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In New Report, Teach Plus Lays Out a Blueprint for an Equitable Education System Beyond the Pandemic

November 10, 2021

The Phoenix Project Leverages Teachers’ Expertise to Reimagine the System for Students; Teachers; Families and Communities; and Teaching and Learning in the 2020s

Washington, D.C.—The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact early learning programs, schools, and colleges for more than 98 million learners in the U.S. As students, communities, and schools adjust to yet another challenging academic year, educators are making clear that they want to use the lessons from the pandemic to create a better, more equitable education system for students. A new report from Teach Plus, “The Phoenix Project: Building an Equitable Educational System Beyond the Pandemic,” zeroes in on what it would take to enact the teachers’ vision for the profession. Rooted in the design thinking process, The Phoenix Project lays out concrete recommendations to transform the education ecosystem in four key, interconnected areas: Thriving Students; Thriving Teachers; Engaged Families and Communities; and Teaching and Learning for the 2020s.

“Teachers are natural problem-solvers, and they are seizing the opportunity to reimagine education for the better. In this report, their vision, ideas, and a blueprint for change are on full display. We hope that school and policy leaders recognize teachers’ extensive knowledge and expertise and take urgent action to adopt the Phoenix Project’s recommendations to innovate and create a system in which students, teachers, and communities thrive,” said Lindsay Sobel, Teach Plus Interim CEO.

“We teach because we want to build a strong society of healthy, successful people. Trust us educators to know what our students need and how we can lead them to academic and personal greatness,” said Kristen Rhodes Beland, a teacher in Rhode Island and of the report’s co-authors.

The Phoenix Project is based on the input from 175 educators across 30 states who used the design thinking process to shape the vision for and solutions to improve teaching and learning. Teach Plus teacher leaders developed the project’s themes, acted as facilitators of the design thinking groups, and co-authored the report. To enact this vision of the education system, Teach Plus and the teachers propose:

  • Thriving Students: Adopt high-quality, culturally affirming instructional materials and equal access to advanced coursework, as well as relevant, real-world project-based learning; reimagine the school day and year; and address student mental health.
  • Thriving Teachers: Recruit and retain teachers who reflect the diversity of their students; prepare teachers for the complex work of teaching; distribute leadership; and support teacher well-being.
  • Engaged Families and Communities: Turn relationships into partnerships; embrace family leadership and expertise and ensure school leaders and educators come from the community.
  • Teaching and Learning for the 2020s: Recognize students and educators as thought partners and co-designers of learning environments; empower students to reach their full potential and reimagine all the tools of the trade, including technology and assessments.

Recommendations for school, state, and national policymakers:

Thriving Students

  1. Redesign curriculum and assessment to be student-centered and to focus on the whole child.
  2. Expand social and emotional learning and provide greater opportunities for project-based and inquiry-based learning.
  3. Provide all students a pathway to college and post-secondary success.
  4. Establish structures to prioritize and personalize teacher-student relationships.

Thriving Teachers

  1. Establish structures and dedicated funding for distributed leadership models and defined teacher leader roles in schools.
  2. Reform teacher pathways and policies to promote “whole teacher” preparation and certification.
  3. Expand resources to address teacher mental health, including access to therapeutic resources and additional time for teachers to balance the demands of their profession with their personal well-being.

Engaged Families and Communities

  1. Expand effective models of family engagement, elevate the leadership and assets families bring to their children’s education, and empower families as educational partners.
  2. Expand full-service community schools.
  3. Redesign schools to promote meaningful family-school partnerships.

Teaching and Learning for the 2020s

  1. Elevate and engage the voice of educators in shaping curriculum and pedagogy in schools.
  2. Redesign the student learning experience to become more personalized and competency-based.
  3. Prepare teachers for technology-enabled learning.
  4. Enact policies that support schools in lengthening and reimagining the school day and year.

“The future of education requires equity of thought, voice, and practice. Effective curriculum, structural design and assessment must include co-creation with students and educators based on cogenerative dialogues. Leveraging the knowledge and experience of all stakeholders ensures education evolves to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of students and the society they will impact,”  said Keisha Rembert, an educator in Illinois and one of the report’s co-authors.

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity, and student success. In pursuing this mission, Teach Plus is guided by the Student Opportunity Mandate​: All students should have the opportunity to achieve their potential in an education system defined by its commitment to equity, its responsiveness to individual needs, and its ability to prepare students for postsecondary success. teachplus.org