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Key Takeaways From the 2021 ASU+GSV Conference

Chief learning officer Rebecca Berlin shares themes and highlights from this year’s ASU+GSV conference, which featured Start Early president Diana Rauner and other early childhood leaders.

Rebecca Berlin August 30, 2021
  • Start Early News
  • Early Learning and Care
  • Equity
  • Professional Development
  • Presentation

In-person conferences are back! This August, Start Early president Diana Rauner and I joined leading minds in technology and education from across the country in San Diego for the 2021 ASU+GSV Summit. With awareness of the importance of early childhood education and the care economy at an all-time high, more than a dozen sessions at this year’s conference explored critical issues facing our field, including kindergarten readiness, equity and workforce development.

Increased Need for Social & Emotional Supports

As we enter the start of another program and school year, children will need continued support and attention, particularly in areas of social and emotional support. We know children will be bringing the trauma that they and their families experienced in the last 18 months to school with them. As one attendee noted, they will be “bringing it in their backpacks and putting it on the table.” We also need to acknowledge the extreme stress and trauma that teachers have experienced and support them through this difficult time.

Start Early president Diana Rauner joined Walter Gilliam (Yale University), Shantel Meek (Children’s Equity Project at Arizona State University) and Janice Jackson (Chicago Public Schools) for a discussion examining kindergarten readiness through the lens of disparities in suspensions, expulsions and placement in special education that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and threaten children of color’s access to education.

Meeting the Moment: The Economic Imperative of Early Childhood Education

The pandemic highlighted how essential early learning and care is to help parents return to work and support the economy. Diana joined Barbara Cooper (Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education), Rhian Allvin (National Association for the Education of Young Children), and Jane Swift (LearnLaunch) for a conversation that explored two other themes critical to the economic imperative of early childhood education: the critical need for workforce development for our current early childhood workforce and how early learning and care supports the development of our children, the workforce of the future. Diana stressed that early childhood education has a triple bottom line — it allows people to work, grows small businesses and most importantly, supports the development of children.

Every School & Community Ready to Serve Children & Families

Finally, I was excited to lead a panel on something close to my heart: flipping the narrative of the school readiness conversation. Rather than ask what we are going to do to make sure children are ready — a question that puts the burden on children and families — we need to think about how schools and communities can be ready for children as kindergarten begins.

Joined by Sophie Turnbull Bosmeny (Khan Academy Kids), Kai-lee Berke (Noni Educational Solutions), Henry Wilde (Acelero Learning), Andy Myers ( and James Ruben (Hellosaurus), our panel explored how we can take advantage of the current moment to ensure all children are equally ready for school.

For more content from this year’s ASU+GSV Summit on early childhood education and the care economy, visit the conference’s website or YouTube channel.

About the Author

Rebecca Berlin headshot

Rebecca Berlin

Former Chief Learning Officer

A former Chief Learning Officer, Rebecca Berlin, Ph.D., led the national knowledge transfer at scale work for Start Early.

More About Rebecca

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