The New Dawn

An Action Agenda Honoring the Vibrant Diversity of Students

I. Welcome to the New Dawn

If society has learned one lesson in the course of the pandemic, it is that schools are not just places for learning -- they are a core source for the academic, mental, social and emotional wellbeing of students within a community ecosystem.

Just as a rainbow rises after a storm, today represents a step into a bold and vibrant future for K-12 education. The unprecedented global pandemic in concert with a racial reckoning in the United States has sown the seeds for a harvest of ideas and innovations designed to embrace our students as their whole selves.

In moving forward, we do not want to turn to a prior playbook that is rooted in inequity. We have an unprecedented opportunity to wholly transform how schools work in partnership with communities to effectively support our students.

The good news is we are emerging after a tumultuous fifteen months with:

  • New policies and practices to support learning at-home and in-school, a deeper focus on students’ mental and emotional health, more robust school-and-community connections, expanded teacher peer collaboration models and much more.
  • A recognition of the need for teaching and learning policies, systems and practices centered in the diversity of our 55+ million students who embody an array of experiences, environments, identities and cultures -- and that each student must be seen and valued in every dimension of learning.
  • A willingness  to create and actualize conditions in our K-12 systems where students have equitable access to learning opportunities and pathways and are not identified by deficit-centric academic and economic constructs, such as “gaps” or “poverty”.
We -- the RISE UP Coalition -- call this The New Dawn. And together we have developed an Action Agenda Honoring the Vibrant Diversity of Students.

As a coalition of leaders of color representing school districts, charter networks and organizations across the country, we offer The New Dawn: An Action Agenda Honoring the Diversity of Students as a national blueprint to systems and school leaders for collaborating with communities to transform systems and practice by:

  • Auditing existing inequitable policies, practices and data
  • Creating the conditions for equity-centered transformational policies to take root
  • Defining a set of asset-centered priorities and actions
  • Implementing demonstrated solutions that have been natively-designed to effectively support the diverse experiences, cultures and identities of the student population

While our focus is anchored in how school districts and charter networks can design and support the conditions that enable students of color -- who have clearly been disproportionately impacted by COVID and historical inequities -- to thrive, we acknowledge that inequities are not solely impacting students of color. We recognize that white students’ across the country are experiencing high-poverty and a lack of access to quality education, from rural-to-urban areas.

We also know that the intersection of race and poverty compounds systemic inequities for ALL. Reference Targeted Universalism Policy and Practice by john a. powell, Stephen Mendenian and Wendy Ake and the report Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States by Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Maggie Jones and Sonia R. Porter. 

By effectively addressing the intersectionality, the RISE UP Coalition’s work will support ALL students in having access to high-quality, richly diverse learning experiences.

As education practitioners, entrepreneurs and innovators, we know from experience that to address the intersection and create the conditions for students to thrive:

  • Schools must deeply partner with communities and families as imagineers and co-designers of a new learning ecosystem
  • Innovation must be defined by how a solution -- a framework, program, curriculum or tool -- recognizes, reflects and rewards the vibrant dimensions of a child
  • Learning context is as important as content
  • Every student has an identity that must be centered and celebrated for us to achieve the definition of high-quality education

Our hope is that The New Dawn: An Action Agenda Honoring the Diversity of Studentssparks new ideas, creates opportunities for relationship and trust building and centers innovation in communities as partners to schools.

We invite you to join us on a journey to creating a thriving equitable education ecosystem that addresses the vibrant diversity of students!

Join us as advocates and allies in this work! Sign our interest form.

II. Our Collective: The Rise Up Coalition

In March of 2021, a group of education leaders of color came together to form the RISE UP Coalition.

We united in the spirit of engaging our national networks of leaders in supporting school districts and charter networks who are facing both tremendous challenges and, simultaneously, opportunities to design effective systems to support historically marginalized students.

As a collective, we have created and implemented a valuable portfolio of frameworks, practices, programs and tools that are effectively supporting the needs of students of color -- Black, Latino, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander students. We joined together to contribute our know-how, expertise, intuition, solutions and lived experiences to inform and guide the national dialog and landscape.

