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ACT’s Renewed Commitments for 2021

Happy New Year! I think we can all look back on the past year as one where a lot did not go as planned, but we learned important lessons that we will carry forward into the New Year.  Last year was truly a bumpy ride and that is why I am so excited to kick off 2021 with a renewed vision for ACT, which is anchored to our long-standing commitment to our mission of helping students achieve education and workplace success. While it’s customary to make resolutions at the start of a New Year, we all know how that usually turns out. Unfortunately, by the first week of February, we’ve all reverted to old behavior and are kicking ourselves for not being stronger. So, instead of resolutions, ACT is committing to being better and stronger in our intentions for this year. With that, I’d like to share ACT’s renewed commitments for 2021.

This year, we will redouble the efforts of our past 60 years, recognizing the realities of the present and launch into a bright future where ACT is intentional, deliberate, and committed to education equity. The worldwide pandemic has been a reckoning for the education ecosystem, exacerbating cruel and systemic inequities for so many students. But with that reckoning also came a reawakening—of passion, of responsibility, of compassion. Leaders and organizations from all around the world stood up to declare that it was time to embrace a new direction—ensuring that all students are able to not only chase their dreams, but also realize them. At ACT, we believe in the power of education; that it can open doors and expand possibilities. And, we are in this fight for the long haul, to ensure that all students—especially those who are facing barriers in access and opportunity, those who are struggling to secure even basic needs, those who are in fear for their safety and identity—are provided the tools, resources, and supports to be successful and whole.

ACT can’t do that alone. We must work across the education and workforce ecosystem, alongside partners, allies, and accomplices to get into what the late civil rights hero Congressman John Lewis called, “good trouble.” I am committed to actively engaging across the education community with leaders and practitioners, students and their families, critics, partners and stakeholders, to engage in deep conversations about where ACT is making a difference, where we are falling short, and how we might work together to solve some of today’s most complex and challenging problems. It will require not only looking outside but also looking inside to see where we need to make changes and think creatively to improve how we are serving all of our stakeholders. We need to challenge assumptions and challenge a system that we know can be better. I’m enthusiastic about this approach, because I believe that together we can move mountains.

One of the strengths that ACT brings to these efforts is our long history of data and research that gives us deep insights into critical issues around student success. For more than 60 years, it has informed everything we do and provided an opportunity for collaboration and creative solutions. I recently spoke with two educators who have made a practice of using ACT’s data to inform the way they serve their students and empower them for success. I want more! I want to ensure that we are providing the most useful information in a way that educators, districts, and states can show up for their students and make meaningful changes to ensure high student achievement. I also want to hear more from students themselves. So much of what’s done in education happens to students instead of with students. We are able to reach students and listen to their voices on topics like the digital divide, school safety and mental health, and even their perceptions around the effects of COVID-19. It’s critical that we continue to engage the student voice as we work to encourage and support them to achieve their goals and dreams.

And, as we are listening to students, we also need to show up for them at every stage of their learning journey. Whether ACT tools, products, services and solutions touch an individual from preschool through K-12, into and through their postsecondary years, and/or during their working life, we aim to provide stepping stones that increase their likelihood of success and decrease the inequitable income and racial gaps that currently exist. Our learners are diverse and so are their needs. Some will need personalized instruction, while others will thrive in a group setting. Some are working learners who require imaginative solutions to scheduling and tailored supports, while still others may follow the traditional path through postsecondary education as full-time students. Some are adult learners, returning students, opportunity youth, students with disabilities or a combination of any of the above. We must strive to serve them all and serve them well.

In order to do any of these things, we must remain future-focused, ready to learn and prepared to grow. We can’t simply rely on our past success. No. The future requires that we innovate, create, and embrace new ways of working. So, while we can turn to data and trusted systems and resources, we must also continuously improve. Reevaluate, adjust, and pivot will be our new normal. We are forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we’ve always done simply won’t serve us well—and it won’t serve students and workers well either. I’m proud to work alongside team members who are also committed to taking a deep look at who we are and what we do and grow toward the future in the spirit of success for all of those we serve.

In the weeks ahead, and throughout 2021, you will learn more about ACT’s strategy for the future and how we are working to live our values around education equity, engaging with partners and stakeholders across the education and workforce ecosystem, employing data for student success, affecting learners across all phases of their learning journey, and growing into the future. I couldn’t be more thrilled to start the New Year with the prospect of these commitments before us. Join me as we work to build a better future, together.