Spotlight On: The Essential Actions to Build Equitable Learning Environments

The BELE Framework is a guide for transforming student experiences and learning outcomes.


The science of learning and development shows us that “context” – one’s experiences, environments, and opportunities afforded– is the defining influence on a young person’s development. Experiences, physical environments, relationships, and a young person’s various opportunities to express their full genius shape their brain architecture and genetic expression and impact how they learn and develop.

Positive, nurturing, culturally-responsive, identity-safe, relationship-filled, and instructionally-rich learning environments and experiences – in and out of school – can have profound, positive impacts on the person one ultimately becomes. This is why the influx of funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) is critical in this moment. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage billions of additional federal dollars to support the creation of developmentally positive and equitable “contexts,” or learning environments, around the country– specifically for the students least well-served by our education system.

Given that COVID-19 has both exacerbated and exposed the deep inequities in our education system, educators can choose to use ARP funding to replace practices, policies and structures that marginalized and denied the opportunity to many students with ones that enable all students to thrive. Our partners at the BELE (Building Equitable Learning Environments) Network provide a framework that goes deeper into the context and supports needed to provide equitable access to culturally affirming, robust learning environments starting with seven Essential Actions that educators and systems leaders can take. The BELE Network has a vision of an education system where every young person’s experience, wellbeing, and academic success are considered in the design of learning environments and patterns of success or failure are no longer predicted by race or any other social or cultural marker.

There has never been a more critical time to reimagine and rebuild an education system that truly serves every student. Both the framework and the Essential Actions are grounded in BELE’s four key pillars, which are:

If you’re wondering how to begin building equitable learning environments where every student can thrive, start with these seven Essential Actions:

These drivers of practice and policy change that are aligned with the science of learning and development and designed for equity are critical to our shared work of transforming our education system and ensuring all young people thrive.

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