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Equity Fellows Seek to Tackle Deeper Learning's 'Race Problem'

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In a provocative post a little more than a year ago, my co-editor Jal Mehta stated bluntly: "Deeper learning has a race problem." By that he meant that the leaders of the movement remain overwhelmingly white, and there is skepticism in the civil-rights community about the effort. This despite the fact that the effort is aimed at ensuring that all students--particularly students of color who have been poorly served by the education system--develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in work and life.

The deeper learning community took his post quite seriously. Gia Truong, CEO of Envision Education, wrote a moving response to show how teachers can address the cultural divide between them and their non-white students.

Now two school networks, Big Picture Learning and the Internationals Network for Public Schools, have gone a step further and created a program to tackle the equity challenge head on. The two networks announced this week that they have formed a fellowship program to identify and support leaders who can design and implement changes in practice and policy to expand access to deeper learning to communities of color.

"The Deeper Learning Equity Fellows will tackle this issue, not merely by creating interventions, but by figuring out and breaking through the barriers that prevent these interventions from occurring in the first place," says Claire Sylvan, the founding executive director of Internationals Network for Public Schools.

Carlos Moreno, national director of school and network support at Big Picture Learning, adds that the fellows will provide exemplars of equitable deeper learning practices and increase the number of school, district, and classroom leaders of color.

Under the program, 10 educators will serve as Deeper Learning Equity Fellows for a period of 24 months. During that time, they will meet as a cohort at least four times, speak at conferences, write about their experiences in articles and blog posts (perhaps on this blog), and develop and implement an action project to address the equity challenge.

Will this program solve the "race problem"? Of course not. As Jal suggested in his original post, there are a number of things that need to happen. Deeper learning advocates need to make a strong case for the civil rights imperative of deeper learning, he said. Proponents should be open to a pluralism of approaches. And schools need to do more to integrate core content with open-ended inquiry.

But the most important step, he wrote, is for more and more people to experience what it means to learn deeply. And to that end, the Equity Fellows will be invaluable.

For more information on the Equity Fellows program, and how to nominate educators for the positions, click here.


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