In this latest installment of The Throughline, Max Silverman speaks with Gia Truong about ensuring that all students, regardless of background, experience a rigorous education, free from bias.
Gia Truong is the chief executive officer at Envision Education, a mission-driven organization based in Oakland, Calif., that is transforming the lives of low-income, first-generation, college-bound students. Envision operates charter schools in the Bay Area and provides training and consulting services to schools and districts all over the country. Truong leads Envision with a strong commitment to educational equity and a focus on providing enhanced rigor and deeper learning opportunities for students. She is a Leading for Equity Fellow with the National Equity Project, is a member of Education Leaders of Color, and is the former executive officer of California’s Oakland Unified Schools’ Department of Curriculum and Instruction.
Max Silverman: Gia, we both have the honor of leading organizations with deep equity agendas. In your day-to-day work, how do you define equity?
Too often, we as educators confuse talking about student data and progress on key data benchmarks with actually talking about how students are progressing as learners and young people. This point is most easily seen when groups of educators are huddled around spreadsheets or elegant data arrays puzzling over how to best move a group of students over a data hurdle. No doubt this scene is one of progress from when broad groups of students were dismissed as unable to make significant progress. However, our evolution as student-centered educators requires us to make a critical shift from talking about student data to talking about students.
In this inaugural interview of The Throughline, Max Silverman speaks with Ellen Dorr (@ellenjdorr) about her strong commitment to educational equity and system design.
Ellen Dorr serves as the chief technology officer for the Renton School District in Washington, where she oversees technology services including customer service, infrastructure and digital learning. She leads the team to provide the resources and supports to empower educators to create inclusive, equitable instruction in classrooms as well as increase efficiency and effectiveness across the district.
Max Silverman: Ellen, as you know, here at CEL (the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership) we focus on how adults in schools – and the central office where you work – create learning environments for students that are inclusive, engaging and ultimately lead to student ownership of their learning. Describe for our readers what you would love to see when you walk into a classroom or learning environment that has these characteristics.
Lately, I have been getting very excited as I hear more and more leaders and organizations talk about “student-centered initiatives.” Often I hear this phrase about putting students in the center only to later feel disappointed when the follow-up conversations are really about putting student data in the center or, worse yet, launching another professional learning initiative masquerading as student-centered.
Are we making the idea of being student-centered as trite as the other catchphrases that came before? Can it be that the new student-centered miracle is actually the same one that was Common Core-based, or focused on personalized learning, or a must-have for your teacher accountability system? I don’t raise these questions to demean the great work that many in the education field are doing to ensure that improvement efforts remain focused on students. Instead, I want to push for the term student-centered to have real meaning. Our field’s understanding of student-centered should be powerful enough to change how students learn and what we accept as outcomes not only for students, but also for teachers, school leaders, and central office leaders.