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Exclusive Videos: 12 Changemakers Across the Country Who Are Reinventing American Education

By Emmeline Zhao | October 16, 2017

Over the summer, The 74 traveled the country to sit down for exclusive one-on-one conversations with educators, lawmakers, students, and parents who have jettisoned traditional concepts of American education in their push to rethink and reinvent schools for their communities.

Produced in tandem with the book release of Reinventing America’s Schools by New York Times best-selling author David Osborne of the Progressive Policy Institute, The 74 launched a special Reinventing Schools microsite to serve as a multimedia platform that will share these stories of innovation from across the country — connecting the conversations we had in so many state capitols, municipal offices, charter schools, and innovation schools.

You can see our complete video archive here, cutting across our site visits to Indianapolis, New Orleans, Denver, and Washington, D.C.

Here are some of the standouts:

INDIANAPOLIS

We visited Indianapolis several times over the spring and summer (you can see, hear, and read all 13 of our interviews at our Indianapolis hub). A few notable highlights:

Mary Ann Sullivan President, IPS Board of School Commissioners and former Democratic member of the Indiana House of Representatives: “I think that we’re seeing the results of not caring about education all around us. And I think that our country’s in crisis.”

Earl PhalenCEO, George & Veronica Phalen Leadership Academies: “I think love is central. In some schools they may not talk about it as love. If I have high expectations of you, that’s a form of expression of my belief in you, that could be construed as being love. I think all children need to feel like somebody just thinks they are the greatest that they can be.”

Mariama Carson — Founder and principal, Global Preparatory Academy, Indianapolis: “I know that kids like these, like mine that I love, are dying in schools all over the place. Because people are not invested. So when I hear teachers talk gruff with them or lose patience with them, this can be the utopia that changes their lives when it comes to how they see themselves.”

NEW ORLEANS

We’ve published 10 interviews about the education revolution now underway in New Orleans. A few notable highlights:

Towana Pierre-Floyd — Founder and school leader, KIPP Renaissance Early College Academy, New Orleans: “The country has a responsibility to look to New Orleans to support these efforts because if we do this right, we can change what it means to be an educated person in the United States of America and have that be more than just again getting that math and ELA credit, but understanding the history of this super-complicated, super-rich history of this country in a way that makes us all better.”

Ben Marcovitz — CEO, Collegiate Academies, New Orleans: “Starting a school is a real opportunity to create something special. A school that has unique and powerful emotional impact on a community can help build your relationship with a community and help strengthen a community.”

Sarah Usdin — Orleans Parish School Board member: “There are all these discussions about charter versus non-charter, voucher versus not voucher, district school versus not district school. Honestly, does a kid care? Does a parent care? No. They want the best for their kid, and all of the stuff that we fight about so often really is irrelevant to them.”

DENVER

We’ve published 11 interviews with students and school leaders in the Mile High City. You can read and watch all of them here. Some notable highlights:

Abril Sierra — Fifth-grader in Cornell University classroom, University Prep–Steele Street, Denver: “Learning and growing my brain is so important to me because I want to accomplish good things in life when I grow up. I want to go to a good college. I want to have a good career in life. Because that’s something just very important to me.”

Laura Munoz — Parent of second-grader Victor, Rocky Mountain Prep Southwest Elementary Charter School, Denver: “I didn’t even know about college at his age. I had no idea that people can go to college. Nobody had ever talked to me about college before. And now, having that support and that background from the school, not only me as a parent telling him, “Hey, you know, there’s college and you need to get there,” but having the teachers also implement that in their curriculum and the kids knowing about college makes me feel safe.”

Van Schoales — CEO, A+ Colorado: “In some ways it’s depressing to think how little things have changed, but on the other hand, we now have schools that are supporting most kids to be successful in college and career and life. And we didn’t have those schools before.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.

We’ve published nine interviews about schools and standards from Washington, D.C. You can find them all here. A few notable highlights:

Josephine Baker — Former chair and executive director, D.C. Public Charter School Board: “The main thing was that we wanted to serve children well. There was no point in opening schools that were not going to do that. We had already had enough of that. Not that DCPS wasn’t trying, I think sincerely they were, but they were encumbered by themselves, by their attitudes, by history.”

Irasema SalcidoFounder, Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy, Washington, D.C.: “It was really hard to start at a basement, as you can imagine. I was thinking, ‘My goodness, how can parents trust me?’ They’re sending their kids here and we’re in the nation’s capital and here I am starting at a basement. But I think what kept me going is just realizing what makes the difference is the fact that we’re gonna have high expectations for the students.”

Shavon Collier — Parent of a third-grader, Rocketship Public Schools—Rise Academy, Washington, D.C.: “Before, she didn’t like coming to school. They reward your child on good behavior, good academics, and things of that nature. When I say reward, they just notice them. Children like that…. I saw that she tried her best at doing what she was supposed to do in school versus when she was in other schools. She tries much harder. She just loves, loves, loves learning now.”

Watch more interviews, and read the complete history, at ReinventingSchools.The74Million.org

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