Ke Wu knows how having the right people and resources leading your education can make all the difference, and she wants to make sure students get what they need, no matter where they live.
Explain what led you to care deeply about educational equity. What personal values, experiences or beliefs inform this?
There was a slow and steady climb to the moment I developed a political consciousness. It happened during my freshman year of college while teaching fifth graders in Title I elementary schools near Arizona State University. In one classroom after another, at one school after another, I met fifth grade English language learners who were not getting additional language supports and struggling to follow along. This issue in particular strikes close to home for me and made me all the more aware of just how lucky I was because I had those supports growing up.
After emigrating from China to Arizona, I ended up in a first grade classroom at a Title I elementary school with a teacher focused on literacy who made sure I received additional supports, and then, a middle school where my English Language Arts teacher helped me develop the words to express that I, too, am America. These are just a couple of the empowering public education experiences that shaped who I am today.
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?
My first real engagement with LEE was through the Bay Area director of regional impact. During our half-hour coffee conversation, she asked me questions that pushed me to question how I think about my Asian identity, my reservations about becoming visible on a political platform, and my hesitation to consider myself a leader.
These are topics I continue to wrestle with in partnership with fellow LEE members I met through programming like the Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship (PASF), the APIA Political Leadership Program (APIAPLP), and the Bay Area Diversity in Public Leadership Summit. In fact, I came to my current role as a direct result of a sequence of experiences that began with my PASF in 2015.
LEE has served a critical role in my personal and professional growth in recent years by giving me experiences that push me to refine my theory of change and commit to a role or roles I hope will help me transform this theory into reality.
What is your vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S.?
In my current work, my vision for ending educational inequity in the U.S. is for all those working in the education system to align our efforts and capitalize on our collective knowledge of what works and what doesn’t to identify, implement, and sustain solutions given our diverse local contexts. In other words, I think we can tackle educational inequity by getting better at getting better. I see what I do as part of a movement to shift the former mode of education reform by empowering those who work on the front lines and engaging diverse stakeholders in a way that transforms hearts and minds for the betterment of students.
What do you see as your role in achieving this vision?
As I learn more about our education system, my views about my potential role evolve. At one point, I thought my role was to teach students well, and at this moment, I still think this role exists in my near future. Then, I thought my role was to advocate for a national right to education and define that right based upon the idea of a democratic education. But this role, in some ways, relies on timing and the national climate.
For now, I see my role as helping people understand their problem and the system that produces it, test possible change ideas as part of their theory of improvement, and fail fast to learn quickly to identify high leverage changes in their local contexts that are actually moving the needle on student outcomes. I’m continuing on a learning journey through which I hope to use my skills to improve educational outcomes.