A group of recent Penn graduates launched a nonprofit this summer aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of public education in the United States, beginning in Philadelphia.
The Education Association of America, founded by 2020 College graduates Aiden Gonzalez and Mark Rook and 2018 Wharton graduate Tanner Bowen, aspires to change education at the local and national level by writing articles and remodeling school curriculum based on research and data.
Gonzalez, who is EAA president, said that between 2000 and 2016, there has been an 18% increase in federal education spending per pupil in public high schools. Yet, international test scores for reading and math have remained average and decreased, respectively, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“It's clear that whatever we're doing is not working very well,” Gonzalez said.
Rook, EAA vice president of operations, said that EAA's approach to the problem is make sure all of the organization's projects are research and data driven.
EAA’s primary project is to construct a team of experts, including professors and educational policy experts from around the country, to design a math curriculum for eighth graders in Philadelphia and then test it in a classroom setting.
Rook said they hope that the project will be approved by the Office of Research and Evaluation of the School District of Philadelphia by next semester so that EAA will have results on its case study with the remodeled eighth grade math curriculum by the end of the school year. If the curriculum is shown to be effective, EAA will expand the curriculum to reach more students.
The organization is also working on writing and publishing articles to establish the organization’s scholarly views based on a broad range of research. This information will later be transformed into workshops for students and teachers, Rook said.
2020 College graduate and EAA Director of Strategy Mer Fagliano said that once the EAA builds a presence and academic credibility in Philadelphia, it plans to collaborate with other educational organizations and expand to other cities and states to eventually develop a variety of national projects.
“The ultimate goal, of course, is to actually render better results,” Gonzalez said. “While we're currently attacking this in very small increments, we want to expand also into traditional learning and be involved in every aspect of classroom education from literacy to math to science.”
During their time as undergraduate students at Penn, Rook and Gonzalez helped teach international relations classes at high schools across the Greater Philadelphia area and host the annual spring Penn International Relations Conference for high school students, which motivated them to focus their efforts on Philadelphia.
Gonzalez said the team hopes to work directly with educators, school administrators, local and state government officials, as well as cognitive and educational scientists.
Since the organization's launch, 2020 College graduate Eva Lardizabal has also joined the team. EAA is looking to recruit more Penn graduates and students to join their team.
“It's a message of hope that you don't have to stop working with the people that you are friends with and the people that you work with just because you graduate,” Rook said.