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NUS @ASUGSVSummit: A Commitment to Equity

April 8, 2019

Finding a Network of Opportunity in LA Unified

Dr. Frances Gipson, chief academic officer for one of the nation’s largest districts, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), delivered a powerful presentation entitled “Finding a Network of Opportunity in LA Unified” at the 2019 ASU GSV Summit today. Her talk touched on the district’s commitment to an equity agenda of access, innovation, and acceleration and stirred important dialog among conference attendees.

Dr. Gipson, who currently oversees more than 600,000 K-12 students in the district, is responsible for implementing the district’s instructional plan, which now includes the research-based social emotional learning program, Sanford Harmony. Implemented in LAUSD in the 2017-2018 school year, Sanford Harmony provides teachers with easily-integrated lesson plans and activities that promote positive peer interactions and relationships among students. The program emphasizes the importance of strong communication skills, empathy, critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills – which are increasingly seen as critical to our nation’s future.

Inspiring excerpts from Dr. Gipson’s talk at ASU GSV:

  • “One of the things that I’ve been so grateful for when it comes to great partners, like Sanford Harmony, is that they are willing to dive into the system and work alongside you. This is important because at the end of the day the work we do is about children and making a difference.”
  • “The leaders we need in education right now are the leaders who are unafraid to pick up pebbles, throw them into a pond, and make ripples that will have lasting positive impacts on the children of today. It’s all about ‘Team Kid leadership’ and putting kids and research together to ensure the children of today are on a path toward success.”
  • “We need to dismiss the misconception that academics and social emotional learning are not interconnected and cannot happen concurrently—we need both. However, it’s like a stability ball—you need balance.”
  • “Part of the work we do with Sanford Harmony is to think about how we talk to students. It’s not about the ‘no’s’ and ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’—it’s about the ‘what if’s’ and the possibilities and the mindsets that we create with our students. So, we have to look for new approaches to how we close these gaps.”

In addition to implementing the overall instructional plan for LAUSD, Dr. Gipson also oversees a variety of academic programs, including core elementary and secondary instruction; gifted and talented education; advanced placement courses; and multilingual and multicultural education; and more. Prior to joining the LAUSD, Dr. Gipson acted as principal of the award-winning El Sereno Middle School where she launched dual-language learning in Spanish and Mandarin. Under her leadership, El Sereno went on to become the first California Blue Ribbon school in East Los Angeles.

Social emotional learning approaches, as demonstrated through the Sanford Harmony program, are becoming increasingly recognized as an essential part of youth academic and personal development, as outlined by a recent national report released by the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development on “From a Nation at Risk to a Nation at Hope.”

Sanford Harmony, which is being provided at no cost to educators and nonprofits, is based out of the private, nonprofit National University System, which is home to one of the Top Ten largest schools of education—the Sanford College of Education—at National University. Based on the vision of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, Sanford Harmony is being used by most of the nation’s largest school districts and reaching more than 6.5 million youth nationwide. Please visit our website to learn more about how your school/district can have access to the program.

About Sanford Harmony
Based out of the National University System, the Sanford Harmony social emotional learning program is being offered at no cost to schools and youth-focused nonprofit organizations, thanks to the generosity of philanthropist T. Denny Sanford in conjunction with the San Diego-based National University System (NUS). NUS is a network of accredited nonprofit education institutions that includes National University, Northcentral University, John F. Kennedy University, City University of Seattle, and the Division of Pre-College Programs. National University is home to one of the Top Ten largest schools of education in the country, the Sanford College of Education. Nationwide, Sanford Harmony is being expanded to the nation’s largest school districts. For more information, please visit our website.