The Need

HRP has identified twenty systems, summarized within 4 values statements, that must be changed for a human-centric, equitable system that creates a better future for all.

When one system changes, each other system changes in-turn. All depend on each other.

It's important to recognize that change will only occur when we change underlying systems rather than attempting to make human-centered practice work in inherently inhumane paces. Learn more in our Primer.

Download the full size values list.


I. Learning is rooted in purpose finding and community relevance.

Map a Path to Purpose

Four in ten high school students are bored at school, and this number continues to rise. An increased focus on standardized testing and rote memorization sees students disengaged with learning and failing to recognize the purpose of school.

Purpose-finding has been linked to pro-social outcomes and healthier lifestyles, and is inherently tied to identity and self-worth. Schools should serve its primary role in instilling a sense of purpose-finding among its populous, by connecting students with interesting goals and outcomes based on their interests.

Learn Experientially

Students are more motivated, interested, and academically inclined when learning by doing. By crafting in-depth projects in conjunction with students, educators can build up their learning community with authentic tasks. These are more than one-off “fridge door” assignments, instead students are actively changing the world around them. By crafting a better society and reflecting on the experience, students are gaining valuable insight to the world around them.

Connect to the Community

Bringing in community partners increases engagement and morale, and lowers absenteeism. When students connect to the community, they build lasting relationships that improve the societal capital of all involved. These connections build a bond between school and place, allowing for greater opportunities.

Promote Literacy

Those who read tend to be more motivated and academically oriented. However, the way we teach reading in schools often conflicts with a love of reading. In an effort to increase test scores, many educators are instructed to drill grammar and “the basics”, or reward students through extrinsic means. Instead, students benefit from simply reading works they enjoy.

Create Cross-Disciplinary Classrooms

Learning doesn’t occur in a box but the majority of classrooms are set up within one. By infusing all content areas across projects and experiences, as well as recognizing non-traditional subject areas as just as important, if not equally important, we can create environments where all students succeed. Engaging in experiences and reflecting on them - constructivist learning - allows students to build upon their own identities.

II. Social justice is the cornerstone to educational success.

Support a Reflective Space

‍Reflection and inquiry are key to student and teacher success in the classroom. John Dewey defined reflection through four parameters: a shift toward meaning-making and deeper understanding; it is systemic and rigorous; it happens in interaction with others; and it values personal and community growth. Working through what is essentially the scientific method, students and teachers can create better experiences for all.

Demand Inclusive Spaces

It is a travesty that schools continue to push narratives that exclude those not part of the white, heteronormative culture. Teachers need intentional anti-bias, tolerance, and anti-racist pedagogical knowledge to counteract the dominant culture. It is not enough to include a few resources on counteracting racism, sexism, classist, anti-LGBTQIA+, and more. The entire curriculum must be reestablished based on social justice.

Authenticate Student Voice

Spaces that students reside in deserve to be cooperatively owned by students. By listening to students and co-creating spaces with them, we are able to build a flourishing democratic society that starts in our schools. There’s a lot to be learned from students, we need to be open to hearing it.

Adopt Critical Pedagogy

Placing a student’s perspective and experience at the center of the classroom, and sharing the power with them to construct that space, is paramount in building a democratic future. When our current society emphasizes “survival of the fittest” and normalizes competitive, rank and file neoliberal constructs, our unique students are lost in the shuffle. As Simone de Beauvoir writes (and Paulo Freire cites), the oppressor wants to change “the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.”

Utilize Restorative Justice

A school’s attempt to normalize positive behavior (e.g. PBIS) and enforce values-structures is often rooted in obedience. Further, the school-to-prison pipeline that has resulted from obedience discipline and over-the-top disciplinary measures is not only racist, but is resulting in children missing 11 million days of instruction (and being pushed out of the school system.) There is a dire need for restorative practices, such as student-peer mediation, and the mass hiring of counselors, to ensure all student succeed and are given ample opportunities to express themselves in positive ways.

III. Dehumanizing Practices do not belong in schools.

Build Strong Relationships

The cornerstone to educational success is rooted in strong relationships between students, educators, and families. As bell hooks states in Teaching to Transgress, “To teach in a manner that respects and cares for the souls of our students is essential if we are to provide the necessary conditions where learning can most deeply and intimately begin.”

Eliminate Grading

Assigning a grade instead of purely focusing on feedback leads to decreased motivation, lower academic achievement, increased rates of cheating, and decreased understanding. Numerous studies have suggested that grades serve no purpose within the classroom, and grading attributes to equity issues of having “winners” in the classroom. By focusing on feedback, educators ensure that all students have the capacity to reflect and improve on their learning, rather than focusing on a score.

Redefine Assessment and End Testing

Standardized testing eats away at an educator’s capacity to co-create a fulfilling curriculum. High stakes assessment is stressful, inequitable, and hurts academic outcomes. Assessment must be redefined to engagement in the community, including projects, portfolios, social justice, activism, and global inquiry. Regardless, the current system does little to gauge knowledge and acts as an unfair gatekeeper to higher education.

IV. Learners are respectful toward each other's innate human worth.

Self-Direct Learning

Self-control and decision-making are key principles in life satisfaction and well-regulated children. Educators can utilize this data to construct classroom learning experiences that are centered on individuals having choice, acting together as a community on their own volition, and building a student classroom culture. Further, a teacher’s own self-direction and determinacy is important to their professional satisfaction and willingness to pursue further in the profession.

Support and Elevate Teachers

Teachers are frustrated by the profession and leaving at alarming rates. Due to poor professional development implementation, which is universally disliked, coupled with a lack of social, emotional, administrative, academic, and/or financial support, many educators are burnt out, demotivated, or quitting outright. Teachers deserve additional financial compensation, smaller class sizes, additional planning hours, and high quality professional development.

Stay Buzzword Free

Just as in all areas of society, corporate interests dominate the educational landscape - and there is extreme money to be made in educational initiatives that build upon “fads.” Experiential education, for example, has been converted into project-based, problem-based, inquiry-based, community-based, place-based, and many other variants - all relatively similar to each other, packaged into workshops, and sold as curriculum materials. When these “buzzwords” are standardized and commodified, they dilute the pedagogical transformation required to revolutionize education.

Cooperate, Don't Force Competition

Forced competition implies that education is all about “me”, and standardizes the measure that some students are more valued than others. Although healthy competition has its place, in optional and friendly events, the vast majority of school systems are set up on a competitive basis for everything. Building classrooms that focus on cooperation, ensuring that all are heard and valued, brings better opportunities for all.

Multi-Age Learning

Although same-age classrooms are easier to manage, like all educational initiatives that focus on efficiency first, the child’s well-being is lost in the process. Multi-age classrooms encourage relationship building, mentoring, and child-to-child peer learning. As incorporated by Montessori schools, multi-age classrooms are more akin to the “real world” and allow for greater self-direction.