Russlynn Ali has been a leading advocate for educational equity for more than two decades. As Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education during President Obama’s first term, Ali spearheaded the federal government’s renewed engagement with equity issues in schools across the nation. Previously, Ali was a founding Executive Director of Education Trust-West; and Vice President of the Education Trust.
Ali is Managing Director of the Education Fund at Emerson Collective and CEO and co-founder—with Laurene Powell Jobs—of XQ Institute. XQ is committed to transforming public high schools to close achievement and opportunity gaps, and to making schools the center of community revitalization. For Ali, education is America’s central civil rights issue today.
In 2015, XQ launched with an open call to the nation to design the high school of the future. Within a few months, XQ had rallied tens of thousands of people from all 50 states around the idea of innovative, student-centered high schools that prepare all young people for tomorrow’s world. XQ helps communities rethink their high schools by supporting locally-driven redesign and by open-sourcing everything XQ does and everything the XQ schools are learning to inspire redesign across the country.
Because of her commitment to research-driven innovation, Ali points to the latest neuroscience on adolescent learning, which proves that high school is not too late for struggling students to fulfill their promise as learners. She also knows that the high schools of the future must be grounded in the best of what’s known about effective, equitable learning environments.
Ali began her career as a classroom teacher. She’s now an attorney and advocate who believes that what’s needed today is a powerful movement to bring American education into the 21st century.