The Berkshire Black Economic Council Presents

The 2020 Berkshire County
SUCC3SS Report - Education

Creating a Framework for Black Economic Empowerment in the Berkshires

Education Table of Contents

How to Read the Report

The Domain Reports broken into 5 major sections. 

  • The Overview
  • The Relevant Context
  • The Findings
  • The Analysis
  • The Recommendations

There are also references for additional research and a link to a glossary of terms.

Overview – I

Domain Description

Education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality, and it sets the foundation for sustained economic growth.


Domain Vision

The Black Economic Council (B.E.C.) and its members will continue to seek more advocacy, policy change, and action within the education system where necessary, while simultaneously developing and establishing ownership and self-reliability. The B.E.C. also asserts that the educational needs of the Black and African American community are currently being under-met, ignored and poorly handled. We believe as currently administered, organized, and taught the local public school system is simply not equipped to tackle all the existing needs of the Black and African American community. 


Our vision is to cultivate an alternative/supplementary educational model for Black and African American students that addresses DEI issues and provides educational advancement opportunities, upward mobility, enriching social experiences, and alternative/supplemental online and offline educational programming. Owned and self-determined by the Black community for our students and student-families. In doing so, this educational ecosystem can play a critical role as a recruitment and retention draw to the Berkshires, making the region an attractive destination for Black and African American Families to move to and raise their children. 


Domain Goals

  • Establish the school systems of the Berkshires as a successful model for Black and African American students.
  • Address lack of diversity, factual history, and culture in educational curriculum.
  • Rethink education for Black and African American students.
  • Ensure all students, especially Black and African American students, are taught Black history and are exposed to diverse thinking and cultures.
  • Equitable educational opportunities for Black and African American Berkshire County residents at all levels of education.
  • Foster a more diverse offering of educational programs which provide upward mobility for minority students.
  • Antiracism education and programs for Berkshire County and its residents. 

Station Activity

  • Identify gaps within the local education system. 
  • Identify educational resources that are currently available. 
  • Ideate ways to address gaps, move the educational curriculum forward, and innovate.


Dr. Eden Rene Haye


Next Steps


Convene committed community stakeholders to develop an action plan to further recommended findings, and support and expand current DEI educational programs.  


Relevant Context – II

The legacy and work of many Black residents of the Berkshires is one of advancing and empowering their community members to achieve their entrepreneurial goals. This success is not limited to any sector. It includes CEOs and freelance artists. Thought leaders, publishers and politicians. Social activists and students. And, like any healthy and thriving community the foundation of this success is the success of its businesses. 


Current Context


The Berkshires have been losing taxpayer dollars and Educational funding along with it. 

Although new opportunities could be on the horizon with an increased budget from the state in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Minority students are disciplined in Berkshire county schools at higher rates than their white peers in (16 of the 19) school districts according to data from the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection. 


Some current organizations involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work are ROPE in sessions, BRIDGE resilience education, the Youth Justice Council and Youth Advisory Boards.



The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports three-quarters of high school graduates perform below their standard for “proficient achievement” in math, nearly two-thirds of graduates perform below this standard in reading, almost 80 percent perform below this standard in science, almost 90 percent perform below the NAEP standard for proficiency in U.S. History, and nearly two thirds of graduates perform below their standard in writing. Proficient Achievement Standards are not reported in regards to the musical and visual arts. Worryingly there have been few and meager gains in student performance (as measured by the NAEP) over the previous five decades.


Compounding the issue of student performance stagnation is the Covid-19 Pandemic. 45 percent of parents are “very worried” their child will contract the virus at school or a childcare center. 


“Creativity in the classroom goes hand in hand with exceptional student learning, according to a new Gallup study examining U.S. education. Specifically, K-12 teachers who frequently make assignments that require students to think creatively are much more likely than other teachers to observe higher-order cognitive skills in their students.”



Educational policy implemented on the federal level over the previous 3 years has led to the repeal of the gainful employment regulation, limiting of the borrower defense rule and a significant limiting of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. 


The current Secretary of Education for the United States is under investigation for potentially violating the Hatch Act–which prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities on the job.



The higher the level of education a person has completed the higher their median earnings, for both men and women. (Although the median earnings for women are lower across all educational levels than their male peers.) Median incomes for college graduates in Berkshire County are lower than national medians.

The Berkshires Portrait of a Graduate study found these factors may lead to the     outmigration of professionals;

“The higher educational attainment, the more likely respondents were to cite not enough diversity and/or job opportunities available in the county


  • Attention and resources should be focused toward diversifying and enhancing employment opportunities in order to make the county a more appealing place to live and work
  • ‘I love the Berkshires and would live here forever. There just aren’t enough career opportunities.’”


2020 has seen a confluence of crises that have asked people to reexamine their values. Perhaps the largest shift has been with how Americans perceive inequality–fewer Americans today think Black and African Americans “have as good a chance” as white Americans to receive a good education, affordable housing, or any job for which they qualify for, than did in 1989, according to a Gallup Poll.


