How We Work

Aspen Education grounds our work in the same theory of change that has guided the Aspen Institute since 1949: dialogue across lines of differences to advance values-based leadership that drives action to address the most challenging problems. We convene groups that are diverse by design – policymakers and practitioners, union leaders and reformers, Republicans and Democrats – to question conventional wisdom, elevate evidence over ideology, and promote innovation that addresses vexing challenges. By providing off-the-record venues for authentic learning and honest dialogue, and producing a range of resources and tools, Aspen Education assists education leaders in designing, implementing, and continuously improving policy and practice – turning insights into actions that improve public education.

Current Priorities:

  • Embracing a richer vision of student success that integrates social, emotional, and academic dimensions of learning into the fabric of schools and the student experience as essential to advancing equity.
  • Fostering coherence and continuous improvement practices at the system level which is vital to enabling a richer vision of student success to take hold and thrive
  • Developing education leaders to more authentically engage communities, transcend political and ideological debates, and build diverse coalitions for transformation in learning.
  • Understanding and addressing poverty in America by fostering connections across education and: housing, health and nutrition, transportation, and criminal justice policy and addressing the impact of race and racism on opportunity in America.

Featured Tools, Publications, and Blogs on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development

Tools and Publications


Human Capital and Professional Learning

Teachers are far and away the most important resource for student learning. Aspen Education partners with education leaders to develop strategies that strengthen the recruitment, development, and retention of effective educators. The Aspen Education Program advances a vision of professional learning that integrates teacher evaluation, teacher leadership, and organizational learning to elevate the teaching profession and improve instruction at scale.

Through our work with federal and state policymakers and district practitioner leaders, Aspen Education surfaces practical policy solutions to support robust professional learning and educator evaluation systems. We identify opportunities to forge coherence and embed a vision of excellence across the myriad policies that shape the teaching profession.

We also work within our network of large urban school districts and charter management organizations to explore how they can cultivate effective professional learning practice in their systems.

Featured Tools, Publications, and Blogs on Human Capital and Professional Learning

Tools and Publications



      Leadership Development and Support

      Policy provides resources, regulations, and reward structures that shape the work of schools. Aspen Education draws on the lessons learned in our deep work with practitioner leaders to create learning opportunities for policymakers and to facilitate policy development discussions.

      Across the country, states, districts, and national partners are working hard to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the most recent reauthorization of the federal education law. The Program’s position at the nexus of policy and practice helps to strengthen and inform our work on ESSA implementation. Aspen Education supports these efforts by providing thought partnership, convening leaders across contexts, and publishing tools and reports. The Program is primarily focused on two main area of ESSA implementation:

      • Focusing attention on ESSA’s core purpose of advancing equity in education and
      • Developing frameworks for state and district leaders to clearly define their relative roles and responsibilities, and facilitating coordination of efforts across traditional silos of work and different levels of governance to improve policy design and implementation.

      For more than ten years, the Program has convened seminars, retreats, and site visits for senior Congressional education staffers, creating a safe space away from the partisanship of Capitol Hill for them to learn from practitioner leaders and state policymakers about how federal policy affected practice. Likewise, our ongoing work with networks of senior leaders in large urban school districts and charter management organizations across the country provides a venue for practitioner leaders to develop their skills as leaders on policy and to surface their perspectives on how policy can improve public education.


      Featured Tools, Publications, and Blogs

      Tools and Publications

      • Changing of the Guard: New Opportunities for State Leadership (December 2018) – We convened a broad bipartisan group of stakeholders to create new resources for policymakers, parents and students to design and implement effective, research-based education policy. The tools focus on creating true equity in education with parents, students, and the state’s workforce needs placed front and center.
      • Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Education Chiefs (February 2017) – Leading for Equity outlines 10 commitments state chiefs and their state education agencies can make to advance educational equity for all students, regardless of background.
      • Advancing Equity through ESSA: Strategies for State Leaders (October 2016) – This framework is designed to help states make the most of this important opportunity. This framework examines eight equity priorities that states already are pursuing and identifies multiple provisions in ESSA that states can use to address each priority.
      • Roles and Responsibilities of the State Education Agency (December 2015) This discussion guide challenges state chiefs and their leadership teams to consider their local context and capacity in determining essential, possible, and unsuitable roles for their agency.
      • State Education Policy Checklist (updated 2018) This resource, co-developed with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, offers a clear framework for state legislators to aid the development of new education policies.



      Our Supporters
      The following organizations provide philanthropic support to advance Aspen Education’s mission to achieve equity for students of color and children from low-income backgrounds:

      • Carnegie Corporation
      • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
      • Gates Foundation
      • Joyce Foundation
      • Oak Foundation
      • Silicon Valley Community Foundation