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Monday, October 25, 2021

Opening Keynote: 11:00 – 11:45 AM ET

Building a Brighter Tomorrow: Redesigning Education and Innovating Systems to Enable Each Child to Thrive

Secretary Cardona’s opening keynote will draw from his own experiences as a lifelong educator while creating a vision for the future of education with a specific focus on personalized learning, competency-based pathways, and innovations that seek to advance equity. This inspirational talk will share insights for future-focused district and school leaders, teachers, and other educators who are reimagining education and redesigning local systems to drive educational equity and excellence for all students. Incremental change is not enough. It is time to transform learning environments to give every student the personalized competency-based pathways, modern resources, and student-centered learning opportunities they need to succeed.

To advance equity, we must innovate, share promising practices, and work together to create the education system that all of our students deserve, a system where students are at the center. This is a moment in education to boldly address inequities in the system. This is our opportunity to ensure that we rethink, redesign, and reimagine how teaching and learning should be and engage students in co-designing their future. These new student-centered learning designs shift structures of ranking and sorting our youth, shift pedagogy to be active and engage student voice and choice differently, and shift culture to demand that students become powerful future makers with more agency, and adapt our systems to be more responsive and better than ever before.

Join this keynote to hear the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s call to action to lead transformation in education, to redesign toward highly personalized, competency-based learning systems that create equitable pathways for each child to thrive. Secretary Cardona will discuss the federal education priorities in place to advance innovations.

Secretary Cardona Portrait

Miguel Cardona, Secretary, U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Miguel A. Cardona currently serves as the 12th Secretary of Education. Secretary Cardona is a lifelong resident of Meriden, Connecticut and is proud alumnus of Meriden Public School. Following his time in Meriden Public Schools, he attended CCSU for his bachelor’s degree and UCONN where he completed Master’s in Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Administrator Preparation Program, Doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (Superintendent) Certificate.

Since beginning his journey as an educator, Secretary Cardona has served as an elementary school teacher, school principal, the Performance and Evaluation lead administrator, Assistant Superintendent, and most recently Commissioner of Education for the State of Connecticut. Under Secretary Cardona’s oversight – despite the pandemic – Connecticut launched a statewide FAFSA Data Dashboard; procured a comprehensive statewide Special Education Data System (CT-SEDS); announced the State’s highest ever extended graduation rates for students with disabilities and English Learners; reached a new stipulated agreement in the landmark school integration case Sheff v. O’Neill, established the first national requirement for high schools to provide courses on Black and Latino studies; and initiated systemic improvement protocols that can reach every corner of the state. His focus on equity and excellence for all learners has driven his work at all levels.

His greatest source of pride, however, is his family. Secretary Cardona and his beautiful wife Marissa are the proud parents of two children.

Meeting the Moment to Build a Better Future

We have to think bigger and bolder to ensure that we can help every student move further, faster. There is increasing demand from parents and momentum for change. Ninety-one percent of parents believe we should be reimagining K-12 education. Today, we have a window of opportunity to move some state funding systems toward more equitable funding formulas and resources that can support truly student-centered learning. We need to deepen expertise and broaden the context of these discussions to account for our country’s systemic racism in the creation and implementation of these education policies and to drive equitable futures. We can’t tutor our way out of the challenges. The loss of learning time has affected every student. We need to develop approaches that will accelerate student learning and get to grade level and beyond.

The time to change is now. The upheaval of the past year is driving calls for change beyond the usual communities of education reformers and researchers, providing a unique opportunity to push for transformation at scale. Join us for this opening keynote address for a discussion around:

  • Recognition of how long standing weaknesses of our education systems are reaching a tipping point.
  • Renewed calls for racial and social justice are revealing flaws the current system can’t address.
  • Advancements in the learning sciences research and new technologies are strengthening the impetus for change.
  • A historic influx of federal funding provides an unprecedented opportunity for investing in the future of learning and modernization.
  • Demand for change is coming from all directions.

The COVID-19 pandemic, compounded by inadequate reckoning with addressing systemic racism in our country, and unprecedented recovery investments by the federal government, are opening historic opportunities to fundamentally rethink our education systems and structures to create the conditions for all students to thrive. There has never been a greater time to reimagine education systems.

