Tameka McGlawn

October 19, 2015

Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.

This month the spotlight is on Dr. Tameka McGlawn, Director, Equity and Impact, ConnectEd

We spoke with Tameka about her current role at ConnectEd and her interest in education reform. 


What do you currently do and why?
Currently, I serve as the Director of Equity and Impact at ConnectEd California: The Center for College and Career. My areas of leadership include research, data and impact analysis and quality accountability engagements that aim to systemically ensure college and career readiness for California’s students through the effective implementation of the Linked Learning approach in schools and in districts. Linked Learning was initially designed as a strategy for high school transformation; however, the focus has shifted and now also includes system change at every level in public education, to include higher education and access to a full range of postsecondary opportunities. Also, my team is responsible for supporting the collaborative development of the fourth component of Linked Learning, Integrated Student Supports. We are also focused on the effective use of time (Expanded Learning Time) in alignment with implementing high quality and rigorous learning experiences beyond the classroom. Lastly, every aspect of my work is anchored in achieving institutional equity in the Linked Learning context that results in significant life-changing outcomes for students.
Why do I do this work? It’s my purpose, and I am a reflection of the students I serve. Through my evolutionary work in the field of public education, my commitment has always been about serving excellence to other people’s children through creating equitable systems for all, while deconstructing institutionalized systems of oppression, inequities and marginalization. I believe that my experiences serve as the “lens” that motivates my purpose as a transformational servant leader. I have been honored in each experience to be used as a catalyst to drive sustainable change, disrupt structural patterns of inequity in public education and always strive to service  other people’s children as I would my own.
What is your background and how did you get to where you are today (please speak about your teaching experience as well)?
Great question, yet difficult to answer in short. I was born in Oxford Mississippi and spent a considerable amount of time with my grandmother who had been a teacher in Mississippi schools for 52 years, my true first teacher. Moving to the Washington D.C. area at age 9 proved to be quite adventurous. Having “hoop dreams” like most urban youth at that time, I eventually was fortunate enough to receive an athletic-scholarship and moved to California and have lived here since. Although I’ve served urban learning communities at every academic level (K-20) and in a myriad of settings and professional roles, I will always consider myself a teacher first. For example, over the course of my career I have served as a Mentor Counselor for San Diego USD, Adjunct Faculty at San Diego State University (SDSU), and designed one of the first comprehensive and integrated counseling models at Harriet Tubman Village Charter School. I have always found it essentially important to live the career of an action researcher where I could innovate, implement and assess effectiveness of performance and actual change. 
A few of my research interests have included strategic educational reform design planning and operations, effective systemic accountability and capacity development, the integration of Culturally Responsive Pedagogy and leadership, and the collective trust it takes to build alliances through asset-driven community leadership and convening.  Prior to joining the ConnectEd California team I served as the Senior Associate for Linked Learning at EdTrust-West, where I led assessments of the California Linked Learning District Initiative with a laser focus on equitable access and outcomes for students, district-system implementation fidelity, as well as effective curriculum and instructional strategies delivered through Linked Learning pathways. Prior to moving to the Bay Area, I served as the Instructional Dean of Students at Construction Technology Academy at Kearny High which was one of the first certified Linked Learning pathways in California.
What is your vision in the work that you currently doing?
The stated purpose of the Linked Learning Equity, Access and Choice Advisory Committee that I have co-chaired with Dr. Rose Owens-West, the Director of the Region IX Equity Assistance Center at WestEd, is “to combat educational inequities in school districts and communities across California through a Linked Learning approach that transforms high schools and results in equitable outcomes for all.” In the work that I currently lead, I envision that my contributions to actualize equity through Linked Learning will be reflected by what I think, say and do. I have become anchored in the ideology that it is imperative to define individual and organizational expectations from a perspective of authentic service to learning communities, versus that of individualized adult convenience. I believe that this disposition is vital in the business of building the capacity required to educate all children effectively, which is the standard I hold in my work. When I think of delivering on the vision, purpose and promise of Linked Learning, this is what I see:
  • That my contributions, along with those that I partner with will continue to work to ensure that Linked Learning is implemented with intention, fidelity, high quality and results in life changing choices, options and outcomes for students, their families and their communities.
  • That the leadership of the Linked Learning field represents the beautiful diversity of the state of California. In addition, across the areas of policy, research, practice in the Linked Learning Network every action, decision and adult behavior is evident of that which is beholding to the best standard for all students, parents and communities, with a focus on demonstrating excellence and equity by design.
  • That the fourth, and in my professional opinion the quintessential component of Linked Learning (Integrated Student Supports) is fully defined, has targeted adult and student outcomes and becomes the driver for ensuring institutional and transformational equity in public education.
  • That I remain an inquiry-oriented and innovative leader who diligently models leadership integrity, action through committed work and continue to demonstrate steadfast courage, even when it is unpopular.
  • That I am able to influence meaningful change in my life time; where I can provide support, professional learning and deepen capacity with others to understand that excellence and equity are mutually compatible goals and truly become the actionable responsibility of policy-makers, educators, researchers, community leaders, business partners and those interested in a thriving America work collectively and collaboratively  to ensure that structural barriers are eliminated and all children have the opportunity to learn and thrive.
What does equity mean in the Linked Learning context, and what does success in the area of equity and diversity “look like” to you?
Dr. Nancy Farnan, Interim Associate Dean at San Diego State University who led the first ever network of teacher preparation institutions in California to prepare new secondary teachers with the unique skills and abilities to teach effectively in Linked Learning pathway programs and career academies and is also one of our valued members of the Linked Learning Equity, Access and Choice Advisory Committee provided this definition in the earlier working years of the committee:
In education it is critical to be purposeful and specific in ensuring that social justice pervades policies and practices. Use of the term educational equity implies a critical recognition and affirmation that U.S. public K-12 education historically has been inherently unjust and unfair, specifically as relates to pedagogy, resources, and access. It is critical to ensure that education and schooling do not continue to replicate past social patterns that have resulted in reinforcing class divisions and unequal opportunities for success. It is critical to ensure that educational structures and practices do not privilege one group or student over another; and it is critical that these structures and practices are responsive to the needs of all students and are designed to ensure that each individual has the skills, knowledge, and proficiencies to be prepared for success not only in school, but in life. Educational equity is about fairness and social justice, which are not necessarily synonymous with identical treatment for all. Rather, equity is guided by a focus on leveling the field in ways that ensure access for all students to high quality teachers and instructional best practices; educational resources; humane and effective support services (e.g., for English learners, special needs students, and others); engaging, authentic, and culturally relevant curriculum; and voice in developing appropriate educational policies.         
Quite simply equity is having the capacity to give all students what they need while recognizing that all students are not the same, the above presented definition deeply resonates with me and embodies what I know equity can “look like” in the Linked Learning context. Even in the Linked Learning field we cannot honestly discuss the value of transforming public education unless we recognize value, honor and embrace the assets of “diversity”.
How will you measure the success of your efforts and contributions?
I will measure and know that I/we are making progress when the representative backgrounds of our students (race and class) cease to persist as predictors of achievement; the public education system’s infamous “achievement gap” will no longer reflect other relevant disparities like income, employment, health, housing and that the disproportionate representation of people of color in the “school to prison” pipeline has diminished; and finally that those entrusted to serve in America’s schools are in the business of serving excellence to other people’s children just as they would their own.

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- Aaron Lemos, Spring 2013 UCCI Institutes