The Deeper Learning Dozen

About Us

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The Deeper Learning Dozen supports superintendents, through a community of practice, to transform their school districts to support equitable access to deeper learning experiences and outcomes for all students and adults, through changes in leadership, school and district systems, adult learning, and pedagogy. In addition we intend to learn from the collective experience of our districts and share with the field.



The Deeper Learning Dozen is our attempt to address the new opportunities and demands districts and schools face as they seek to create more access to deeper learning experiences for all young people and adults. It is both an action project and an effort to learn and share what we are learning with the field. It is first and foremost a design for a community of practice of twelve school districts. A community of practice is anchored by common values and aspirations, and ours are to give all students access to deeper learning. In other words, we are aiming for all students to have experiences that develop their mastery, identity, and creativity. We are not precious about these particular descriptors but we do find that they capture what others describe as important in contemporary education. We say more about what they mean to us in our white paper.

In that paper, we have also laid out our initial thinking of the changes that we think districts will need to undertake to move towards a goal of wall-to-wall systemic, equitable, deeper learning for both students and adults. We also lay out three overarching principles that we believe are at the heart of the needed changes: (In)Equity is Structural, Adult Learning and Student Learning are Symmetrical, and Leadership Accelerates Emergence. Over the next three years, we will be working with our districts to try to enact these ideas and also to refine and revise them in light of their experiences. For this community to sustain and grow, however, it needs allies beyond the founding twelve. If you would like to be part of this work in any way, we would love to hear from you.


Our Team


Jal Mehta

Jal Mehta is an associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research explores the role of different forms of knowledge in tackling major social and political problems, particularly problems of human improvement. He has also written extensively on what it would take to improve American education, with a particular focus on the professionalization of teaching.

Jal is the author of The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) and the co-editor of The Futures of School Reform (Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2012). He is currently working on two projects: In Search of Deeper Learning, a contemporary study of schools, systems, and nations that are seeking to produce ambitious instruction; and The Chastened Dream, a history of the effort to link social science with social policy to achieve social progress. He is co-editor of the Learning Deeply blog at Education Week, and in 2014 was the top-ranked junior faculty scholar in the Rick Hess Education Week rankings. He is also the winner of the Morningstar Teaching Award at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He was recently awarded a Radcliffe Fellowship and will be on sabbatical for the 2016-17 academic year.

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John Watkins

John Watkins has over thirty years experience in consulting, coaching, designing, facilitating, researching, and evaluating in school and school district improvement efforts. Currently, he is Co-Director with Jal Mehta, Professor at Harvard, of the Deeper Learning Dozen, creating a community of practice for superintendents who are committed to the transformation of their districts to support equitable access to deeper learning. Recently, he was the Pathway Coach Coordinator in the Linked Learning Office of Oakland Unified School District, supporting a community of practice for site-embedded Pathway Coaches, and before that a Pathway Coach with ConnectEd. John’s first career was as an Outward Bound instructor. He later became a high school art teacher before attending and earning his Doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy. His BA is from Amherst College in Art History. Along with his wife, Jessica, who is an English teacher in the Public Health Academy at Oakland High School, he loves to backpack, practice meditation and yoga, and garden.

Additional Faculty/Staff

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Alisa Berger

Alisa Berger teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the Professional Education Program. She co-facilitates the Deeper Learning for All course which runs each summer. She also served as an adjunct lecture teaching the Deeper Learning course within the graduate programs at the school. Alisa is an independent consultant working with schools, districts and networks who are looking to design and implement innovative programs that better meet the needs of students and works to create a 21st century system that would support deeper and more engaging instruction for all students. Alisa is the co-author of the book How to Innovate: The Essential Guide for the Fearless School Leader, published April 2014. She was the founding co-principal at the NYC iSchool, a New York City public high school committed to rethinking high school for the 21st century. Previously, she has worked in the New York City central offices as a Director of Leadership and Organizational Learning, overseeing 250 schools in achieving their goal of increased student achievement by developing, aligning, and delivering cutting edge training and professional development. She was part of the design team for the Children First Intensive (CFI), a city-wide action research initiative designed to help build schools’ capacity to use accountability tools to differentiate, individualize, and improve instruction; as well as problem solving around school-based and systemic DOE issues to ensure that they do not interfere with schools’ effective operations. Alisa began her career in school administration as the founding leader of the Mott Hall II school, a small, progressive NYC public middle school. Alisa received her undergraduate degree from Barnard College, her MA in curriculum design from Teachers College, Columbia University and her MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.


Kevin Walsh

Kevin Walsh has been a faculty assistant at Harvard Graduate School of Education for 3+ years, providing direct support to five core faculty members on a variety of courses and grant-funded projects. He is also currently a Master of Liberal Arts degree candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at Harvard University Extension School. Outside of Harvard, Kevin loves music and has been fortunate to tour and record all over the country in a few different bands.

Graduate Students

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Amelia Peterson

Amelia is a PhD candidate in Education Policy and Program Evaluation at Harvard. Her dissertation seeks to explain variation in the contemporary decline of secondary vocational education. She is also currently part of a small team studying uses of design-based methods in K-12 school districts, funded by the Spencer Foundation. Amelia has worked with practitioners and system leaders in several countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, India, and New Zealand. She has been a Presidential Fellow and Inequality and Social Policy Fellow at Harvard, and a Junior Visiting Scholar at Nuffield College, Oxford. She is the author of the report Personalizing Education at Scale and a co-author of the books Redesigning Education: shaping learning systems around the globe and Thrive: Schools Reinvented for the Real Challenges We Face.

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Casey Fuess

Casey Fuess is a Research Assistant for the Deeper Learning Dozen project and a student in the Education Policy and Management Master’s Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Prior to HGSE, Casey, a National Board Certified Teacher, taught choral music and served as the Competency-Based Education (CBE) Coordinator at Lindblom Math & Science Academy, a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school in the West Englewood neighborhood. At Lindblom, Casey served as secretary of Local School Council and chairperson of the Professional Personnel Leadership Committee. Beyond Lindblom, he was a member of the Teach Plus Chicago Teaching Policy Fellowship, an alumni-leader of the Teach Plus Illinois Teaching Policy Fellowship, and a member of Chicago Public Schools' Teacher Advisory Council. Casey supported 11 schools in CPS’s CBE pilot as the organizer of the 2017 Chicago CBE Symposium, co-chairperson of the 2018 CBE Steering Committee, and a 2018 CPS Central Office Summer Policy Fellow. Casey received a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude from Northwestern University in Music Education and Voice Studies.

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson is a Detroit native and current Education Policy student at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her goal is research how government and nonprofit agencies prioritize educational goals in response to locally defined problems and help develop new ideas to implement in K-12 schools that will increase college access, readiness and students’ perceived value of higher education. Prior to working for the DLD Project, Nicole balanced her time by working at a university, a community college, and several secondary schools simultaneously, working on college access initiatives and improving student outcomes. She received an undergraduate degree in Literature and a master's degree in Educational Leadership from Eastern Michigan University.

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Want to learn more about transforming school districts to support deeper learning for all?