I want to start this new school year by thanking the many people who informed our new Strategic Framework, MMSD’s strategy for improvement. We believe the Framework is bold, ambitious, and captures better than ever what we believe we can and should do to ensure every child and youth in Madison is thriving.
After nearly a year of hearing ideas and feedback from over 2,000 students, staff, families and community members in nearly 100 sessions, we are taking it to the next level. Our new strategy builds on the progress that we’ve made and is a direct reflection of the feedback we gathered.
It starts with a vision that every school will be a thriving school that prepares every student to graduate ready for college, career and community. And it holds us accountable for progress toward three ambitious goals:
– That all students achieve academically
– That all students and adults thrive in positive school climates
– And, a new goal – that African American children and youth excel in school.
At its center is one critical concept that we are calling Black Excellence, our unapologetic belief and approach to ensuring that every African American child and youth excels in Madison. It delivers on a promise to our community to care for the social-emotional and academic needs of African American/ Black students. When we say Black Excellence, this is what we mean.
It starts with a set of beliefs.
We believe in the brilliance, creativity and bright futures of Black youth throughout Madison. We believe in the brilliance, creativity and important contributions of Black staff. We believe in the beauty, persistence and value of families raising Black children. We believe that all Black students can learn and meet high expectations. And we believe we can create new narratives about Black youth that accurately present their brilliance and capability.
We know that Madison faces persistent racial disparities that impact our African American/ Black students and their families in staggering ways. Yet, we do not want to define the future or the potential of any of our students by the gaps in opportunity they may face. Thus, we begin with belief statements that capture the promise and possibilities for every single one of our African American / Black students, staff and families. We want to lead the way in reframing the conversation while being accountable to the necessary focus we must have for African American/ Black students to thrive and excel in MMSD and our community.
It is anchored to a set of core values.
⦁ Excellence. We will ensure that our youth develop core competencies and engage in deep learning through rich, challenging, inclusive and culturally responsive learning experiences, in academics, the arts, and social-emotional development.
⦁ Belonging. We believe that students, staff and families of all races, ethnicities, faiths, home languages, immigration statuses, disabilities, sexual orientations and gender identities are valuable members of our community. By creating positive supportive relationships, we will cultivate a sense of belonging for all.
⦁ Racial Equity and Social Justice. We will take responsibility for the ways that our current policies and practices serve to reproduce inequities, and we will take action to close the gaps in opportunity that lead to racialized outcomes for children and youth of color.
⦁ Voice. We will seek out and elevate the voices of all in our community, with special attention to the influence and leadership of our students, staff and families of color.
⦁ Focus. We will be accountable to the community for high-quality implementation of practices that produce positive results and dedicate the time and attention necessary to manage complex and sustainable change.
⦁ Creativity. We will make space for new ideas, embracing the creativity of educators and grassroots innovation in and beyond the classroom.
And It is an approach that requires sharing power.
As we embark on our journey to create the conditions that will result in Black Excellence, we know that we must work in partnership with the students, families and community partners who are directly impacted. This is about intentionally creating space for families, students and community partners to come alongside and define the future strategies we should execute.
Finally, our commitment to Black Excellence does not mean we aren’t committed to all children or other marginalized groups.
We are totally committed to every student being successful in our District. This framework makes an explicit pledge to our African American students because we know the historical trajectory that they and their families have experienced. We also believe that our fates are linked. As we serve those who have been most marginalized better, we serve our entire community better. We see this similarly to ensuring that our English Language Learners have the support they need to thrive and our students with disabilities have what they need to thrive.
Every single child must thrive if we are all to thrive. Students, staff and families of all races, ethnicities, faiths, home languages, immigration statuses, disabilities, sexual orientations and gender identities are valuable members of our community. We do not set out to divide our families, rather to acknowledge that our African American/ Black students deserve a different outcome and we will strive to be a District where they can thrive and excel. All of our fates are linked.