How to Reimagine K-12 Education, Now

This year’s Atlantic Festival convened national thought leaders—including New Leaders CEO Jean Desravines—to discuss how the pandemic presents an opportunity for us to transform our public education system.
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Blog date
9/28/21
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Jean Desravines
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Many education leaders believe that now is the time to do just that. As the pandemic both illuminated and exacerbated inequities in our schools, it also ushered in innovative solutions.

On Friday, The Atlantic Festival 2021 convened national thought leaders—including Jean Desravines, Chief Executive Officer at New Leaders—to discuss how the pandemic presents a unique opportunity for us to transform what did not work in schools. Known for elevating bold thinkers, this year the festival explored the vision for what America can be.

“What’s become crystal clear is that the school is actually the unit of change,” Desravines explained. “The pandemic underscores the importance of transformative school leaders, leaders who can create a culture of high expectations, who can ensure they are providing holistic education for children, who can ensure that their teachers and staff are cared for.”

Featured speakers included (in order of presentation):

  • Cynthia Marten, Deputy U.S. Education Secretary
  • Randi Weingartent, President, American Federation of Teachers
  • Talisa Dixon, Superintendent and CEO of Columbus City Schools
  • Jean Desravines, CEO, New Leaders
  • Kevin Carey, Vice President, Education Policy & Knowledge Management, New America

Moderated by Adam Harris, staff writer, The Atlantic, and Susan Saulny, contributor, AtlanticLIVE, each thought leader shared their vision for our nation’s K-12 schools:

“The only way you move students forward is by starting with their strengths … It’s up to educators to unlock the genius of our students.”
Cynthia Marten, Deputy U.S. Education Secretary

“We’ve changed to a culture of care. We’re focused now on trust with our families… School leadership is non-negotiable. We have to have good leaders leading this very important work.”
Talisa Dixon, Superintendent and CEO of Columbus City Schools

"There is a sense of education leaders feeling tired … but there is also a tremendous sense of hope and optimism emerging out of this time. A reimagination of what’s possible for students, particularly students who have been underrepresented and underestimated. An opportunity to accelerate, to create schools that benefit all of our students."
Jean Desravines, CEO, New Leaders

“An equitable level of education funding has never been provided … Structural change is difficult. I’m aspirational. We have to move forward.”
Kevin Carey, Vice President, Education Policy & Knowledge Management, New America

For more highlights from the event, follow the conversation on Twitter: @NewLeadersOrg and #TAF21.

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