CUBE Chair Micah Ali talks with a group of students

Like many of you, the question of how to achieve equity at last is constantly on my mind. It is like an incessant drumbeat that reminds me how, despite our gains, there is still much work to be done. I would like to posit that before us are unique opportunities that can help us reach that ultimate goal.

Moving past the status quo will not be easy. Today, many districts are singularly focused on catching students up, mitigating learning loss, and meeting state and federal testing requirements. These are valiant pursuits, but I caution us all not to pursue them with blinders on. We still have the very important charge of preparing for opportunities posed by the economy of tomorrow and the unique—yet challenging—opportunity that COVID presented: for us to reimagine learning models and how to best reach students.

At Compton Unified School District, we took a proactive approach well before the pandemic. We began introducing new education models such as dual enrollment—where students earn college credits while enrolled in high school—and early colleges—a dual enrollment school where students graduate with an associate degree. These programs let students get a head start on college, saving them time and money.

The impact has been undeniable. Our Compton Early College High School was recently ranked by U.S. News as the No. 32 Best School in its California State Rankings. Now, we are continuing to build on these successes and are currently establishing a Pathways in Technology High School—where students will graduate with relevant real-world experience, an industry-recognized associate degree, and a high school diploma.

By incorporating the latest technological innovations and growth sectors into the classroom, we move past merely ensuring our students can perform at parity with their peers and enable them to graduate with a skill set oriented towards the jobs of tomorrow. We must focus on growth sectors like technology, biological sciences, robotics, and other STEAM sectors.

Blockchain technology is one such sector. Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger for recording transactions, tracking assets, and building trust. These jobs are primarily remote, opening new opportunities in communities across America. They also are extremely well paying. Despite the recent volatility, Blockchain technology is here to stay, with many states developing regulations for the industry. By embracing these growth sectors, we advance our goal of achieving equity for all. In fact, offering these opportunities to students does not just advance educational equity: It is a precursor to social and economic equity.

Micah Ali is the 2021-22 chair of the CUBE Steering Committee and president emeritus of California’s Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees.

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