“We’re working to help create a new narrative around Black students — one that is assets-based and talks about the abilities that Black students have and the genius they’ve demonstrated.”
— Steve Smith, Executive Director, Black Education Strategy Roundtable
The Black Education Strategy Roundtable (BESR) is built on an expectation that our public education system must do better to address the systemic inequities and disparities Black students face in public education. Through advocacy, coalition building, community outreach, and improved data collection, BESR works to remedy the harmful legacy of racism and exclusion and effectuate better educational outcomes for Black students in Washington State.
Founded almost 15 years ago, the organization is the brainchild of the Washington State Commission for African American Affairs, which brought together a volunteer-led steering group of committed leaders in the African American community to develop systems of data collection that provide information about Black student educational performance. From that initial work, the group demonstrated persistent challenges in education achievement for Black students and advanced legislative changes in demographic reporting in Washington schools. Today, the group continues to raise consciousness and awareness of the Black student experience and advocates for policy changes that ensure black students receive high-quality high school diplomas and are prepared for postsecondary education.
WHO THEY SERVE
BESR engages in data collection, advocacy, narrative building, and community outreach to improve educational outcomes on behalf of all Black students in Washington State, including Black students with disabilities.
HOW THEY SERVE STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Black students with disabilities are more likely to be identified with an intellectual disability or emotional disturbance than all students with disabilities. In addition, Black students with disabilities are more likely to receive disciplinary removals than their general disability cohort. BESR engages educators and elected leaders to advance policy that ensures Black students with disabilities get the tailored instruction they need and addresses Black student disciplinary disparities.
- Build an Asset-Based Narrative – The narrative of Black students is too often deficit-based, focussing on low-income statistics or achievement gaps. BESR aims to build an asset-based narrative that highlights the demonstrated abilities and genius of Black students.
- Educational Recovery – Black students have fallen behind in multiple grade levels as a result of pandemic-related challenges and systemic barriers. BESR works to ensure appropriate recovery resources are allocated to Black students.
- Equitable Charter School Funding – BESR recognizes that many charter schools, particularly those serving Black students have had challenges remaining financially viable through the pandemic and are working to address threats to their sustainability.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
- Engage — Systemic change in our education system requires collaboration and determination. BESR encourages community members to get involved at the local level, engage with school boards, educational leadership, teachers, and other concerned citizens, and build a groundswell of support for policy that uplifts Black students.
- Workshops — Attending a BESR workshop is an opportunity to discuss, learn, and plan on key issues impacting the education of Black students in our state. (Due to public health concerns, workshops have been temporarily paused but will return when safety can be ensured.)
- Action Teams — Join a BESR Action Team to learn best practices for advocacy and connect with like-minded Black student supporters to create systemic change in our education system.
Learn more about Black Education Strategy Roundtable here.