Opinion
Education Opinion

These People are Going to Transform Education

By Sara Mead — May 15, 2011 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Over the past 15 years, public education in the United States has been profoundly shaped by the work of a generation of young educators and reformers who launched their careers in the early 1990s: people like Wendy Kopp, Dave Levin, Mike Feinberg, Michelle Rhee, Chris Barbic, Rick Hess, and my own colleagues Kim Smith and Andrew Rotherham. The first class of Teach for America corps members (1990) alone included a host of people who have since launched and led influential education organizations and/or had significant impacts at the local, state, and national levels. And its successors haven’t done too shabbily, either.

When I began working in education policy 11 years ago, many of these people were already doing important work in education but had not yet achieved the levels of impact and prominence that they have today. Over the past 10 years, organizations these people have developed track records of success in improving student learning and begun to grow to scale. The public and policy debate around education has also changed dramatically--particularly around issues of teacher quality and charter schools--due in large part to the work of these individuals.

Thinking about this recently, I wondered: Who are the young leaders in their twenties and early thirties today who will have similar impacts on education reform over the next 10 years? That question led to a list of 16 young men and women who are launching and leading organizations that will lead in the transformation of public education over the next decade, as well as people who are doing important research, legal, political, and policy work that will shape the future of education reform. It’s a diverse group of people working in a wide variety of ways--but unified by a shared belief in the necessity and feasibility of improving public education to deliver much better results, particularly for underserved students.

Here’s the list, in alphabetical order by last name:

• Karim Kai Ani, Founder, Mathalicious
• Justin Cohen, President, School Turnaround Group, MassInsight
• Rafael Corrales, Co-Founder, LearnBoost
• Roxanna Elden, Teacher and Author, See Me After Class
• Bill Ferguson, Maryland State Senator
• Alex Grodd, Founder, Better Lesson
• Kirabo Jackson, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University
• Andrew Kelly, Research Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
• Neerav Kingsland, Chief Strategy Officer, New Schools New Orleans
• Hailly Korman, Associate, Morrison and Foerster
• Jennifer Medbery, Founder, Drop the Chalk
• Ana Menezes, Partner, The New Teacher Project
• Mickey Muldoon, Manager of External Affairs, School of One
• Evan Stone and Sydney Morris, Co-Founders, Educators for Excellence
• Stephanie Wilson, Chief of Staff, Aspire Public Schools

Although these people are doing exciting and important work in education, in many cases their work is not widely known. That’s likely to change shortly. But to help more people learn about the work these young leaders are doing, I’m going to be profiling each of them here on the blog over the next two weeks. I’m very grateful that these incredibly busy people took time to answer my questions. They are incredibly smart, thoughtful, and passionate about their work. And I’m deeply humbled by their work and what I’ve learned from them--and think readers will be too.

A couple notes here: First, on the list. I built this list by seeking recommendations from a number of folks I respect in the education field, including my Bellwether colleagues, leaders of education reform organizations, and writers and analysts whose work in this space I respect. Everyone on this list meets the following three critieria: They are doing important work in education now, they are likely to have significant impacts on education practice or policy over the next 10 years, and they graduated college in 2001 or later.

Why 2001? Well, any list of young leaders has to have some kind of arbitrary cut-off for what constitutes young. But I had several reasons for this one. First, it’s 10 years ago--a nice even number that means people on this list are still in the first decade of their careers. More substantively, I do believe that 2001 represents a generational turning point in individuals’ life experiences--particularly in the realm of education reform. People who started their careers in 2001 or later have spent their entire careers in a post-September 11 world and, for those in education, a post-NCLB world. And those different experiences translate into somewhat different perspectives.This generation of reformers take for granted ideas their predecessors fought for: the ability of schools to impact children’s lives and achievement, the importance of data, and the importance of teacher effectiveness as measured by impacts on student learning. But because they haven’t had to litigate these ideas in the same way as those who came before them, they are also more free to question or to hold ideas that don’t necessarily line up with the way sides have been drawn in media and political debates over education reform.

A note on the interviews/profiles themselves: Knowing how busy these folks are, I gave them the option of answering questions either in writing, in a phone interview, or (where feasible) in person. To the extent that differences in the format of these interviews have led to differences in the end products, that should be understood as entirely my fault and not a reflection on the thoughtfulness, cleverness, or articulateness of the people I interviewed by phone. (Hopefully readers won’t even be able to figure out which are which).

Bellwether Education Partners has worked with New Schools New Orleans.

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.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)