Annual Barbara Biber Convocation Features Dr. Charisse Taylor

On Tuesday, September 6, Bank Street Graduate School of Education welcomed a new group of graduate students as well as faculty, staff, and alumni at the annual Barbara Biber Convocation. The event, which is a centerpiece of orientation for incoming students and celebrates the start of the school year, provides an opportunity for the College community to engage with seminal thinkers on leading issues in education.

This year’s convocation featured Dr. Charisse Taylor, a graduate of Bank Street’s Liberty LEADS program who currently serves as the Director of Strategic Initiatives for Norwood Public Schools and is also the CEO of Connecting Forward LLC. Committed to creating opportunities for young people to thrive, Dr. Taylor has dedicated her life to supporting equity and excellence in education for young people from marginalized communities.

Dr. Taylor leads large-scale, tech-related initiatives focused on racial and gender equity and social-emotional learning for the largest school district in the country, which serves 1.1 million students. She also coaches districts and school leaders nationwide.

Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Bank Street Graduate School of Education, said, “We’re very proud that Dr. Taylor graduated from Bank Street’s Liberty LEADS program, which empowers underrepresented high school students every day by helping them prepare for college, embrace leadership roles, and create a positive future for themselves and others. Dr Taylor is a perfect example of what can be achieved. Since 2015, she has been using several models of continuous improvement to coach persistently failing schools and districts. She has also served as a certified coach in the Data Wise Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

In Dr. Taylor’s presentation titled “A Seat at the Table: Redefining School and Community Relationships,” she shared a defining experience from her doctoral residency in which she was tasked with developing a plan to rebuild and revitalize the Providence Public Schools District. Through this process, Dr. Taylor came to recognize that system transformation is dependent on trusting relationships between the school district administration and the communities it serves. 

According to Dr. Taylor, there are three keys to transformative community engagement that need to be implemented at all layers of the system, including shared understanding, shared responsibility, and shared accountability. Shared understanding, she noted, promotes generative spaces for engagement where people can feel safe and brave. 

“Our students need opportunities to engage in academic discourse, and they must learn to debate with dignity while maintaining mutual respect,” said Dr. Taylor. “Our classrooms are unique laboratories for such development. As you seek to make connections with your students, I want you to remember one thing—your students are more than their traumas.”

The two remaining components that Dr. Taylor introduced—shared responsibility and shared accountability—both contribute to the idea that educators must acknowledge the harmful issues at hand and explicitly outline their commitment to repairing relationships and establishing trust. Dr. Taylor encouraged teachers and leaders in the audience to adopt practices that keep families engaged in their children’s school experience, noting that technology is making this more possible than ever before. “Technology offers flexibility,” she said. “We must embrace it.”

In her closing remarks, Dr. Taylor stated, “I am confident that if we ALL work together toward shared understanding, shared responsibility, and shared accountability, we will begin to heal the wounds of our past. But remember, while we heal, we’ve still got to work!”

The Barbara Biber Convocation recognizes the contributions of Barbara Biber to Bank Street and the wider educational community. Dr. Biber was a central figure shaping the institution that evolved from the Bureau of Educational Experiments to become Bank Street College. A keen observer of children and classrooms who immersed herself in the phenomena of children’s and teachers’ lives, her writings achieved a rare depth of insight and conceptual elegance. As a researcher and scholar, she continuously reexamined and refined her thinking. This lecture memorializes her progressive legacy.