A few months into its term, the Biden-Harris administration is faced with a number of daunting challenges in K-12 education, including bringing students back into school buildings amid the pandemic and addressing longstanding concerns like equity in the classroom. On March 3, 2021, the Wellesley Centers for Women hosted “Letting All Voices Be Heard: New Directions for K-12 Education,” a virtual Social Change Dialogue, to discuss what the administration has done so far and what still needs to be done to support educators and students.

The panel was moderated by WCW Executive Director Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., and included Georgia Hall, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST), Soo Hong, Ed.D., the Whitehead Associate Professor of Critical Thought and Associate Professor of Education at Wellesley College, and Emmy Howe, M.Ed., co-director of the National SEED Project.

The discussion kicked off with immediate steps the Biden-Harris administration should take to support K-12 educators and students, including providing teachers with vaccinations, engaging families in partnerships with educators to support learning and development, and focusing on social and emotional needs.

“There needs to be a way to ask every single teacher in every single classroom what they need both materially and spiritually—humanely—for themselves in order to come back and be their whole selves,” said Howe. “We really need to talk to teachers, because we're seeing through SEED the kind of havoc that this whole hybrid model is wreaking on teachers.”

The panelists also talked about steps that must be taken toward dismantling systemic racism in education. Reexamining standardized testing, teacher education, and family outreach were all discussed as critical elements of implementing anti-racist policies and practices in schools.

Hall talked about what she has learned through her role with NIOST about the importance of supporting partnerships between school districts and community organizations that center on the experiences of young people. “Both sides have an important role to play, and to the extent that they can learn from each other and continue to work together, that's going to move us forward through some of the challenges that we’re facing,” she said.

Throughout the program, the panelists emphasized the need for all voices to be heard and all stakeholders to have a seat at the table when it comes to making important decisions in education policy.

“Too often, the education field has prioritized the voices of researchers and administrators, and left behind the voices of important stakeholders such as teachers, parents and caregivers, and even and especially young people themselves,” said Hong. “I personally want to see all of these groups making an impact on education policy.”

March 9, 2021

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