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AACTE’s New Vision: To Revolutionize Education for All Learners

Revolutionizing Education for All Learners: A Road Map to the FutureEarlier this year, in my role as AACTE’s dean in residence, I had the privilege of interviewing 13 engaged and knowledgeable thought-leaders at influential grant-making and public policy organizations, as well as a cross-section of deans of education at diverse U.S. institutions. These individuals are leaders at Carnegie Foundation of New York, Spencer Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, Harvard University, Clark Atlanta University (an HBCU), Kansas State University (a land grant institution), Excelencia in Education, the Washington Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and the Center for American Progress, among others.          

I began the interviews asking these leaders two questions related to AACTE’s new vision which is to collaborate with members and partners to revolutionize education for all learners.

  1. Is “revolution” the most appropriate term to describe what is needed in our PK-12 education system?
  2. Is a revolution needed? If so, what do you think it will take to revolutionize education for all PK-12 learners?

To tell the truth, I was expecting these leaders to balk at the questions; to take exception and reluctantly propose that maybe restructuring or transformation might be needed, but not to say that an all-out revolution was necessary. After all, these are distinguished leaders of nationally prominent organizations. We don’t typically view these types of leaders or their organizations as advocating for revolution. Do we?

Imagine my surprise (and pleasure) when each leader interviewed agreed that “revolution” is the correct term to describe what is needed to better serve the nation’s PK-12 public school students. The word “revolution” was viewed by respondents as “bold,” “definitive,” and “the right idea and action” for this time.

Many described the public-school system as especially ill-serving the needs of students of color and students from families experiencing poverty – groups that comprise most today’s public-school students. Furthermore, each of the interviewees recommended a “reordering of foundational assumptions” and a “fundamental re-design” of the system to achieve educational equity, increase educational attainment, and improve life outcomes for all students.

In short, these leaders said:

  1. Yes, revolution and transformation are needed.
  2. Democratic principles must guide what we revolutionize toward.
  3. Structural inequalities are tied to outdated racial and cultural attitudes and school funding systems, both of which need to change.
  4. A race equity agenda explicitly focused on Black and Latinx students is needed.

First and foremost, the interviewees concluded that there needs to be a national and more robust attitudinal shift to reach new generations of students in new ways. To truly achieve the American ideal of an educated citizenry, these leaders prioritized equity work. There are at least three sets of questions that they encouraged us to ask and answer as we work toward achieving equity:

  1. Who do we believe is worthy? From whom have we ideologically and financially divested? Where is our sense of urgency to correct that divestment? Here Gloria Ladson-Billings (2007) concept of “education debt” is helpful.
  2. What state-, district- and school-level policies and practices routinely privilege some and disenfranchise others?
  3. How do we move past a deficit perspective about black and other students of color and create teaching and learning environments that are culturally affirming?          

Read the full report, “Revolutionizing Education for All Learners: A Road Map to the Future,” now available at aacte.org/resources/research-reports-and-briefs/revolutionizing-education-road-map.

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