The IDEA Blog

The Value of Values

The Value of Values

There's one week left in our 2014/2015 annual fundraiser. As this text is being written, our money raised is $16,079, with a goal of $40,000. We want to take a few more long strides towards that goal. We can only do that with your help.
 So we got to thinking: what gives IDEA value is in part the sum of the values which guide our every move. 


Many of you have shared with us that you find your own personal values to be highly aligned with IDEA's. If you haven't already expressed that, we think you might now that you're encountering this powerful list.


Whether or not you are able to make a donation to IDEA doesn't signify in any way shape or form that you are or are not aligned with these values. That all comes from the heart.


But we can't do the work without all that you've given, are giving, and will continue to give toward the movement for educational change.

Please make a donation today and help IDEA make a difference. Between courageous organizers around the USA and Puerto Rico, our small-but-mighty staff, and a tremendous amount of community support, we've got a lot of heart.

But it only makes a difference if we're able to show it.

Thank you.

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Posted on Jan 26, 2015 - 12:11 PM by Shawn Strader

Hot Off the Press: Fall 2014 Learning Report

Hot Off the Press:
Fall 2014 Learning Report

Exploring how education transformation is happening around the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

The stories shared here come directly from the IDEA Community: place-based efforts, teams of the Learning Breakthrough Series, organizational and network partners, and IDEA staff and board members.


Check out all 3 ways to read this issue of the IDEA Learning Report and share it widely with your network: the full PDF of the report, four infographicssharing key successes and changes, and the full contents online.


Vermonter of the Year: Hal Colston

The Winooski resident has laid down a track record of work to improve the lives of people in the community during his 25-year tenure in Vermont. What's more is he's become an integral part of the IDEA family. We couldn't be more excited for Hal and his accomplishments. Get it, Hal!
From Burlington Free Press  |  Read story

Can Schools Cultivate a Student’s Ability to Think Differently?

We overemphasize the deficits of children, and that’s not a good starting point… If we let people flourish in their own ways, hopefully everyone will find something they want to do.
From MindShift  |  Read story

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Restorative Circles

For these Chicago students, restorative justice isn’t just about causing...

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Posted on Jan 14, 2015 - 09:54 AM by Shawn Strader

$10 Matters So Much

$10 Matters So Much

Can you give $10 to IDEA, today? Right now? You've only got to click here and donate. If we get more $10 donations than any other organization in our fundraising challenge by Dec 23 at 12pm ET then we win $10,000. We need your donation. Can you chip in for $10K?



Make a $10 Donation Today

We're not quite super-humans like Spiderman or Wonderwoman... We don't shoot webs, and we can't fly at sublight speeds... But the people of IDEA do have some incredible powers worth celebrating that we'd love to share with you.


Truth and Reconciliation Process

This country needs a truth and reconciliation process on violence against african americans - right now.
YES! Magazine  |  Read story

The Community Schools Toolkit

A great new toolkit from The Center for Popular Democracy and the Coalition for Education Justice breaks down the essential elements of community schools and how advocates can push for them in their cities.
National Opportunity to Learn Campaign  |  Read story

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Posted on Dec 17, 2014 - 09:10 AM by Shawn Strader

Today is #GivingTuesday - Can You Give a Hand?


Today is #GivingTuesday
Can You Give a Hand?

Dear IDEA Friends and Family,

We Believe! In community, in love, in public schools, in teachers, in students, in organizing, and in our future. The mainstream narrative surrounding public education is that we shouldn't believe or hope or dream but if you contribute to us today we will show you why you absolutely should. There are many great things happening to improve the lives of our children everyday. Help us continue to make critical connections and lift up the greatness of what we have in public education while we also push for more and better for ALL children.

#GivingTuesday is upon us!! We are very excited that not only we but so many worthwhile organizations will be receiving the support of so many of our friends and comrades today. In the wake of the Ferguson decision and the decline of money spent on big retail Black Friday items, we hope that the work of IDEA and the many organizations and individuals we collaborate with and support would seem a worthy holiday investment from many of you. 

Please support us on #Giving
Tuesday by visiting our Crowdrise fundraiser here and donating $10 or more. Please invite a friend to do so as well.

