Eight Million Stories (8MS), a nonprofit high school located at 3015 N MacGregor Way, Houston, Texas, exists to transform the lives of vulnerable youth (14 – 18 years old). Through education, skills training, employment, and authentic relationships, founder, Marvin Pierre established 8MS in 2017 to provide disconnected youth who have been pushed out of our school system with an opportunity to complete their education and obtain meaningful employment. 8MS strives to drastically reduce the recidivism rates of justice-involved youth in the city of Houston. The program’s success will assist school districts and the juvenile justice system in finding alternative pathways for students who are failing in traditional school settings. In 2021 Harris County Department of Education Adult Education Division has partnered with 8MS to offer workforce programs and GED prep classes to the students’ parents and the 3rd ward community.
Young people, especially young men of color, are disappearing—from schools, from communities and from the workforce. Fueled by zero tolerance policies and in-school policing, the school-to-prison pipeline is sweeping disproportionately high numbers of youth into the criminal justice system. For many, it is the start of a lifelong cycle of poverty and imprisonment: Juvenile-justice involved youth who lack support and employment prospects upon release often struggle to re-enter society and face a high risk of recidivism.
The education system in the United States is experiencing a period of innovation and evolution. A critical area of focus involves theorizing and implementing innovative research and techniques to leverage educational equity in both public and private sectors of education. Achievement gaps and disparate outcomes have shown that educational equality (the attempt to treat every student the same) has failed students from certain backgrounds, while the evolution to educational equity (addressing each student’s individual needs) can improve education for students who have been neglected. With a growing demand for professional educators, the US education system is recognizing the need for professionals to advance equity in education.
Attaining educational equity begins by acknowledging that achievement gaps, disparities in services, and limited access to advanced curriculum and instruction do exist. Awareness is simply not enough. Acknowledgement takes it a step further and involves maintaining awareness by reviewing data on a regular basis and acting upon the data to improve learning outcomes for every student. Acting on data is a professional and ethical commitment that often requires the educational leader, whether superintendent, principal, or teacher, to be courageous and communicative.
Educational equity is a vital curricular component in each program offered by the HCDE’s Educator Certification and Advancement (ECA) division, a state-accredited educator preparation program, that prepares and certifies aspiring teachers, principals, and superintendents. Therefore, we support and model rigorous, data-driven, evidence-based, culturally responsive practices to prepare our candidates that they can replicate with executive leadership teams, professional learning communities, and students.
Texas continues to experience rapid growth in the number of students who are impoverished, English language learners, and students of color. In fact, schools are becoming more diverse than ever with more than 75 percent of students now representing minority populations.
The mission of ECA is to establish transformational talent pipelines of school and district leaders who positively impact student achievement and champion practices that bridge the equity gap. By doing so, we ensure a workforce of diverse district level leaders who are willing and able to address persistent inequalities instead of maintaining the status quo.
“Our schools are faced with growing child poverty, family instability, and diminishing social safety nets. In response, school districts have a moral obligation to ensure their policies and practices do not perpetuate these inequities” as noted by Dr. Roger Cleveland, national consultant on equity.
In 2018-2019, the Alief ISD School Board created their Core Beliefs and Commitments to fulfill this call to action. One of their first assumptions, “Our actions will be taken through the lens of equity” soon transformed into a district priority: “AISD will work to ensure all district policies and actions are taken through the lens of and based on the principles of equity.”
Dr. Darlene Breaux, School board vice-president and Chair of the Policy Committee, worked closely with Janine Hoke, Alief ISD’s Director of Professional Growth and Improvement, to guide this work. To bring this priority to life, the Alief ISD School Board, as representation of its diverse community, voluntarily and proactively completed a district equity assessment by an outside consultant to ensure an equity focused trajectory for the district. Based on the results, the district equity committee worked in tandem with the school board to ultimately create a district equity policy. This policy development and adoption took over a year with comprehensive protocols for defining equity, inclusion and diversity as well as rewriting the district’s core values, vision and mission to reflect the principles of equity and ensure a common language. On November 18, 2020 Alief ISD approved their first ever Racial and Social Justice Equity Policy with a 6-0 vote.
Prior to the equity policy adoption, Alief leaders began applying equity principles they learned from Dr. Roger Cleveland’s district equity presentation in August 2019. Leaders’ mindsets began revolving around the question, “What do our stakeholders need to thrive?” Then, the pandemic hit. Making equitable decisions stayed the course seamlessly as the same question was answered day after day for instruction to be effective and schools to be safe. Without hesitation, successful device and internet delivery ensued with technology support for those in need as well as offering parental choice in learning platforms. Professional learning was shifted to 100% virtual with prescriptive opportunities for staff and families to enhance remote learning. Alief ISD’s notable next steps include branding the core values, vision and mission in the school community and implementing strategies such as anti-bias training and restorative practices along with reducing suspensions in the name of equity – striving for the absence of disparities so all students can excel and succeed in a rigorous learning environment. To learn more about equity action, please contact janine.hoke@aliefisd.
A strong advocate for equity in education that strives to impact the delivery of services for HCDE adult learners. Including advocating for the implementation of processes that can reduce obstacles and biases for students seeking to obtain a GED, improve their English, or obtain a training certification. Most importantly, helping minimize challenges and increase positive outcomes for students.
For equity in education to work, we must continue to focus on student-centered missions driven by data and students’ voices. Doing this includes being flexible and innovative to implement strategies that can help students access our services and remain engaged.
By doing so as leaders, we can impact equity in education for our adult learners. We can make an impact, and they can succeed and achieve new skills regardless of ethnicity or family background. We are ultimately impacting their daily lives, family, and the generations that follow.
The Braitmayer Foundation is located in Marion, Massachusetts and currently has five members of the family that direct the activities of the Foundation.
The Foundation is interested in proposals utilizing innovative practices in K-12 education throughout the United States. Of particular interest are:
Curricular and school reform initiatives.
Preparation of and professional development opportunities for teachers, particularly those which encourage people of high ability and diverse background to enter and remain in K-12 teaching.
The Foundation is pleased to have its grants used anywhere in the United States as seed money, challenge grants, or to match other grants to the recipient organizations. The Foundation does not make grants to individuals, multi-year grants, nor grants for general operating, endowment purposes or building programs. Unless a small percentage of the total amount requested, normally the Foundation does not make grants for childcare, pre-kindergarten, or after school programs nor for equipment.
including hardware, software, and books. Please note: This grant cycle takes one full year from submission of a Letter of Inquiry to notification and may include a site visit.
The Foundation awards grants up to $35,000.
Applications shall be submitted online, via our website, between February 1st and March 15th. The application includes:
A two-page Letter of Inquiry describing the proposed project, including timeframe. Please provide contact information, including email. Appendices should be limited.
Proof of 501 (c)(3) status or other tax-exempt ruling letter.
By August 1st, the trustees will invite selected organizations to submit full proposals due October 15th. Normally a representative of the Foundation will conduct a site visit prior to the end of February. Decisions will be announced by March 15th. Successful organizations must wait two years before reapplication.
To find more education grant resources, you can follow HCDE’s Center for Grants Development at @ctrgrantsdev.