For the last two years, I’ve published a series of profiles of young education leaders who are helping to transform education today and are likely to have an even greater impact in the coming years. This year’s list features ten amazing leaders working in education in a variety of ways:
- Katie Beck, Director of People and Idea Development, 4.0 Schools
- Sharhonda Bossier, Deputy Director, Families for Excellent Schools
- Sam Chaudhary and Liam Don, Co-Founders, ClassDojo
- Andrew Coy, Executive Director, Digital Harbor Foundation
- Ethan Gray, Executive Director, the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust (CEE-Trust)
- Crystal Harmon, Vice President for Strategy and Operations, TNTP
- Rabiah Harris, Teacher, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School
- Kira Orange Jones, Executive Director of Teacher for America Greater New Orleans and Board Member, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Ryan Smith, Director of Education Programs and Policy, United Way of Greater Los Angeles
These leaders are a diverse bunch. Among them are individuals with professional experience as computer scientists and ap developers, classroom teachers, community organizers, reporters, and politicians, among other things. They are tackling issues from student behavior, to teacher effectiveness, to STEM, to family and parent engagement, to city-wide education reform. They are working in cities and states across the country, including New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. And for the first time since I started this project three years ago, my list includes and equal number of men and women.
As I’ve been privileged to speak with all these amazing young leaders over the past few months, three distinct themes emerged to me from their work, all of which I’ll say more about in the coming weeks as well:
- Meaningful education reform must be about more than improving student academic achievement and test scores, but must also help students develop character and the full range of skills and competencies they need to enjoy good lives in their families, communities, and workplaces.
- Meaningful education reform must engage and empower the families and communities most in need of better educational opportunities for their children, as well as teachers working with those students.
- Innovation is not just a buzzword--it’s becoming a way of life for the next generation of educators and their students.
All of these points seem to add up to one overarching point: Today’s young generation of education reformers and innovators has a different--and in many ways richer and more diverse--perspective than the generation immediately preceding them. Today’s young education leaders have tremendous respect for reformers who laid the groundwork for them in the 1990s and 2000s--indeed, several were trained in or currently work for organizations, such as Teach for America, TNTP, and the Mind Trust, that were founded by those leaders. But they are not bound by the disputes that have dominated the past decade of education reform. Because they’ve arrived at the table later, they also may take as self evident some things--such as the value of providing parents with options, or the importance of high expectations for all students--that have been hotly disputed over the past two decades. As a result, this younger generation of education leaders is able to recognize some of the blind spots in recent phases of education reform and to expand their vision to encompass a broader, more ambitious--and in some cases more unique--vision of our education system can achieve for students, as well as their teachers and families. All of this fills me with incredible optimism and excitement about the future of education reform and innovation.
I’ll be saying more about each of the specific themes above, as well as sharing profiles of each of these leaders, over the coming weeks.
The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.