How she got there: The 33-year-old graduated from Hofstra University in 2000 with a bachelor's in political science and African-American studies. Grant holds a master's of science in teaching from Fordham University and a master's in education with a focus on organizational leadership from Teacher's College at Columbia University. Grant, who attended private and public schools growing up, started her education work as a Teach for America corps member. She went on to work in district and charter schools, and then took a job with the New York City Department of Education's charter school office.
What is NYCAN, and what sets you apart from all of the other education reform groups that have recently been started?
NYCAN is pushing to make education reform policy. 50CAN is a national organization whose goal is simple, to push for great change and to make sure children across the country have access to great schools. We believe policy isn't a national framework. We believe policy comes from a local context. We believe each state has a local framework of policies that work for that state. We pride ourselves on having strong research and policy. Everything we support is what's effective throughout the sector. We need as many groups as possible doing this work.
What will be your focus in the next year?
Early college high school — these are youngsters coming out of high school with either an associate's degree or a significant amount of college credit. They can take that degree and go right to work or they can take that degree and go to a four-year institution. These kids are ready to do the work. The state of New York could play a vital role in expanding and sustaining this work. There are 32 programs across the state partnered with 23 institutions. Statewide, there are only 3,500 to 5,000 kids in these programs.
How can you end the bitterness between charters and district schools?
We've come a long way. There are so many things the charters have taught the entire education landscape about what's possible. Change is hard. I don't think we can characterize the entire state of New York, so we have to look at charters as labs for innovation.
What keeps you up at night?
Every child that drops out of high school keeps me up at night. We have to figure how to do more with less. How do we collaborate and bring all parties together? If New York is spending more money on education than other states, we have to have a significant return on that investment.
What about the governor and state leaders, what more could they be doing?
We're moving in the right direction. The entire process of reform in New York state could move quicker. There isn't one enemy. We have smart people engaged in this fight, we have a legislature prepared to make moves. NYCAN is here to highlight things that can make a difference to children. Parents need to be empowered to have a strong voice in their children's education.
How are you going to make a difference?
My job is to work myself out of a job. If everyone is really focused, we'll see change in my lifetime and my children's lifetime. Teacher evaluation is a game change; we have to set ourselves up for more of that. We want to highlight several stories: the urban-rural divide; the upstate-downstate divide; the difference between district and charter schools. We have to make sure regardless of where kids are born, they have the best access to the best schools.