USC’s Center EDGE announces awardees of education solutions exchange

July 21, 2021

Transformative international challenge solicited scalable strategies to help districts, schools and students coping with the pandemic

By Rossier Staff

The USC Rossier Center for Engagement-Driven Global Education (Center EDGE), Andrew Nikou Foundation and IDEO announced 56 selections, as part of a first-of-its-kind initiative to crowdsource solutions from educators, parents and students to help schools navigate the many challenges they face returning this fall. These solutions, which came from across the world, will be featured on the Education Solutions Exchange—a public repository of ongoing, high-quality, achievable and scalable ideas that can be implemented for free in schools as early as fall 2021.

Amidst the pandemic, entire education ecosystems have been upended locally, regionally, and globally. Fundamental defects and structural issues have been exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19, whether it be on teaching and learning, equity or social-emotional fronts.

“From the digital divide to the massive learning losses due to the pandemic, the education system is being confronted with a host of challenges on a scale not seen in modern history,” said Alan Arkatov, founding director of Center EDGE. “The Education Solutions Exchange is an exciting outgrowth of what we learned early in the pandemic—that creative, relevant and relatively simple solutions can bring a quantifiable voice to those on the front lines of education, and can have impact in timely, effective and efficient ways.”

In response to the historic challenges facing students, Center EDGE and its partners formed The Education (Re)Open this spring, an online challenge to prioritize the voices of key stakeholders, and solicit ideas from students, teachers, parents and leaders from the public, independent and parochial school sectors, along with experts from across the globe. The Education (Re)Open not only solicited new ideas, but the submission of ideas that were working in classrooms, schools or homes that could be effectively scaled across broader education ecosystems.

Through these partnerships and IDEO’s human centered design platform for The Education (Re)Open, the need for what started as a unique crowdsourcing opportunity for time-sensitive solutions has created a demand for a new type of education clearinghouse—the Education Solutions Exchange—that can provide high quality and implementable recommendations in simple and accessible ways.

The Education (Re)Open received hundreds of submissions from 42 states in the U.S. and 34 countries. After a vigorous two-month submission, vetting, coaching, refinement and judging process, 56 solutions were identified to be part of the Education Solutions Exchange. Innovators whose solutions are featured on the site each received $1,000 for their participation and dedication to strengthening school communities.

Winning entries, chosen in part for their simplicity and ability to immediately impact students’ needs, include:

  • Mental Health Check In: A simple, low-cost, easily implementable system for students to communicate their emotional wellbeing and give teachers insight into how the class is feeling overall, and in particular to students who may need extra support.
  • The 3 M’s: Media, Middle School, Mindfulness: A curriculum that teaches students to become more discerning with information seen on the internet, and to determine if it’s coming from a trustworthy source, which is especially critical in light of disinformation surrounding the pandemic and vaccines.
  • Core Values in the Community: A program designed to reward students who demonstrate the values of Gratitude, Responsibility, Integrity and Tenacity, and are given “GRITcoin” that can later be spent on things like raffles and pop-up shops at their schools. The program recognizes that students are anxious about returning to school, and yet they can be inspired to turn those feelings into something positive.
  • A Trusted Space: a free, cutting-edge, research-based film and curriculum for educators on how to help mitigate the effects of the grief, trauma, anxiety and other emotional stressors that so many students are facing.

“The L.A. County Office of Education and the Greater L.A. Education Foundation are excited about crowdsourcing innovative solutions from those that know education best—our educators, parents, and students,” said Dr. Debra Duardo, Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools. “We’re looking forward to working with our 80 superintendents and other district leaders throughout the country to give a real voice to our stakeholders, by curating and implementing selections from the Solutions Exchange that can improve teaching and learning outcomes.”

Lead funding and strategic support was provided by the Andrew Nikou Foundation with additional support provided by Great Public Schools Now, Joseph Drown Foundation, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Annenberg Learner, the Johnny Carson Foundation, Shmoop, Eva Stern, the Khayami Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

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