12 Aug, 2022
Envision Education is a public charter school network with schools in Oakland, Hayward, and San Francisco, all working toward the mission to “transform the lives of students – especially those who will be the first in their family to attend college – by preparing them for success in college, career, and life.” The organization was founded by Bob Lenz, an award-winning teacher and nationally recognized school reform leader, and Daniel McLaughlin, a Senior Research Associate at WestEd. Envision’s inception aimed to shift education from a system of just checking boxes to one that is meaningfully engaging students, motivating them to learn, and understanding individual student needs. Over the past 11 years, school leader Gia Troung has effectively led this charge, expanding the network in Oakland and Hayward high schools to serve middle grades, as well as seeing a network-wide 4-year college acceptance rate increase from about 60% to an impressive 90%. Over the summer of 2022, Envision welcomed new CEO Jillian Juman who brings over 20 years of experience in education, and a strong commitment to providing quality education to students.
We had an opportunity to connect with Monica Alatorre, Director of Development and Communications, to gain some insight into Envision. Envision’s school model aims to empower students, maintain a college-going culture, while at the same time setting a high bar for students. At the heart of the model is their signature Portfolio Defense Model, and their Graduate Profile. The Portfolio Defense Model challenges learners to make and support claims about targeted skills by curating samples of their work into a portfolio, and defending their claims in an evaluated presentation. Students are required to complete a portfolio defense in 8th, 10th, and 12th grade. At Envision, 12th graders demonstrate readiness for success in college and future careers through their Graduate Profile. This model showcases a student’s expertise in academic content, their ability to do real-world work and reflect on their own learning and growth. Results speak for themselves – of the 81 students in Envision Academy’s 2022 graduating class, 91% were accepted into 4-year colleges, 100% of Black and Latinx students fulfilled A-G college eligibility requirements for UC and CSU schools, and 27 students were recipients of the Oakland Promise Scholarship! Even with such incredible achievements, Alatorre says they have more to work toward, “Our ultimate goal is to have 95% of students across the network accepted into 4-year colleges.”
Alatorre explained, “As a parent I was excited for my son when he entered school, and wanted him to have an excellent experience with exciting teachers, but after 5th grade he didn’t find an environment that excited him or teachers that inspired him.” The turning point for her son was when he transferred to Envision Academy, Envision’s Oakland campus, for his Junior year of high school. “When he got to Envision, the teachers were amazing. They helped him see himself as smart and capable. It was exactly what I had always hoped for for my kid.” Alatorre even had the opportunity to see her son’s senior year Portfolio Defense, and said, “All of it was next-step, next-level metacognition happening in front of us. He was reflecting on his strengths and weaknesses as a student and what he’s learned. You don’t get to see that as a parent.”
If Envision could have three wishes, Alatorre says they would wish for:
As Envision looks ahead, there’s much to be excited about! This summer Envision’s leadership team began the work of determining what initiatives they’d pursue over the next 1-5 years. Alatorre noted that Envision would continue to expand Anti-racist pro-Black work across the organization and think about what structures are needed to support and unify teachers, students, and families as a community. The organization also plans to focus efforts on strategic professional development for teachers, paying close attention to onboarding and support. Speaking to Jillian Juman joining the organization, Alatorre says, “what struck Jillian the most was that even after one of the hardest years, teachers were still talking about how to improve and continue to collaborate in service of students. Teachers are exhausted and still thinking about what they need to do to be better teachers so students can learn more and be better equipped.” Envision hopes that strategically coalescing teams of new and veteran teachers and upgrading professional development opportunities will help teachers feel supported while continuing to center energy on student experiences and outcomes.
To keep up with Envision and receive the latest updates on their work, subscribe to their newsletter or connect on social media Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, LinkedIn. Be sure to check out A Pragmatic Playbook for Impact: Direct, Widespread, and Systemic, a case study from Bellwether Education Partners and New Profit that examines how Envision is able to deepen impact and share their performance assessment model with schools and districts nationwide! Want to join the stellar team at Envision? They are currently hiring a Chief of Staff and Chief Academic Officer, and has multiple teaching and support staff openings at their school sites for teachers who are looking for an incredible collaborative, innovative environment.
Written and edited by Bonnie Look and Kate Ray.