I am ELP: Vinci Daro, Director of STEM Learning

Describe what you do at ELP.

I am the Director of STEM Learning at ELP. I get to work with colleagues in many different roles — teachers, coaches, administrators, curriculum developers, assessment developers, and professional learning providers — to design learning experiences and assessment tools that help students become better problem-solvers, and better communicators about their problem-solving strategies. A big part of my work is figuring out how to set students up to use their own everyday language and the disciplinary language of mathematics and science to express and clarify their own ideas, and to build on each other’s ideas (for example, the Math Language Routines). Another big part of my work is developing tools to help educators sharpen their lens for analyzing student work to get better at identifying and describing evidence of learning, and to get better at planning instruction and assessment based on that evidence (for example, Collaborative Analysis of Student Work Protocol). I also get to collaborate on tools for observing classrooms, and for using observation data to plan instruction (for example Observation + Planning Tool); developing and adapting tools like these for distance learning contexts has kept me very busy this year. I am always on the lookout for projects in which the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards are used to optimize student curiosity and student agency. 

What experiences brought you to ELP?

My journey to ELP was a happy and unplanned confluence of opportunities and relationships. I joined ELP in early 2018 as part of a team of colleagues from Stanford (Understanding Language/Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning & Equity), and one of the primary magnets that drew us to ELP was a clear commitment to both equity in education and anti-racism broadly. In that merging of people and projects, ELP gained STEM content expertise and I gained a bit more freedom to pursue projects that align with my interests in making school a place where students not only grow their competence in solving problems, but are recognized for their competence. Prior to joining ELP, I was the Director of Math Learning at UL/SCALE, and before that worked for many years with Ann Shannon and Associates, using the Shell Center Formative Assessment Lessons, which transformed my understanding of the importance of attending closely to the variety of ways students generate evidence their learning. I’ve had many opportunities to integrate my training as a cultural anthropologist and ethnographer into my work in math education, but often only secretly; ELP is a place where I get to be my whole self. 

Part of the ELP team prototyping at a 2019 retreat.

Part of the ELP team prototyping at a 2019 retreat.

What do you enjoy most about working for ELP?

Colleagues. The people. (ELP has the best people). The deep expertise and wisdom about working with schools and districts to shift mindsets, to re-align educational systems for equity and learning that matters, and to build tools collaboratively that make these shifts and re-alignments sustainable. Being able to draw on what ELP colleagues are doing at the scale of systems, and in relation to other content areas, provides a much more holistic perspective than is possible in professional settings narrowly bounded by content area. 

I also enjoy all of the opportunities to collaborate with the incredible staff at Envision Schools. Partnering with STEM leaders at Envision Schools has been an ongoing source of energy and an actively experimental space for professional learning design and assessment design. 

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Anything that does not involve a screen: being and moving outside (walking, running, hiking, biking, kayaking); touching and reading printed pages; playing cards, Pentago, chess, Codenames, Just One, and other games with my 14 year old daughter and 11 year old son; playing with our accidental pet, Philmore the fabulous rat. And — when all goes well — living car-free until our summer cross-country road trip to Carrboro, NC, visiting family and friends along the way. 

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