The L.A. Education Exchange

by Stephen Lucasi

USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher, President and CEO of The Education Trust John B. King and USC Rossier Katzman/Ernst Chair for Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation Alan Arkatov at the inaugural L.A. Education Exchange. PHOTO CREDIT: BRIAN MORRI

In November 2018, the USC Rossier School and the Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education (EDGE) hosted the “L.A. Education Exchange,” a first-of-its-kind, two-day gathering for the leadership of L.A.’s public, private and parochial schools. The Exchange also brought together education leaders from across the city, including public officials, philanthropists and representatives from nonprofits, advocacy groups and professional associations.

Though each group shares equally in the goal of making education engaging and effective, they are often at odds over how to achieve success—or even communicate.

“The recent LAUSD teachers’ strike reminded us of multiple realities,” says Alan Arkatov, USC Rossier’s Katzman/Ernst Chair for Educational Entrepreneurship, Technology and Innovation, “including the sad fact that L.A.’s educational leadership is very siloed.”

“It can be easy—sometimes even comforting—to stick to what we know while we dismiss good ideas that don’t come from our own camp,” Dean Karen Symms Gallagher said during the event. “But it’s incumbent on the Rossier School to do the hard things, start the hard conversations and put the hard-learned lessons to work.”

Those hard conversations commenced during “Bridging Suppers,” hosted by philanthropists who generously opened their homes. Through carefully facilitated discussions, participants who might not have otherwise met connected deeply across differing backgrounds, beliefs and identities.

Participants spent the next day in equally intense guided conversations. They explored diverse perspectives on key issues in 21st-century education, including equity, mental health, media immersion, community engagement and creativity.

To ensure that these conversations continue moving forward in productive ways, the group will reconvene in May to discuss the crucial roles of storytelling and communications in educational coalition-building, joined by Sal Khan, founder and CEO of the innovative Khan Academy.

“I am heartened by the efforts that USC Rossier and EDGE are leading,” says participant John B. King, the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education and president and CEO of The Education Trust. “I am looking forward to the conversations that we began last fall continuing, for the benefit of our students.”