The majority of Black and African American degree holders in Berkshire County obtained their first major in Science and Engineering, followed by Arts, Humanities and other, Business and Education. 



New approaches to doing new and old things, and tackling new and old problems; these do not necessarily involve technical equipment – they can be novel ways of thinking or of organizing.


Existing Resources 


Shirley Edgerton -DEI Educator 
Gwendolyn Vansant – DEI consultant 
Jerome Edgerton
Raei Bridges


 YOUTH justice Council


Youth Advisory Boards

Number of Arts Educational organizations and program

R.O.P.E. Program 



Multicultural Bridge 


Historical Context

This is an area that requires significantly more research, which we will address in our next phase of data collection.


Findings – III

Idea Jam Session concepts

If you had your own school, what would you want your students to learn?


  • Learn how to learn
  • Critical thinking skills
  • African centered education
  • How to maneuver and function in and outside of your community.
    Rethink structure of the school day, not necessarily an 8-3 model
  • Life skills
    vocational skills
  • Art
    Self-directed learning
  • Youth justice council


Local educational shortcomings


  • Outdated educational curriculum.
  • Lack of life skills taught in school such as; time management, emotional intelligence, financial literacy, critical thinking skills, history, arts and culture education, entrepreneurship.
  • Policy of city and state requirements take precedence over tailoring curriculum and educational outcomes to the student, and serving the whole student as a human being.
    Kids are dealing with microaggressions and bullying on their own.
  • Education and support for parents/guardians such as parent/guardian supplement education.
    Teachers direly need diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
  • Lack of representation within the Educational workforce – lack of staff/ teachers of color. Leadership positions should be filled with someone who looks like you in education.
  • Educational curriculum
    (Example – African American History is left to slavery.)


Unique Advantages

  • There is a diverse talent pool here that can foster entrepreneurial success.
  • The Berkshires are small enough that we can make significant progress. 
  • Low cost of living in the Berkshires.

Existing programs

  • YOUTH justice Council
  • Youth Advisory Boards
    Number of Arts Educational organizations and programs


  • Cultivate lifelong learners
  • DEI Training for Faculty
  • Creation of a forum for Black Parents to be able to talk to each other and support one another.
  • Mentorship of teachers of color.
  • More safe, welcoming spaces and programs for Black children.
  • Cross Section –  Recruitment and Retention opportunity to attract Black and African American families to the Berkshires by providing them and their children with robust educational/social programming, and, developing an ecosystem for their children to thrive academically and socially, leading to more economic opportunity. 

Updating our local curriculum to include:

  • Black Studies
  • Real history, full history 
  • Decolonization education
  • Culturally diverse education
  • More experiential education
  • STEAM/Tech


  • Institutional racism/ whitewashing of the nation’s history
  • Lack of robust diversity, equity and inclusion policies


Direct Feedback from Idea Jammers


What current initiatives or resources are you aware of that offer positive education?

  • ROPE
  • YOUTH justice Council
  • Youth Advisory Boards
  • Number of Arts Educational organizations and programs



Analysis – IV

Gap Analysis 

A gap analysis is an examination and assessment of current performance for the purpose of identifying the differences between the current state of business affairs and where you’d like to be. It can be boiled down into a few questions:

Where are we now? Where do we want to go? What do we need to get there? 

Where are we now?

Overview of the challenges, opportunities, risks, insights.


While we can advocate for the local school systems to teach Black History, ultimately the educational, emotional and social edification of our children will be best met when we take responsibility for the educational models and curriculum used to teach our children, as a community. That can take many forms such as a hybrid, in-person, and online educational delivery models. Focusing initially on the model platform being developed, Blackshires. 


Where do we wish we were?

We believe the Berkshires can be a leader in innovative educational strategies, and the African American community can drive that success. 


 Educational and Social outcomes: 

  •  Socioeconomic advancement. 
  •  Provide an innovative and successful educational model that values and supports diversity within the school system. 
  •  Attract Black and African American families to Berkshire County. 
  •  Develop the next generation of Black and African American leaders. 
  •  Support the development of the Black Creative Economy. 



  •  A robust holistic educational model that teaches life, social, emotional, and career skills. 
  •  A curriculum centered on the development of the student. 
  •  Truthful representations of United States history, and a curriculum that recognizes, values and teaches African American contributions to the United States. 
  •  Alternative educational opportunities for non-traditional students. Lifelong learners. 



  •  Parent/Guardian(s) and teachers are allies and collaborators in the education of their children. 
  •  Diversity throughout the school system, from administrators to teachers to support staff. 
  • Robust after-school programming. 
  •  Novel educational delivery platforms owned by the African American community. 

Recommendations- V

How are we going to close the gap?

Recommended collaborative structures, partnerships, changes to existing context ( social, economic, cultural, etc.) 


Recommendation 1

Double down on existing work going on.

