this year and beyond. We may even be at the forefront of a larger movement in the ed reform space to rethink and revamp some of the widely-used practices in high-performing charters over the past two decades.
1. Purpose over Power/Meaningful Resistance
Our first priority is to encourage opportunities for meaningful scholar resistance and advocacy, to ensure clear intention behind all expectations, to invest the school community in our school culture systems, and to build reflective practices to strengthen school culture.
This priority pushes each of us to reflect on our current school systems and make sure that all of our rules and expectations are in service of academic achievement, rather than control or compliance for its own sake. If there is an expectation that doesn’t make sense, we need to reexplain the why in a more compelling way or change it altogether. We believe deeply that we can achieve “both/and” – we can both maintain the highest expectations for our scholars, sweat the small stuff, and provide a safe and structured environment for our scholars, and we can evolve to ensure that everything we expect of our scholars is genuinely in service of creating a culture of academic achievement.
To give one concrete example of what this looks like: moving forward, at Democracy Prep, our scholars’ lunch periods will be time for purposeful socializing, not sitting silently. Silent lunch is a thing of the past. We would challenge you to find a school in a wealthy suburb where 3rd grade students sit silently during lunch. And, we know these schools produce strong academic results. Therefore, we know that silent lunch is not truly about driving towards a culture of academic achievement. It’s this approach – rethinking and revisiting outdated approaches, while unapologetically ensuring a safe and structured environment for all of our scholars – that will truly build positive culture and forge a culture of achievement at each of our schools.
2. Pride in Prep
Our second priority is “Pride in Prep” and focuses on ensuring both strong instruction and a culture of academic rigor and achievement in our schools. This will manifest through leader and teacher internalization of standards and curriculum as well as robust, targeted, and consistent lesson plan feedback.
Our scholars deserve excellence every single day. Our calling card as an organization must be that our leaders and teachers are, simply put, the best-prepared educators in the country on behalf of our scholars. To accomplish this, we believe that our school leaders need to be the academic leaders of their campuses, and our teachers need to be the academic leaders of their classrooms. In partnership with our Academics team, school leaders will be equipped and energized to lead the charge to make sure that every day, we have the best curriculum and materials in front of scholars.
At every Democracy Prep School, being passionate about academic rigor is paramount. We know that academic rigor is truly a social justice issue – holding the bar high for our scholars, and supporting them to reach that bar, shows them the deep respect they deserve.
3. Strategic DEI
Last year, as a network, we dove into meaningful conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). That was a great first step. This year, we will continue these discussions and work together to ensure DEI work is done thoughtfully and strategically at each DP campus, and to ensure the DEI work we do as adults has meaningful, positive impacts on our scholars.
DEI is a core priority for Democracy Prep because it allows us to hold a mirror to ourselves to improve as people in service of our scholars. With this approach, we believe that DP teammates will reach our goal of showing dignity and deep respect to all scholars. DEI work should honor and understand our scholars’ cultures and backgrounds and the historical context of our world, including the systematic obstacles our scholars face, in service of supporting our scholars to meet a high bar of academic excellence.
We are incredibly excited about pursuing these priorities with vigor this year. As an organization, we are determined to evolve in important ways so that we can offer an excellent education for every single one of our scholars. We can’t wait to see the positive impacts these priorities will have for our scholars at each of our schools this year.