A unique online think tank, the American Education Think Tank (AETT), has launched in Washington, D.C. One of the goals of AETT is to assure that a more diverse group of voices is included in the national public debate about issues and solutions in the field of education.
“We really are trying to have a rich, national dialogue that includes all of the people who have an interest, and would like to have a voice, in talking about the education of their children,” said Dr. Bobby Austin, an author, longtime educator and former Vice President of the University of the District of Columbia. He will be the Managing Director of the online think tank. “My job is to build a new community and I will build it by keeping the conversation going and by reaching out to more and more pockets of our community,” said Dr. Austin, whose 1996 report for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Repairing the Breach, was described by late Washington Post columnist Bill Raspberry as the, "plan to save America."
Over the next year, 80 bloggers known as “fellows” will introduce an array of ideas and thoughts on education. AETT will gather and analyze all of the information and discussions presented. This analysis will result in periodic papers to create a more successful education for students in the U.S.
The aim of the founders of the AETT will be to engage a diverse segment of the country in redefining the mission of education and developing the method by which that mission is reached. Much of the concern about education today is based on how American school children fare on standard international testing. There is a tremendous achievement gap here. In order to close this gap, AETT believes that the nation’s HBCUs in collaboration with the nation’s majority institutions could play a major role with the nation’s urban and rural school districts.
Said Dr. Austin, “An on-line think tank is an opportunity to use current technology to maximize efforts to gather together people to think about ideas around education. Now a PTA president in Omaha can exchange ideas with an education expert at a North Carolina HBCU or the founder of a successful education program in Denmark.”
The founding of the think tank grew out of one woman’s desire to assure that all children receive the best education to prepare them to become entrepreneurs and competitors in the business world, if they choose. Founder and President/CEO of Washington-based CRP, Dr. Carolyn B. Rudd, said, “I became a successful business woman because I had access to an excellent education and opportunities beyond academia to develop my business acumen. I want to make sure the next generation is even better-prepared than I was to participate in the fast-paced and changing economy.”
Among the blogging “fellows” are deans and professors from HBCUs, parents, and educators in other countries who have created and oversee some of the most innovative programs. Other fellows include world renowned educational innovators, such as Dr. Peter Plenge, Director of Aalborg University in Denmark, who has created a dual—track curriculum in which students create projects with businesses while completing academic studies; and Desmond Bermingham, Global Education Director of Save the Children, United Kingdom.
The AETT Commission members include: Retired U.S. Army Colonel Frank Underwood Sr., Dr. Mary Beth Gasman, a Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and a historian who is one of the leading authorities in the country on HBCUs, and co-founder of Shore Bank in Chicago, Ron Grzywinski.