-Ongoing case studies – ROPE, Sessions, online marketing course, etc. -Continue to work with DEI consultants and Regional/national partners like BECMA to address issues, share resources and knowledge, and work collaboratively through educational partnerships and programs. 



Recommendation 2

Look through the lens of ownership

Look at what we need to do educationally a different way, and through the lens of self-determined outcomes and ownership.



Recommendation 3

Build and Support diversity

Continue to build on and support diversity pipelines to the Berkshires that Shirley Edgerton and Warren Dews have started. 



Recommendation 4

Plant the Seed in the Community

Seed much of this work where possible and connect it through the community empowerment platform and management learning platform. 



Recommendation 5

Black Mentorship Network

Creation of a Black Mentorship network/group for parents of Black children in the community. 



Recommendation 6

Work with the School System

Continue to work with the school system where possible to address directly the needs of students, while simultaneously building infrastructure and programming that is complementary to, and an extension of, the local system; integrating and addressing needs and issues the system is not designed or positioned to address for our community and the youth. Because the goal is about continuous evolution to better address and serve existing problems and needs. 



Recommendation 7

Expand Existing Programming 

Double down on existing programming and expand programming offered by the community (ROPE, Sessions, Arts, Social Emotional Learning, History, DEI, etc.) 



Recommendation 8

Educational Advancement

Create educational advancement, upward mobility, and opportunity for Black and African American students in the Berkshire (through enriching experiences, diverse education/ programming, support structures, online educational knowledge exchange) where the infrastructure is owned by the Black community ( the programming methodology, the platform–a learning management system, like the one R3SET has been building) as well as the organization the education is accessed through. (i.e. Scott Oldford created methods people buy into, other communities could buy into this methodology.) 



Recommendation 9

Virtual Space

Creating space virtually to own what we do (career track, college track, entrepreneur track, and we own that, we double down on that investment).



-Curriculum changes

-Education to career tracks

-Upward mobility

-Institutions and support structures necessary to support Black and African American students. 

-Representation and Role Models make a direct impact on youth energy – and opportunity. 


To Explore in more detail 

Understanding our state, and the standing our state has, when it comes to education. How do we work in concert with, and secure funding for, educational advancement for our local community and appropriate supporting educational programs and experience-driven opportunities for our youth?


Needed Resources

  • More structures to receive local and state funding for the Black Community that are operated by Black community members 
  • Financial Literacy Program
    Quantitative and qualitative research funding 
  • Partnerships (BIC – Berkshire Innovation Center) 
Next Steps

Create a working team to further address educational issues regarding the black youth within the Berkshires.


📚 References


United States Department of Education. Civil Rights Data Collection Search Function, 2017,


“NAEP Report Cards – Home.” The Nation’s Report Card, U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences, 2018,

Rothwell, Jonathan. “The Declining Productivity of Education.” Brookings, The Brookings Institute, 23 Dec. 2016,

Harlan, Jessica, and Stephanie Marken. “45% Of Parents Very Worried Kids Will Get COVID-19 at School.”, Gallup, 8 Oct. 2020,

Saad, Lydia. “Teachers Who Promote Creativity See Educational Results.”, Gallup, 23 June 2020,



Harlan, Jessica, and Stephanie Marken. “45% Of Parents Very Worried Kids Will Get COVID-19 at School.”, Gallup, 8 Oct. 2020,

Fuchs, Hailey. “DeVos to Be Investigated for Potential Violation of Ethics Law.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 22 Sept. 2020,


Economic: 2018 American Community Survey 5 year detailed tables, table B20004.


Eberwein, Jake, and Roberts, Kim, and Sheran, Brendan, and McEvoy, Jan. “Berkshire Portrait of a Graduate”. Berkshire County Education Task Force. 20 August 2020. source file PDF (



Brenan, Megan. “Optimism About Black Americans’ Opportunities in U.S. Falls.”, Gallup, 23 Oct. 2020, 2018 American Community Survey 5 year detailed tables, table C15010B.


Sources for further research, including funding resources

🎥 Credits

Idea Jam Facilitators

Dr. Eden Renee Hayes



John Lewi

Patrick Danahey

Devin Shea



Patrick Danahey

John Lewis




Devin Shea, R3SET

Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio



Alyssa Mack, SP3AK EASY Studio

Devin Shea, R3SET

John Lewis, R3SET

Kamaar Taliaferro, R3SET



Dr. Eden Renee Hayes

Melle Powers

Shirley Edgerton 

Segun Idawoo, BECMA

Malia Lazu, MIT 

📋 F.A.Q.  

Coming Soon…

Education - Table of Contents

About the SUCC3SS Idea jam

The 2020 Berkshire County SUCC3SS Idea Jam was a community event series designed to create a holistic, collaborative framework for a successful ecosystem for Berkshire Black businesses, community members, and the Berkshire County community at large.

The community came together using an Idea Jam methodology to est a vision of establishing the Berkshires as a model for Black Economic empowerment for counties across the North East.

The jams were held at the beginning of COVID-19, after transitioning the series from an in-person experience. 

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