Our work as the RISE UP Coalition is to publish a national Action Agenda focused on three goals:

  1. Name a set of Big Ideas and a comprehensive Priorities Map to guide a path forward
  2. Identify Policy Perspectives that honor the needs of the diverse cultures and experiences of students across the country
  3. Share existing Demonstrations of best practices, programs, and models that are currently being employed by school districts, charter networks and organizations 

The Convening Organizations joined together to lead this effort as representatives of national networks of education leaders across the country:

  • Camelback Ventures: Camelback Ventures increases access to opportunity for entrepreneurs of color and women by investing in their ventures and leadership while advocating for fairness in their funding.
  • Digital Promise: Digital Promise is a nonprofit organization that builds powerful networks and takes on grand challenges by working at the intersection of researchers, entrepreneurs, and educators.
  • Education Leaders of Color: EdLoC is a membership organization dedicated to elevating the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education.
  • Pahara Institute: Pahara provides transformational leadership development opportunities for leaders who are reimagining the public education system for all children.
  • Surge Institute: Surge educates, develops, and elevates leaders of color who create transformative change for young people, their families and our broader communities.
  • Unidos US: UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.

As a convening group, we invited Collaborating Organizations to join the coalition who represent an equitable cross-section of school districts, charter schools and organizations led by leaders of color from urban, rural, and suburban geographies across the country to ensure we are representing all students.

The Collaborating Organizations who represent school districts, charter networks and organization leaders across the country are:

4.0 Schools
Hassan Hassan
Founder and CEO
American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF)
Stephanie McGencey
Executive Director
Atlanta Public Schools
Aleigha Henderson Ross
Executive Director, Instructional Technology
Beyond 12
Alexandra Bernadotte
Founder and CEO
Big Picture Learning
Carlos Moreno
Executive Director
Brick Education Network
Dominique Lee
Leona Christy
Founder and CEO
Center for Black Educator Development
Sharif ElMekki
Center for Black Educator Development
Victoria Harrison
Operations Manager
Citizens of the World Charter Schools
Vanessa Rodriguez
Interim CEO
Compton Unified School District
Darin Brawley
DeSoto Independent School District
D'Andre Weaver
Everett Public School District
Priya Tahilian
Norma Fernandez
Friendship Public Charter Schools
Patricia Brantley
Gestalt Community Schools
Yetta Lewis
Co-Founder and CEO
IMM Schools
Lorena Tule-Romain
Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer
Indianapolis Public Schools
Aleesia johnson
Latinos for Education
Amanda Fernandez
Founder and CEO
Lynwood Unified School District
Guidel Crosthwaite
Middletown City School District
Marlon Styles
NACA Inspired Schools Network
Anpao Duta flying earth
Executive Director
National Association of Charter School Authorizers
Karega Rausch
President and CEO
National Indian Education Association
Diane Cournoyer
Executive Director
National Indian Education Association
Rusty Creed Brown
Field Operations Association
Noble Network of Charter Schools
Constance Jones
RISE Colorado
Veronica Crespin-Palmer
Co-Founder and CEO
Richland School District Two
Baron Davis
Rural Opportunity Institute
Vichi Jagannathan
STEM Preparatory Schools
Emilio Pack
The Oakland REACH
Lakisha Young

We acknowledge that many other districts, charter networks and organizations could have been part of this effort. We wanted to focus the initial involvement on a group of organizations who are members of our national networks to achieve this first phase of the work -- the release of the national Action Agenda. We are eager to expand the engagement of partner, advocate and ally school systems and organizations as we advance to the next phase of the work. 

We invite you to express your interest in joining this effort by completing our interest form at

III. Our Why: The Time is Now

The curtain has been pulled back to reveal the fragility of our education system. Our system can be doing much more to support the most vulnerable and the diverse needs of students and families.

It is abundantly clear that the academic, cultural, emotional and physical wellbeing of a child is paramount to their ability to fully engage in education. We have to ask ourselves as adults who are leading systems and organizations:

How do we design education systems that demonstrate/embody the conditions that embrace the health, wellbeing, spirit, diversity and genius of students?

