Julie A. Evans: An Opportunity to Speak Up

Authentic feedback from those who really matter has been her longtime mission. 

HONOREE PROFILE | by Victor Rivero

It all started in the spring of 2003 when Dr. Julie A. Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, walked out of her third education conference session that year. A panel of experts was sharing their views on how students wanted to use technology for learning, but Dr. Evans knew those views did not reflect the real aspirations of students. Just as the students did not have a voice in that room, they also did not have a voice in the decisions that were being made in their schools and communities about digital learning. That moment was the catalyst for the creation of the Speak Up Research Project by Dr. Evans.

With Speak Up, all students (and subsequently, parents, teachers, librarians, community members and administrators) can share their hopes and dreams for using technology effectively for learning with decision-makers. Since 2003, over 5.7 million K-12 students, educators and parents have participated in the Speak Up Project representing over 35,000 schools from across the U.S. and the world.

‘Since 2003, over 5.7 million K-12 students, educators and parents have participated in the Speak Up Project representing over 35,000 schools from across the U.S. and the world.’

Speak Up is the definitive source of authentic feedback from K-12 stakeholders and each year education, policy and business leaders use the findings to inform programs, policies and funding for education.

Dr. Evans is the chief researcher and writer for the Speak Up Project and shares the national findings annually in over 40 presentations and webinars. Dr. Evans is the longest serving woman CEO in the education technology nonprofit sector.

Her visionary leadership and commitment to the voices of students has transformed the edtech sector. 

Through their reports, infographics and briefings, the Speak Up data is used annually to inform education programs, policies and funding at the federal, state and local levels.

As part of their latest work, the new Speak Up Planning Survey about Needs for Remote Online Learning is now open now for input from school and district leaders.

“Lots of people are providing suggestions as to what that new funding should include, anticipated to be as much as $2 billion,” writes Dr. Evans. The suggestion lists include WiFi hotspots, Chromebooks, tablets, laptops, content filtering, digital content, teacher training and more.

“All are important and necessary,” she writes, “but the real problem is that many school and district leaders have not been given an opportunity to weigh in on what they really need in their local communities and how the new funding will impact continuity of learning in their district and community.”

True to her mission, in this latest set of circumstances, Dr. Evans advocates for the most authentic approach possible. “These decisions are too important to make based upon a hunch, a guess, an outdated assumption or even the wish list of a lobbyist. Let’s get real about this and listen to the experts on the front lines about what they really need.”

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