Across the country our partners are doing incredible work to research and reimagine American classrooms. The end goal, designing classrooms and schools where every student receives an equitable education, sounds deceptively simple, but it has eluded teachers, school leaders and policymakers for decades.
One key finding from this research is that young people need to feel like they are valued and respected in school—like they are vital members of the community, their intersectional identities welcome.
Put another way: In an equitable classroom, every student feels like they belong.
We’ve all been reading the heart-wrenching stories of families being torn apart by the aggressive deportation policies of the Trump Administration and the ongoing saga of what will happen to the “Dreamers”—the undocumented young people brought to the United States as children. Protected for now under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Dreamers’ futures remain uncertain under a president who treats the program like a political football. Meanwhile Congress has failed to step in with legislation to permanently protect the Dreamers.
Dreamers are cherished members of our communities, and there are more reasons than I can count for why they deserve to remain in the U.S.—the only home they’ve ever known. But as an educator, I often think about the ripple effects this toxic debate will have on our students and our teachers.
Last week, I had the great pleasure of moderating a conversation between Jim Shelton, the Director of Education at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a Judy Diers from the Ford Foundation, and our co-founder Jeff Raikes about our collective excitement in the promise of using the science of learning and development to advance equity in education. It came toward the conclusion of an invigorating couple of days with other scientists, practitioners, policymakers, and funders discussing the implications of what we know about how children learn and develop and how we can use that growing body of knowledge to redesign the learning environment to meet students’ needs.
Last week, I traveled to Washington, D.C. to join educators, school administrators and youth advocates to discuss how policy, research, and philanthropy each play a role in advancing the science behind social and emotional learning.
During the event, hosted by the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, a key question emerged: “How can researchers and philanthropists do more to help education leaders use what we know about learning and development?”