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From the Desk of Afi Wiggins

January 25, 2024|By Afi Y. Wiggins, Ph.D.


As we near the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, the needs of U.S. democracy and the world economy are evolving as rapidly as innovative technologies. AI shapes everything around us. Learning environments are unlimited by time and space. Students gain new discoveries every moment of the day from both their physical and virtual worlds.

The role of education systems is to embrace this reality and ensure that each student, in every corner of our nation, is afforded opportunities to be boundless on their life journeys. Developing the skills they need to thrive in this world—skills like critical thinking, problem solving, entrepreneurism, data literacy, and curiosity—are best cultivated through mathematics, science, and literacy disciplines.

As I lead the Charles A. Dana Center forward, I commit to ensuring the Center continues to serve as an incubator of innovation, a trusted thought leader, and a disseminator of evidence-based solutions that promote learning spaces of empowerment, freedom, and success for every student.


The Dana Center is a systemic change organization that innovates, tests, and scales effective solutions to barriers of access, opportunity, and success in high-quality education for each and every student. We work to provide every student the opportunity to experience the power and joy of mathematics, science, and literacy in ways that are relevant to their futures—we know those disciplines are the foundations of education.

Our Algebra readiness and success initiative creates structures and supports that prepare students as early as kindergarten for advanced mathematics. This work focuses on creating learning environments—in early education and beyond—that nurture curious, critical thinkers and problem solvers who are adept at accessing, analyzing, and communicating complex information. Although our Algebra readiness work spans many states, the Center has a special commitment to the goals of Texas Senate Bill 2124 to expand access to advanced mathematics to greater numbers of students.

To sustain improved systems, the Center continues to build the capacity of educators and education leaders across K–16 by codeveloping and guiding the systemwide implementation of high-quality practices, curricular materials, and resources. These efforts include the scaling and implementation of mathematics corequisite structures that continue to give students opportunities to experience and be successful in high-quality mathematics instruction aligned to their fields of study within one year of entering postsecondary education.

The Dana Center’s Literacy First program, which for over three decades has provided districts in central Texas structures and resources to develop and maintain foundational literacy skills for early learners, is expanding to districts in other states. Literacy First has launched in Tennessee alongside the Chattanooga 2.0 Citywide Transformational Literacy Initiative. This work is focused on building the capacity of the system to implement and sustain a model of K–2 high-dosage tutoring that leads to better literacy outcomes for early learners.

The Center is currently developing a math, science, and literacy interdisciplinary initiative that will transform educator practices and school and classroom environments at the K–5 level. The initiative aims to provide students with relevant and rich experiences that promote creativity, curiosity, adaptability, application, and synthesis and evaluation of concepts in real-world meaningful ways.

The Launch Years Initiative (LYI) is a bold, state-level systemic change initiative that lays the groundwork for the successful implementation of policies and practices that allow every student to transition smoothly from high school to postsecondary education in mathematics pathways that are relevant to their lives and future careers. In 2023, the Center welcomed New Mexico and Nevada to LYI. With these recent additions, now 22 states work alongside and learn from one another to transform education systems. In 2024 and beyond, the Center aims to expand LYI to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Center’s systemic change work covers the gamut of K–16 education, including critical transition spaces, to ensure democratized access, opportunities, and success for every student across the nation.

Internal Commitments

Our internal commitments bolster the Center’s mission. Over the next few years, the Center will focus on 

  • building internal capacity for innovation;
  • creating time and space for innovative thinking, planning, and taking action;
  • expanding partnerships with mission-aligned organizations and with faculty and other education initiatives across the University; and
  • broadly disseminating emerging solutions and other learnings to advance the field and encourage the spread and sustainability of effective systemic change practices.

Katey Arrington

In building our internal capacity for innovation, we introduced nine new colleagues to the Center this past year. We also welcome Dr. Katey Arrington in a newly conceptualized role; as director of systemic transformation, she will officially join the Center on January 29, 2024. Dr. Arrington is a national leader in math education. She will serve with the Dana Center leadership team in ensuring the conditions of systemic change in mathematics, science, and literacy education across K–16 are understood, applied, and implemented across the Center’s programmatic work.

Staying Connected

The Center’s work would not be possible without our dedicated partners. I look forward to continuing this work alongside you and engaging in new partnerships. Let’s connect when we see each other at conferences. You may also find me on LinkedIn.

Through our work together, may each student be afforded access and opportunities to manifest the life for which they will be proud, actively participating in a thriving US democracy and world economy.

With immense gratitude,


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About the Author

Afi Y. Wiggins, Ph.D.

As the Dana Center managing director, Afi oversees the Center’s work, ensuring that our vision and mission continue to be at the heart of all that we do. She establishes long-term strategic goals and prioritizes partnership development. Afi supervises and supports directors who lead teams enacting the portfolio of projects and activities supported by the Center.