As the RISE UP Coalition, we answer this question by drawing on:

  • Our lived experience as students of color growing up in a K-12 education system
  • Our lived experience as adults -- teachers, principals, administrators, entrepreneurs and policymakers -- who are leading education systems and organizations centered in equity
  • The intersectionality of race and poverty and the proven impact on students of color

We believe that our education system is at a precipice. As a sector, we can no longer avoid or ignore the fact that an education system created hundreds of years ago designed to meet the needs of a monolithic “model student” does not work. 

We must acknowledge the impacts of a history wrought with acts of inhumanity that reverberate today to ensure our systems going forward are celebrating differences as opportunities to learn and grow, not replicating trauma.

The time is now. We have a moral imperative to create an education system that honors the colorful tapestry and diversity of our students and communities. This is OUR WHY.

IV. Our Action Agenda

Our Action Agenda is a guide that not only informs -- it provides clear guidance by offering concrete actions that are reinforced by tangible examples.

We move beyond theory and ideas to steps that you can take, and we point you in the direction of leaders and organizations that are doing the work. We “rise up” the buried treasure of programs, tools and models created by school districts, charter networks and entrepreneurs that are effectively supporting the needs and aspirations of students of color.

The RISE UP Coalition Action Agenda includes the following components:

  1. Big Ideas: We define eight Big Ideas aligned to a set of themes that are at the core of a reimagined education system that centers families and communities
  2. Priorities Map: We identify five Priorities within each Big Idea that specifically addresses the “how” of systems change
  3. Policy Perspectives: We put forth a set of Policy Perspectives that represent the actions that need to be considered at the federal, state and local levels
  4. Demonstrations: We launch a clearinghouse of best practices, programs and tools that are supporting the needs and ability to thrive for students of color.

On June 30, 2021 we released the Big Ideas and Priorities Map. On August 4, 2021, we will release the Policy Perspectives and Demonstrations.

We invite you to utilize the Action Agenda as a flexible guide to inform your work and practices and hope that you will join us as an advocate and/or ally for this work.

Big Ideas

How do we reimagine education systems that are centered in families and communities?

Our Big Ideas outline a core set of tenets that school systems and schools can employ to inform the design, development and implementation of solutions to support the vibrant diversity of students.

Accountability and Assessment
Achievement Honors Context
Accountability and assessment must “do no harm”. Eliminate the inequitable emphasis on tracking and exclusion. Understanding a student’s academic performance is paramount but represents a single dimension. Measurement systems must acknowledge the value of gains and growth and account for a holistic context for learning including academic, cognitive, wellbeing and identity.
Family and Community Engagement
Families Are Co-Designers
The pandemic underscored the role schools play in supporting basic needs -- including food and childcare -- as well as teaching and learning. Schools are centered in communities and, as such, cannot exist without embracing families as co-designers. Schools have to move beyond surveys to engage families as partners in co-constructing dynamic and adaptive learning and wellbeing infrastructure.
Innovative School Models
Community is Innovation
The education system continually seeks to bring innovation into communities of color rather than honor the innovation that is resident within. The definition of education innovation is not in the bells and whistles; it is in the ingenuity of community-based models and tools that reflect the vibrant cultural spirit and fabric of the people. Honor communities by investing in what works by definition of the people who are proximate, not outsiders.
Instructional Approaches
Culture-Centered Learning
Students are not monolithic. Every student’s life experience is rooted in cultural language, behaviors, values and norms. Healthy school environments value culture by not anchoring in conformist disciplinary policies and actions. If learning is to be student-centered then it also must be culture-centered. Acknowledge the culture and community that students live and breathe everyday.
Student Learning
Every Identity Matters
Learning devoid of the diversity of students' heritage, languages, gender and experiences is at the root of inequity in education. Recognize that each and every student has an identity that must be welcomed in their learning experience. Build personalized systems and supports that expand pathways and opportunities for students based on their identity and personal dreams and aspirations.
Professional Learning and Talent
Human-Centered Learning
Every teacher wants their students to succeed and lead healthy, productive lives. The profession of teaching has been deprecated by mechanistic policies and an intentional reduction of the diversity of the workforce. Teachers and students are sharing a human experience complete with mutual social and emotional impacts. We need to restore the human factor to teaching and purposefully increase the diversity of the workforce as a reflection of the importance of every student benefitting from diverse voices and experiences.
School Culture
Wellness and Relationships First
Schools have cultures -- and an opportunity emerging from the pandemic to reimagine culture centered in wellness. Social emotional health is critical to student academic success and requires a holistic approach that continually understands students wellness as a factor in their academic performance. Counselors, peer-to-peer connections and mentor relationships are no longer nice-to-have.
Systems Change
Mindset Transforms Systems
Systems are a reflection of leaders’ willingness and openness to change. Addressing conditions and barriers requires an innovator's mindset, capacity as a leader to learn and acknowledgement that people who are proximate need to be at the decision table. Transformation is not about disruption -- it is combining lessons learned and equitable best practices with wholly new approaches and models for building the future that has yet to be imagined.