Susan Patrick Portrait

Susan Patrick, President and CEO, Aurora Institute
Susan Patrick is the President and CEO of Aurora Institute and co-founder of CompetencyWorks, providing policy advocacy, publishing research, developing quality standards, and driving the transformation to personalized, competency-based education forward. She is the former Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education, and served as legislative liaison for Governor Hull from Arizona. She served as legislative staff on Capitol Hill. Patrick holds a master’s degree from the University of Southern California and a bachelor’s degree from Colorado College. She is a Pahara-Aspen Fellow and an USA Eisenhower Fellow in 2016.

Fred Jones Portrait

Fred Jones, Policy Director, Aurora Institute
Fred Jones is Policy Director at the Aurora Institute. He leads the Center for Policy team, conducting federal and state policy analysis, providing technical assistance to elected officials, and offering strategic guidance to advance the Aurora Institute’s mission. Fred began his career at the U.S. House of Representatives, working for the Education and Labor Committee. He also worked as a Legislative Associate for the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Director of Government Affairs for the United Negro College Fund. Prior to joining the Aurora Institute, he served as the Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy for the Southern Education Foundation. Fred holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Tufts University, and he earned an MBA from the University of Maryland, College Park Robert H. Smith School of Business. He has a beautiful wife, a toddler son, and an infant daughter.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Morning Keynote: 11:00-11:45 AM ET

Transforming Toward Equity-Centered, Whole-Child Personalized Learning

To achieve the transformation we need today, education systems must be willing to embrace and act on implementing the scientific research that describes how children learn and develop. The science of learning and development shows that building each child’s knowledge and skills —and, ultimately, expressing each student’s full potential—can be significantly influenced through powerful, personalized, culturally-affirming learning environments that focus on whole-child design. Today, insights from brain science align with what many parents want for their kids, and what many teachers have been saying for years: that we can create a system that recognizes all children as individuals, a system that values their assets and supports them to see a future where they can excel in myriad ways.

Although an education system should aim to give every student opportunities to learn and thrive, our current education system has not been designed to do that. It has not been designed to promote the equitable opportunities or outcomes that children and families deserve and that our democracy and society need now. Our system was designed for a different world and to a different purpose—to prepare students en masse for presumed places in society. In that world, it was believed that talent and skills were scarce, that averages were a measure of individuals, and racist beliefs and stereotypes shaped the system such that only some children were deemed worthy of and offered opportunity.

Join this keynote conversation to learn about transforming education systems toward equitable, whole-child personalized learning through five actionable design principles that can become the foundation for a new approach to education in your learning community (from the Design Principles for Schools: Putting the Science of Learning and Development Into Action playbook):

    1. Positive Developmental Relationships
    2. Environments Filled with Safety and Belonging
    3. Rich Learning Experiences and Knowledge Development
    4. Development of Skills, Habits, and Mindsets
    5. Integrated Support Systems

These design principles do not suggest a single design or model, but rather systemic change that supports equity for all students and the development of the full set of skills, competencies, and mindsets that young people need to live, have choice and voice and thrive.

Facilitator: Susan Patrick, President and CEO, Aurora Institute

Linda Darling Hammond head shot

Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO, Learning Policy Institute; Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus, Stanford University
Linda Darling-Hammond is the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University and founding president of the Learning Policy Institute, created to provide high-quality research for policies that enable equitable and empowering education for each and every child. She is past president of the American Educational Research Association and author of more than 30 books and 600 other publications on educational quality and equity, including the award-winning book: The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future. In 2006, she was named one of the nation’s ten most influential people affecting educational policy. She led the Obama education policy transition team in 2008 and the Biden education transition team in 2020. She was appointed President of the California State Board of Education in 2019.

Pamela Cantor, M.D., Founder & Senior Science Advisor, Turnaround for Children
Pamela Cantor, M.D. is a child and adolescent psychiatrist, author, and thought leader on human potential, the science of learning and development, and educational equity. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, she founded Turnaround for Children, which translates scientific insights into tools and services that help educators establish the conditions for all students to thrive. In two books published in 2021, Whole Child Development, Learning and Thriving: A Dynamic Systems Approach and The Science of Learning and Development, Dr. Cantor crystallizes key scientific concepts about how human potential and learning unfold so that anyone seeking to open pathways for learning and opportunity for young people can do so. Dr. Cantor is a governing partner of the Science of Learning and Development Alliance, focused on elevating the science of learning and development as an actionable drive of equity in education. She received an M.D. from Cornell University, a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence and was a Visiting Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Keynote: 11:00-11:45 AM ET

Former Students: Where Are They Now?

