The educational system has always been inequitable for many K-12 students, including students from low-income families, students of color, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the problem, and forced the recognition that these inequities are baked into our education system. However, this recognition brings with it an unprecedented opportunity to transform education to better address the needs of all students. To be successful in that regard, we must include the voices of those most impacted by the status quo: students, parents, and educators.
In 2021, New Profit explored the opportunity to transform education by conducting a set of focus groups. Three themes emerged that can act as a guide for reimagining education in America in ways that are truly transformative for our kids:
1. The overarching purpose of education needs to center the whole child. The pandemic highlighted the fact—long understood by many in the education field but never as widely recognized as in the last year—that academics cannot be separated out from social and emotional wellbeing or mental health. As one parent said, “Make sure you address the trauma before throwing the children back to the curriculum and the checkboxes.” In some districts, administrators and educators talk about “planning for learning” rather than “planning for teaching.” This is not just semantics but shifting mindsets to listen to what students are interested in, what is most helpful for them, and ensuring children feel related to, connected, and engaged. Get Closer: Learn about our recent investments in organizations advancing student and educator wellbeing
2. The pandemic has caused a long overdue mindset shift around the value of parent power in education. Parents need to be invited to the table and seen as experts in their children’s education—because they are. Listening to and including parents in the design process means we can solve the root problems rather than, as another focus group participant said, “dumping resources into addressing short-term learning loss.” Get Closer: Read an essay on parents and educators shifting mindsets, relationships and, ultimately, power
3. We need to leverage the right technology at the right time. Now that we’ve witnessed the many creative and innovative ways educators have navigated the restraints of the pandemic and managed to teach their students effectively, it is critical that we catalog those innovations and utilize them as needed even as we transition back to the classroom. As one parent said, “We’ve had [the] internet for about 20 years and it’s been underutilized—and now we are touching on what could be one of the greatest ventures in the history of education.” But we mustn’t ignore the digital divide or what that means in terms of accessibility. As a social entrepreneur from New Profit’s portfolio recently told us, “Some kids have their own room, their own computer, and everyone shares excellent broadband. And other kids are on a phone when their mother didn’t need it.” Ensuring technology is a force for equity and excellence in education is essential, and will require careful consideration.
Learn how New Profit is listening closely and deeply to the voices of parents and community members to better serve the communities most impacted by inequitable systems.
Get Closer: Learn How New Profit is Listening to Proximate Voices
In order to best serve the social entrepreneurs and constituents in the communities most impacted by inequitable systems, we must listen closely and deeply to the experience of community members, including parents.
To inform our Wellbeing in Education investment selection process, New Profit created a Parent Advisory Council (PAC). The PAC was composed of 6 parent leaders from Parents Amplifying Voices in Education (PAVE) a community-based advocacy organization, and New Profit grantee and partner. Guided by these parent leaders, our Education Team launched an investment selection process for organizations that were addressing the wellbeing needs of educators, young learners, and their families. Parent leaders read applications and recommended organizations, participated in phone interviews with social entrepreneurs, and presented their perspectives to New Profit’s Investment Committee.