Priorities Map

What actions can we take to create the mechanisms to sustain community-centered practices?

Our Priorities Map defines a baseline set of actions designed to embody and enable the conditions for the vibrant diversity of students to thrive.

Accountability and Assessment
Achievement Honors Context
Engage Parents and Students of Color with Equal Voice in Defining Excellence
Ensure Assessment Creators are Accountable to Cultural Competency and Learning Context
Accountability Measures Must Reflect Academic Mastery and the Whole Healthy Child
Recognize and Reward Multiple Methods of Demonstrating Knowledge and Skill
Accountability Derived from Assessments should Inform Teacher Practice
Family and Community Engagement
Families are Co-Designers
Ensure Parents are at the Design Table from Day One
Prioritize the Cultural and Linguistic Communications Needs of Families
Design to Support the Family Structures of Today and the Future
Build Community Models Rooted in Multiple Opportunities for Family Engagement
Provide Supports for Families that are Un-or-Under Connected to Technology, Dgital Skills and Resources
Innovative School Models
Community is Innovation
Invest in School and Community Partnerships that Address Whole Child Needs
Ensure Models of Innovation are School Leader-Driven, not Funder Driven
Value How Communities of Color Define Innovation
Invest in Authentically Diverse Community-led and Indigenous School Models -- Not Trends
Create Accountability Systems that Value Community School Models
Instructional Approaches
Culture-Centered Learning
Address the Over Identification of Students of Color as Students with Disabilities and Differences
Broadband Access Impacts Virtual Instruction Quality -- High-Speed is a Must
Expand Instructional Approaches to Blend Content and Community
Reimagine Instructional Time Anchored in Culturally-Responsive Pedagogy
Shift from Teacher-Centered to Student-Centered
Student Learning
Every Identity Matters
Honor Learning that Takes Place in School, Home and Community
Develop K-16 Pathways to College and/or Career with Differentiated Supports for Students of Color
Engage Pedagogies that Honor Student Contributions, Talents, Languages and Histories
Make Advanced Literacies, Math and STEM Courses Accessible to ALL Students of Color
Integrate Academics, Identity, Holistic and Community Wellness
Professional Learning and Talent
Human-Centered Teaching
Diversify and Develop the Cultural Competency of Adults in Schools
Recruit, Hire, Advance and Retain Diverse Talent with a Specific Focus on Teachers of Color to Address Gap
Support Teacher Mindset Shift from Closing Gaps to Self-Determination
Center Teacher Collaboration in the Community
Acknowledge and Address Professionals Healing from Trauma
School Culture
Wellness and Relationship First
Create Culture that Fosters Community-Centered, Peer-to-Peer Support
Anchor School Culture in Identity, Belonging and Engagement
Engage Students as Definers and Designers of School Culture
Reduce Exclusionary Punishment. Increase Trauma-Informed Supports Focused on Recovery.
SEL is Not Identity. Employ Culturally Relevant SEL Practices.
Systems Change
MIndset Transforms Systems
Retire the Charter Versus District Debate -- Focus on Students
Imagine New Cross-Sector Partnerships to Bridge In-and-Out of School
Recognize the Root to Addressing Systemic Racism is Changing Mindset and Mental Models
Balance Short-Term Results with Long-Term Impact on Communities of Color
Employ Systems, Structures and Data to Inform Accountability to Equity Commitments

Policy Perspectives

Phase II to be released on September 15, 2021 will address Policy Perspectives.


Phase II to be released on September 15, 2021 will include the launch of a Demonstrations clearinghouse.