Profiles in Education Equity: Brigitte Blom Ramsey, executive director of the Prichard Committee
Brigitte Blom Ramsey is the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Lexington, Kentucky. Previously, she spent a decade as an elected member of the Board of Education in Pendleton County, Kentucky and served as a governor-appointed member of the Kentucky Board of Education for six years.
Define how you advance education equity in Kentucky.
Intertwining “excellence with equity” is a foundational value of our work at the Prichard Committee. It is our common refrain, and we’ve begun to amplify that in new ways. We regularly analyze data through the lens of equity, we gather partners to give voice to equity, and we never let our state forget that we are leaving too many students behind, not realizing their unique potential, and that we must, with urgency, understand and work to remedy root causes for this failing.
Share one big success from your work to date and how you measured success.
Through the conversation about ESSA implementation in Kentucky, we convened an ad-hoc equity coalition to help ensure important stakeholders understood the implications of the law, and so that, together, we could push for greater ambition for all students and for all student groups, with greater progress for students farthest behind. The coalition included the Urban League, NAACP, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and Teach for America – Appalachia. The coalition allowed us to ensure the development of ambitious goals in Kentucky’s accountability model and important benchmarks toward the goals over time. However, our work is just beginning. Stakeholder and citizen engagement must continue if we are to realize ultimate success for each and every student in this generation. For that reason, we will be working to expand the coalition this year. Because of our focus on closing achievement gaps and bringing a diverse set of stakeholders to the table, this past January, we received the MLK Jr. Unity Award from the Kentucky chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity during their annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast, which draws nearly 2,000 people from central Kentucky.
What motivates you to advocate for education equity?
I am motivated by a deep belief that one’s own education is incredibly empowering and also has important positive spillover effects for families and communities. Education begins to open our eyes to our own potential, and persisting through challenges in education lets us know something about our true capabilities. I want that feeling of personal empowerment and self-actualization for every young person — and for the people who surround them and love them.
What’s your favorite quote and why?
“Ours is the vision and ours the growing reality of a great society in which the accidents of race and color, parentage and poverty, location and geography will not be allowed to dim the light of human hope and to cripple the possibilities of human growth.” — Ned Breathitt
These are words written by the Prichard Committee’s founding chairman, Edward F. Prichard Jr., for Kentucky’s Governor Breathitt in 1964. The committee wasn’t founded until 1983, and it would be 1990 before Kentucky responded to inequities in education in a systemic way. But this quote is an important reminder of the founding vision of our work — one that has been too long in the realization and should prompt greater urgency with each passing year.