When my daughter Nyah was born nearly 20 years ago, my life changed as an educator. My thinking flipped from seeing education as a series of episodes (elementary, middle, high school, college) marked by reading, math proficiencies, and graduation rates, to one focused on scaffolds that lead to lifelong success and happiness.
Fast forward to the last few years, and my understanding has been further enhanced by my time at Digital Promise and my former work at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In particular, I’ve seen that whole communities, including parents, also play a long game when it comes to the outcomes they seek for their children.
Say Yes Buffalo, for example, focuses on economic opportunity to respond to the city’s history of racial and economic segregation. Much of the learnings from this work can be found in the We Refuse to Lose series of profiles done in partnership with Education First, as well as 10-year retrospective profiles created with Mathematica and Equal Measure.
More and more, the education community is learning from these more globally focused communities and organizations where, while math and reading proficiencies matter, it’s more important that we understand and prioritize success in all aspects of students’ lives.
It was in that spirit that we used Digital Promise’s 10-year anniversary this fall to reflect on our work and what we imagine the next 10 years to hold for us and the education sector. We asked ourselves a series of questions toward creating a new strategic framework, including:
To the first question, we considered what’s been achieved by our colleagues and partners over the last decade. We’ve reached nearly four million students across the U.S., for instance, through the League of Innovative Schools, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, and other networks and programs. We’ve also engaged nearly 250,000 teachers in powerful and innovative learning experiences, including instructional technology coaching, the Learner Variability Navigator, and our micro-credentials platform. With all this, we’ve grounded our work in learning sciences research, conducting studies with schools and pursuing emerging areas like artificial intelligence and computational thinking to improve education outcomes with innovative thinking.
Still, it’s clear there’s much more work to be done, especially for the learners most often excluded from full participation in our global economy, including low-income students, rural students, and Black, Indigenous, and Latino students. And, as we looked at our organization’s last 10 years, we recognized the need for us to align all of our projects toward a measurable “North Star” for deeper impact.
With support from Delivery Associates, we outlined three goals focused on the future of not just Digital Promise, but what we want to see in the world in the next decade. We’ll work to ensure the following for historically and systematically excluded students in America by 2031:
Our new strategic approach emphasizes building on our existing strengths and relationships to achieve greater outcomes for all learners, especially those who have been excluded from full participation in the system. Focusing on education transformation that directly addresses students at the systems level—considering the impact of their communities and environments—will create more equitable educational experiences that help prepare all students for lifelong success.
Bold solutions are needed to meet the challenges and opportunities we now face in a world dramatically altered by a global pandemic. In the new year, we’ll dive further into our new North Star goals and share how we plan to measure and achieve them, leveraging our continued work with educators, researchers, and technology industry leaders. These goals are ambitious, yet we believe they’re attainable—and at the very least, we owe this effort to our children.
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