In Peace, Love, Solidarity and Struggle,

Your IDEA Family

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Posted on Dec 02, 2014 - 09:16 AM by Shawn Strader

It May Be Cold Outside, But We’re Just Warming Up



It May Be Cold Outside,
But We're Just Warming Up

There is so much happening in the education landscape today. From school children in Michigan being told by a state court that they have no right to a quality education to the decision by a court in South Carolina that it’s school system is violating students’ constitutional rights by inadequately funding the public school system there. In a larger social context, all eyes are on Ferguson as we await word on the outcome of the Darren Wilson indictment decision. Through all the work we must do to protect our schools, our communities and our children we have one of society’s most powerful allies: Parents. Parents are on the frontlines everyday building with teachers, administrators and community leaders and trying to ensure a wholesome quality learning environment for our country’s youth. We at IDEA are proud to know such parents and in this issue we feature two great parent leaders in Natasha Capers and Sheila Warren. Dive into the newsletter and enjoy our exploration of parent power. Thanks - Albert

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Posted on Nov 19, 2014 - 07:49 AM by Shawn Strader

“P-O-WER! We’ve got the POWER…”

Those are the first few words to a well known chant usually heard by different organizations and groups across the country focused on social justice issues. On Wednesday, November 12th, IDEA hosted it’s first Network Learning Call of the year entitled “The Power of Parents & Educational Justice.” We were joined by Natasha Capers of the Coalition for Education Justice and Sheila Warren of Portland Parent Union who definitely work to help parents understand their true P-O-WER!

Network Learning Call Flyer - Nov 12, 2014

Both of the ladies are great examples of women of power within what we call ‘change work.’ As parent, community, and child advocates, these mothers dedicate their lives to educational justice through their work with parents. Natasha shared about her work with parents and the work of CEJ. “It was born out of the parents’ needs and the parent voice of wanting to understand why their schools are being treated a certain way.” She went on to discuss how it is important to recognize the problem and to take the next step by uplifting and moving on a solution. She also went into detail about the work CEJ does within their Power Parent School. Power Parent School is a tool that CEJ uses to help develop the voices, skills, issue expertise and relationships of public school parents and community members.  

While we did experience some technical difficulties to provide space for Sheila, also known as ‘Momma Sheila,’ to share about her work with the Portland Parent Union, her bio (above) speaks for itself. Portland Parent Union is dedicated to organizing parents for better outcomes as it pertains to their child(ren)’s education. PPU works to help parents develop leadership skills, knowledge and responsibility.

Both Natasha and Momma Sheila are very real and down to earth women of color who bring their own personal experience into their work, which makes it all the more powerful. Working with parents around educational issues is very important especially in under-served communities where a lot of...

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Posted on Nov 19, 2014 - 06:54 AM by Crystal Mattison

Welcoming New Beginnings


Welcoming New Beginnings

There is a lot to celebrate right now at IDEA. Some folks are saying we are at a new beginning. For starters, I am excited and honored to be the official new Executive Director of IDEA. Additionally, we are all grateful and proud to welcome Kwesi Rollins as the new Chair of the Board of Directors for IDEA. We also have a brand new website that has been in the works for some time - we think you will find it much more useful. One last update - and maybe you noticed already - we have redesigned the newsletter you are reading right now to increase readability and add some recurring sections to showcase information that can support your work.

We are all excited about what is new at IDEA, and hope you will continue to support us through these transitions. We are committed to supporting you as an educational changemaker as well as we can, and look forward to the journey ahead.  |  Albert Sykes, Executive Director of IDEA


Kwesi Rollins: IDEA's new Chair of Board


Kwesi Rollins has been named the new Chair of the Board of Directors for IDEA, and is already active in his role. Kwesi, a Brooklyn native, currently resides in Washington, DC and serves as Director of Leadership Programs for IEL, and has served on IDEA’s Board for the past year-and-a-half. We are celebrating his new role in IDEA, and looking forward to an IDEA supported by his wisdom and leadership. ...

