Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) is a coalition of Community Based Organizations schools, educators, community leaders, parents and caregivers, and concerned SE Seattle residents working to improve education for all children, especially those in SE Seattle and those farthest away from educational justice.
In 2011, a report identified 57 low performing schools in Washington, 5 of which were in Seattle and each of those were located in Southeast Seattle. As a result of this inequity, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition was formed. SESEC brings the community together to share information, build relationships, strengthen community voice and advocacy, and to work towards systemic changes that move students of color closer to educational justice. We do this by hosting coalition gatherings, advocacy and policy cohorts, racial and social justice cohorts, and other community building events.
In January 2015, SESEC hosted a half-day Summit to determine its organizational priorities. To develop our priorities, we used a racial equity lens to examine close to 200 community based survey results. Coalition members met in caucus groups to identify their respective priorities and collectively, as a coalition, they determined the following as our focus areas:
- Promoting high quality early learning – advocating for high quality preschool experiences, especially around the implementation of the Seattle Preschool Program.
- Changing school culture through policy change and authentic parent/caregiver engagement – children benefit when there is a strong relationship between parents/caregivers and schools. SESEC is partnering with the University of Washington’s College of Education to conduct a parent/caregiver survey in SE Seattle. A design team of SESEC partners, two schools and parents will prioritize what to include in the survey. The survey results will potentially be used to design stronger programs and advocate for change.
- Cultivating and growing personal relationships with community based organizations who are trusted advocates and families and schools – for many of families living in SE Seattle, they may have a closer relationship with a community based organization because of language or cultural ties, the use of before or after school care, longevity of a relationship, faith or other circumstances. We are looking at supporting educators and CBO partners by strengthening these relationships to benefit children and families.
- Growing community involvement and voices heard by policymakers – we work with coalition members and policymakers to advocate for changes that benefit our children and our community.
SESEC works to represent the interests of communities of color from SE Seattle. But it is unable to do this alone. It takes entire communities to speak out and advocate for changes addressing racialized achievement and opportunity gaps. SE Seattle, like many communities of color, is comprised of underrepresented communities with stories about the need for changes but these communities lack access and know-how to effectively advocate for those changes.
To strengthen community voices, engagement and advocacy, SESEC developed the following programs and projects:
- Advocacy and Policy Cohorts (APC), which immerses community leaders and parents/guardians in discussions that demystify educational policies, prepares them to be more effective advocates and develops leadership skills to heighten participation in school councils and other civic forums.
- Equity and Equality in Education (EEE) Project, a multi-phased project consisting of: (1) a speaker and discussion series designed to educate individuals and policy makers on key equity topics; (2) culturally appropriate discussions within underrepresented communities to hear anecdotal information about issues impacting the success of their children in school; and (3) a SE Seattle community summit to find solutions and to develop community-driven recommendations on systemic changes and a community advocacy plan.
- Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC), which is offered in partnership with the UW College of Education to further strengthen representation from underrepresented communities by providing training in project planning, implementation and community facilitation.
- From Data to Equity in Washington State: Exploring Data Accessibility and Analysis, a multi-step process of understanding the barriers schools and communities face when it comes to assessing and analyzing data. The project partners with community based organizations and conducts workshops on data analysis, the uses of data for data literacy and working to use data in policy advocacy efforts.