Each year at the Aurora Institute Symposium, youth take the stage for an unfiltered conversation about what’s working in personalized, competency-based design efforts and offer guidance to set a path for the future of teaching and learning. This year, we are inviting some of those former student panelists back to the stage for a glimpse into their lives and to understand how their student-centered educational experiences shaped who they are today. Join this keynote plenary to learn what has prepared them to be successful change makers in today’s world and how we might recreate those experiences for today’s youth.

Yvonne Armenta

Yvonne Armenta, Internal Communications Manager, Healthline Media
Born and raised in San Francisco, CA, Yvonne is a Communications Specialist that is passionate about helping individuals find confidence through public speaking. She is a first-generation college graduate, having received her Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies and Native American and Indigenous Studies from UC Berkeley and her Masters in Business Administration from San Jose State University.

Prior to her role as communications manager at Healthline Media, she was on the experimental marketing team at A2Z Media Group and on the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion team at Uber Technologies.

In 2020, Yvonne began her platform on Instagram, Chats with Yvonne, to guide people towards mastering the art of public speaking, while also recognizing the vulnerability that comes with “perfecting” the art. Yvonne hopes to not only humanize the public speaking experience, but also help everyone gain the confidence she knows they can attain through her framework: Reflect. Connect. Share.

Aaryn Finklea head shot

Aaryn M. Finklea, Special Education Classroom Assistant, Chicago Public Schools
Aaryn M. Finklea is an artist, an educator, and a lifelong learner. He has worked in Chicago Public Schools for the past seven years as a Special Education Classroom Assistant. Aaryn is passionate about helping his students take ownership of their learning. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Film/Cinema/Video Studies from Columbia College Chicago and his Master of Education from DePaul University. Aaryn is currently preparing to pursue a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

Alyssia Leach Headshot

Alyssia Leach, Business Marketing Student, University of Louisville
Alyssia Leach is 20-year-old student entrepreneur studying Marketing with a minor in Entrepreneurship at the University of Louisville. She is a Louisville, Kentucky native that has been making strides in her community to promote the importance of education and entrepreneurship through her social media platforms. She has a community of 100k+ on TikTok and she shares creative ideas on entrepreneurship where she plans to expand her presence to inspire more people to take the leap as well.

Angel A. Velez Headshot

Angel A. Velez, Junior, Rutgers University; Human Resources Manager, Student Voice
Angel A. Velez is an undergraduate student currently pursuing a Bachelors’ degree in Public and Nonprofit Administration with a minor in Social Justice at Rutgers University – Newark. He is also a part of the Honors Living & Learning Community (HLLC), Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF), and TRIO Student Support Services (SSS). His current work focuses on preparing for his master’s in Public Administration, with plans to research the relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico. He plans to teach at La Universidad de Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, while he is simultaneously working in Government on the island. Angel works for Student Voice as the Human Resources Manager and in Human Resources Information Systems for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. He previously worked as a Program Coordinator for the organizing Fellowship program at Student Voice where he worked alongside Maya Green, Organizing Director, and other program leaders to provide resources and knowledge to students fighting for Education Justice and inequity.

Loretta Goodwin

Loretta Goodwin, Chief Operating Officer, Aurora Institute
Loretta Goodwin joined the Aurora Institute as Chief Operating Officer in November 2020. In this role she leads the Aurora Institute staff; owns talent management and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI); aligns the work on the ground with the organization’s mission, vision, values, and goals; and supports the CEO and Board of Directors in crafting a new, long-range strategic plan.

Most recently, she was the Deputy Director at the American Youth Policy Forum, focused on promoting equitable education for all young people by providing professional learning opportunities to policymakers. She oversaw AYPF’s DEI efforts, as well as instituting innovative staff professional development. An educator at heart, she has worked consistently in the fields of education reform from her teaching days in her native South Africa to dissertation research for her doctorate on Soviet education reform. She currently also serves as adjunct faculty at the George Washington University’s School of Business, teaching a class on career management strategy.

Dr. Goodwin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, a Higher Diploma of Education from the University of Cape Town, master’s degrees from Wesleyan University and the University of Washington, in History and Political Science, and a Ph.D. in History from Princeton University.

