Achievement First was founded to address the legacy of racism in public education and to support the young people in our communities to realize their full power and potential. Racism and bigotry are antithetical to our organization’s values. They cannot be tolerated here or anywhere.
As we fight to change systems of oppression and police brutality outside the walls of our schools, we also acknowledge our own failures in being anti-racist and recognize that there is much we need to do within AF to uphold the vital commitments we have made to our AF school community.
We also know that commitment requires more than words; it requires action. On June 24, 2020, the Achievement First Board of Directors unanimously voted on a resolution that requires us to review all of our practices with an anti-racist lens.
The path forward articulated by the resolution achieves both the need for immediate action in the areas where we know what needs to be done and the need for a longer-term process of listening, learning, and co-designing in the areas where the solutions are more complex. In the days, weeks, and months ahead we will authentically partner with our AF community because we know community voice is vital if we are to make the change we seek. As we co-develop this plan, please know that we are committed to holding ourselves accountable, acting swiftly, and being transparent throughout this process.
We are also announcing the immediate implementation of the following practices beginning the start of the 2020-21 school year:
- We will not be hyper-focused on students’ body positioning. Students will be expected to sit up tall or lean in — but they will not be required to fold their hands.
- We will ensure social times are honored as opportunities for students to socialize and build community. We will eliminate extended periods of silence during social times.
- We commit to a comprehensive review and revision process of all student feedback systems and suspension policies. We will include more opportunities for affirmation and restorative practice.
- We will create time and space, regularly, to build awareness and support reflection around issues of race and power.
- All AF staff will use tone and language in line with clear, established expectations for how we speak to and about scholars, families, and each other. We commit to addressing issues of negative, demeaning, or unproductive tone in real-time and every time.
- We will be accountable and commit to apologizing and making amends whenever there are missteps with scholars, families, and colleagues.
Achievement First Board Resolution: Our Commitment to Lead for Racial Equity
- Vehemently denounce racism and actively work to dismantle it within and outside Achievement First;
- Build structures and accountability to ensure all students, families, and staff are treated equitably and feel heard and valued; specifically, work to amplify Black and Latinx voices and perspectives both internally and externally;
- Communicate, no later than August 15, 2020, to the AF community the initial Lead for Racial Equity commitments based on the first round of staff feedback – addressing equity gaps and opportunities where we already know the initial steps we need to take;
- Communicate, no later than November 15, 2020, to the AF community the second round of Lead for Racial Equity commitments and plan to address additional pain points and opportunities based on initial feedback from scholars and families;
- Develop, no later than March 1, 2021, an overall three (3) year strategic vision and plan for how AF will live its value of Lead for racial equity through an anti-racist approach to its beliefs, mindsets, goals, policies, and practices. This strategic plan shall inform 21-22 school-year priorities and planning. This strategic plan must: (1) be developed based on robust input from staff, students, alumni, and families and (2) include specific goals and actions in each of the following areas:
- Organizational culture / inclusive decision-making
- Student Experience/School Culture (including student discipline policies & practices)
- Talent (including equitable development, promotion, and compensation)
- How We Spend Our Money
- External Advocacy
- Define, no later than October 15, 2020 role-specific Lead for Racial Equity goals for 2020-21 for each senior leader at AF (i.e., CEO, President, Superintendent, C-levels, regional superintendents, principals) and ensure these goals feature prominently in their annual performance reviews. For some leaders, this will require the addition of new goals; in other cases, there will be an explicit equity focus embedded in their existing goals. The desired outcome is that every senior leader is accountable for pursuing equitable outcomes and bringing an anti-racist lens to their work (including how they approach professional development, data, and core practices).
- Add organizational capacity, including but not limited to the creation of a Chief Equity Officer position, to ensure the organization has what it needs to move this important work forward.
- Report at least quarterly to the AF Board and the broader AF community on the progress against all of these commitments, what has been accomplished, how different parts of the AF community have been engaged, and what the next phase of the work will be.
- Ensure all new AF priorities and initiatives are developed, launched, and executed with an intentional and embedded focus on Leading for Racial Equity; take any additional steps necessary to ensure AF becomes the powerful, anti-racist engine for equity that we were founded to be – and that our scholars, families and staff deserve.