The Education Redesign Lab’s annual By All Means convening was flush with hope — the newly signed American Rescue Plan provides school districts, communities, and their partners with the means to deliver on the mission of building a new, redesigned child wellbeing and education system.
“We truly do have, right now, a moment of opportunity,” said Professor Paul Reville, founding director of the Education Redesign Lab. “The window is open and a certain number of transformative changes may squeeze through if we have the leaders to push those changes…. It is on us to seize the momentum and take this movement visibly forward.”
Now fully equipped with the resources to make significant changes in the education system, stakeholders need to think strategically about how to change the system and sustain the current enthusiasm for continued investment in working together to build an equitable future.
This year’s keynote speaker, Geoffrey Canada, Ed.M.’75, president and founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, has long been an advocate for collaborative action as the means to address poverty and inequality in America.
“We have, for the first time in my history of 45 years as an educator, we have the opportunity to actually build the kind of comprehensive, place-based efforts that can drive outcomes for children and their families in a way we’ve never seen before,” said Canada.
His address at the convening highlighted a few key takeaways to keep the country focused on addressing the underlying, systemic causes of poverty and inequity while also acknowledging and dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic:
- Recognize that the past year has had a significant impact on students and their families and that trauma needs to be dealt with. Dedicate resources to providing real counseling supports to address that trauma and to work with students and families on wellbeing.
- Use the summer as a chance not just to catch up on academics but to reengage students. Many students have felt isolated, disengaged, and large numbers of students have dropped out or have not shown up for virtual classes. Students need to be reminded that school is social and fun, in addition to being provided with proven supports like tutoring and accelerated learning.
- Maintain high expectations for children but establish a baseline of where kids are right now. Then, implement a realistic set of strategies to move kids forward in school. Keep in mind in this next school year, students will likely not exhibit the kinds of growth they have in the past.
- Collect data and demonstrate that this kind of investment in public infrastructure does pay off. This will allow in continued investment. To this effect, spend and invest money wisely in programs and initiatives that will deliver measurable results.
For Canada, this moment is a turning point and the urgency is there in communities across the country. He encouraged educators and stakeholders to hold fast. “This is going to give us an opportunity to demonstrate what happens when you unleash education creativity with commitment and the funds to deliver,” said Canada. “We just need the time, and we can change this whole thing. Nobody else can do it. It’s up to us.”