Closing Keynote: 1:45-2:45 PM ET

The Time Is Now: Students Take the Driver’s Seat to Share Reflections on the Past to Inform Innovative, Student-Centered Education Transformation for the Future

We are at an inflection point. Ensuring student success requires a radical shift, one that prioritizes student-centered learning and students as agents. Join Jemar Lee — a young, nationally respected advocate for learner-centered education and an educational entrepreneur — in conversation with four high school students. Learn from the students’ experiences over the past 20 months, realizations from remote learning, and aspirations for the future of school that adequately meets their needs.

Torin Hodgman headshot

Torin Hodgman, Senior, Grand Rapids Public Museum High School
Torin Hodgman is a senior at the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School. They are a part of a few organizations where they volunteer their time, some being GRPS, Comprehensive Therapy Center, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, XQ, the Grand Rapids Civic Theater, and more. At their school, Torin and two other students have created a skeleton to a system called the Super Advocates. Their goal for the Super Advocates is to be a student-led advocacy board whose focus is to combat injustice and inequity within their school. Their goal is to amplify student voices and create a space for their stakeholders (students, staff, parents, and guardians) to be heard and seen. Currently, they are trial-running this system at their school, calling it the Grand Rapids Public Museum High School Super Advocates. Torin and their team look forward to continuing their work for Super Advocates as their senior capstone project as well as working with other organizations/teams like XQ.

Mark Holden headshot

Mark Holden, 2021 Graduate, Ponaganset High School
Mark Holden is a 2021 graduate of Ponaganset High School, where he served as the senior class president and took part in a wide range of in-school clubs and teams such as soccer, mathletes, and the voter registration group. He also took part in a group of students that are introducing a new student government system for the school, and as a senior passion project he attempted to push for a life skills pathway. His favorite part about going to Ponaganset is the connection he built with his teachers. He feels blessed by having supportive and open-minded teachers who want to see the best out of their students — not just in class, but in life, as well.

Daniella Munoz head shot

Daniella Munoz, 10th Grade Student, PSI High
Daniella Munoz is a 10th grade student at PSI High. She is a competitive swimmer and an ambassador at her school. Her goal is to make a change in the world and help improve high schools. She likes to state her mind and express her voice on what she believes in. Her philosophy is that when it comes to school, students are number one because schools are designed for students to learn.

Zoey Young headshot

Zoey Young, 2021 Graduate, Iowa BIG; Freshman, Lake Forest College
Zoey Young is a 2021 graduate of Iowa BIG and a current freshman at Lake Forest College in Illinois, where she plans to major in Biology/Environmental Science. She is not only passionate about the environment and maintaining biodiversity, but she is also dedicated to helping students realize their full potential. During her time in high school, she was a member of the Student Advisory Committee at XQ Institute where she served as a student advocate. She shared her insights on her high school experience, assisted in XQ’s design process, and supported the organization’s storytelling efforts across their digital platforms. Most recently, Zoey co-designed XQ’s first-ever student-led Community Practice event where she spoke on behalf of herself and her peers to an audience of school leaders from around the country to help them gain insight on how we can help prepare students for success. Zoey is in the perfect position to give a perspective that is both now and next focused. She can speak to what has worked, what doesn’t, and what high school students currently need. She believes high schools should be better and she is doing what she can to make that happen.

Jemar Lee headshot

Facilitator: Jemar Lee, Graduate, Iowa BIG; Fellow, Education Reimagined; Senior, Morningside University
Jemar Lee is alumnus of Iowa BIG and a current senior at Morningside University in Sioux City, Iowa. At Morningside, Jemar is pursuing a double majoring in Business Administration and Public Policy & Social Entrepreneurship and completing minors concentrated in Sociology and Pre-Legal studies. He will be serving as the University’s Omicron Delta Kappa president, a national leadership honor society, for the year. Aside from academics, Jemar has a passion for transforming the education system to ensure all students experience an education that is built off of equity and assures that no matter what background, ethnicity, or social-economic status that one will succeed. By doing this, he serves as a fellow with Education Reimagined, a national nonprofit based in Washington DC committed to the creation of a just and inclusive world where every child is loved, honored, and supported – working to make learner-centered education available to and of high-quality for every child in the country, regardless of race, background, or circumstance. In addition, he serves as a Future of School Ambassador. This has led him to speak and present at many conferences around the country, including SXSWedu, Aurora Institute, Education Elements, LEAP Innovations, Congress Staffers: Cannon House Office Building, 2018 Iowa Governor’s Future Ready Iowa Summit, and much more. Jemar will be graduating from Morningside University in May of 2022.