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Posted on Nov 05, 2014 - 10:28 AM by Shawn Strader

Kwesi Rollins is IDEA’s new Chair of the Board of Directors

Special Announcement
Kwesi Rollins is IDEA's new Chair of the Board of Directors

Kwesi - IEL - Chair of Board.jpg

Kwesi Rollins has been named the new Chair of the Board of Directors for IDEA, and is already active in his role.

Kwesi, a Brooklyn native, currently resides in Washington, DC and serves as Director of Leadership Programs for IEL, and has served on IDEA’s Board for the past year-and-a-half.

As the Director of Leadership Programs for the Institute of Educational Leadership, Kwesi directs several projects that are designed to create and sustain strategic linkages between early childhood education opportunities and community schools. Kwesi has years of experience working with local communities and state agencies to improve cross-sector collaboration and service delivery systems supporting children, youth and families. He has provided technical assistance and training to a range of government agencies, schools, districts, and organizations in projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Working with young people is a personal passion for Kwesi. He has been recognized as the Big Brother of the Year in the District of Columbia; and is an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the National Capitol Area, serving for 7 years as VP for Program Services. He holds an MSW degree from the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Social Work where he was a Maternal and Child Health Leadership Training Fellow.

Now, Kwesi is sharing his expertise, wisdom, and passion with IDEA in a leadership role as Chair of the Board of Directors. He officially became the Chair of the Board in September, 2014, taking over the role held for the last 2 years by Santiago Rincón Gallardo, who remains on the IDEA Board.

Here's a link to the official press release of this announcement.

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Posted on Nov 05, 2014 - 07:47 AM by Shawn Strader

Tracking the Testing Reform & Resistance Movement

FairTest, the long-time leading voice on the damage of high-stakes testing and the power of authentic assessment, has just released an excellent resource packed with stories and learning about how communities have resisted and reformed testing policies and practices across the nation.

What makes this report stand out is that it's compiled from interviews with leading activists around the country and that authors Monty Neill and Lisa Guisbond pulled out the stories of strategies that have been successful as well as identifying some of the key obstacles and learning. All of this provides hugely valuable information for educators, young people, community leaders, and policy folks who are struggling against high-stakes tests and looking for ideas and insights to bring to the work in their schools and communities.

Check out the executive summary, the full report, and an article by Monty Neill in Valerie Strauss's Answer Sheet in The Washington Post. And a big thanks to Monty, Lisa, the FairTest staff, and the many individuals and foundations who have supported FairTest's work.

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Posted on Nov 03, 2014 - 03:35 PM by Dana Bennis

LBS Session B: Love and Learning, Boricua Style

IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series came together in Puerto Rico in September for Learning Session B. We were fifty educators, organizers, and community leaders across seven teams from Mississippi, Oregon, Vermont, New York City, Minnesota, New England, and Puerto Rico, plus National Fellows who function as LBS Advisors, IDEA Staff, and facilitators. This was the second of four gatherings of the LBS, following on the heels of the first of the three Action Periods.

The LBS, as decribed in prior posts about Session A and the first Action Period, is a deep-dive research and action process designed to generate knowledge and learning around a focus question, which for this LBS is:

What connections and approaches to practice, policy, public narrative, and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of varying local contexts? 

Our challenge over the four days of Session B: to share team progress and challenges, support teams in creating a new plan for the next action period, begin work towards a shared analysis across teams, and ground our work in the culture, history, and reality of the Puerto Rican, or Boricua, nation.  

Our time in Puerto Rico was structured around group learning experiences and conversations alongside team-focused time to reflect and build out local plans of action. Inspired by feedback from Session A and the suggestion by Boricua Team co-Senior Fellow Josué McGrath Rosario, the driver sessions -- time to focus on how change happens in the four drivers of education practice, policy, public narrative, and strategy -- were constructed as opportunities to learn about and engage with ongoing projects and leaders in Puerto Rico. This gave everyone the chance to dive into actual successes and challenges in Puerto Rico, and, in the case of the practice driver, the opportunity to see two powerful schools in action: Diego Vazquez Elementary...

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Posted on Oct 21, 2014 - 11:05 AM by Dana Bennis

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