A Beacon of 12 Shining Lights

Type: Article
Topics: Curriculum & Assessment, District & School Operations, Equity, School Administrator Magazine

September 01, 2022

Mort Sherman & Bill Daggett
Mort Sherman (left), senior associate director at AASA, and Bill Daggett, chair of AASA’s National Commission on Student-Centered, Equity-Focused, Future-Driven Education, co-direct the Learning 2025 initiative.

For the first time in its 157-year history as a standard bearer for the nation’s education leadership, AASA is recognizing exemplary school districts through its Learning 2025 initiative. Earlier this year, in partnership with the Successful Practices Network, 12 school districts were named Lighthouse systems that will serve to promote positive change in public education.

The designated districts are members of the Learning 2025 Network, a cadre of more than 120 demonstration systems representing forward-leaning, urban, suburban and rural school districts engaged in learning, networking and working together to help drive education policy and ultimately improve student learning.

The goal of the network, created by the National Commission on Student-Centered, Equity-Focused, Future-Driven Education, is to guide Learning 2025 leaders as they chart their progress toward Lighthouse designation in one or more areas of growth. The commission called for identification of exemplary educational systems to serve as beacons of light in key areas of holistic redesign of American education.

A Monthly Spotlight

To help school districts boost their teaching and learning trajectory, School Administrator is launching a new series that will continue over the next 12 months to showcase each of AASA’s Lighthouse school systems. Each column will share the bold and actionable steps these outstanding districts are taking to promote the well-being, self-sufficiency and success of students as well as the broader education communities.

Through this series, readers will have the opportunity to learn about the beacon of light each system is casting to redesign and redefine public education through equity-driven and future-focused best practices in schools.

We hope the personal vignettes generated in the series will encourage opportunities for AASA members to learn from colleagues or “critical friends” and to reflect on the model efforts underway right now in these distinctive school communities.

One of us (Sherman) is inclined to say, “We have the opportunity and the responsibility to be the voice for and to take action on behalf of each and every student in America.” We wonder how many times in the past 50 years a line like that has been written or spoken? How many national commissions, reports, white papers and calls to action have been published? And we wonder how much real or cyber dust they’ve collected over the years.

An Imperative Clarified

So why did AASA create another commission? Why now, and why are we so audacious to think this time we’ll have an impact when so many before us gave it a legitimate, enthusiastic and full-throated try?

We, as a nation, are painfully divided and facing a series of systemic and cultural crises. The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare profound issues that we have known about for decades but have addressed with only minimal success. Confronting and overcoming long-brewing racial, economic and social injustices and disparities so that we may promote and safeguard healthy civic participation for all is the imperative of our day.

For educators, these challenges demand that, by working together, we can lead an ongoing evolution of the public school system so it can equitably and effectively meet the needs of all learners — from children who have been systematically marginalized to those with disabilities to those who benefit from more independence and all in between. Action never has been more urgent or consequential.

The Learning 2025 Commission’s recommendations contained in our report clarify a critical imperative for superintendents, school leaders, school boards, unions and community leaders. While calling for holistic redesign of our schools, this report provides guardrails for change and simultaneous calls for empowerment of districts and schools to enact change in ways best suited to the unique circumstances of their learners, families and communities.

We believe the Lighthouse systems and those on their way to achieving that goal are making these necessary changes and, in doing so, galvanizing our country to action. The profiles from our beacons of light will provide a glimpse of a powerful culture of agency accelerating their achievements for the students of today and tomorrow.

Now more than ever, at a time when public education is getting hammered in every way imaginable, leaders like you, who make up today’s education landscape, have a moral imperative to ask yourself, “If we don’t pay attention to ensure that every child has a smile and a giggle when he or she walks into a classroom and sits down in a learning environment, who else will make that happen?”

A Forward Path

We hope this series through next fall can serve as a catalyst to light the way forward. We hope it provides a pathway for you, during these very challenging times, to catch your breath, look around and acknowledge that public education is working.

While we congratulate our Lighthouse systems and those making efforts to reach that level, we have an opportunity to finally bring our schools into the future and transform them into nimble systems that can personalize and customize instruction and supports for all learners, while simultaneously restoring dignity and honor to teaching and reigniting the joy of learning for all. We invite you to join us in this American imperative.


Bill Daggett & Mort Sherman
About the Authors

Bill Daggett is founder of the Successful Practices Network in Ballston Spa, N.Y.

Mort Sherman is AASA’s senior associate executive director for the leadership network.

This is the first column in a year-long series that will showcase each of the AASA Learning 2025’s Lighthouse school districts.