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New Photo Project Showcases Deeper Learning in Action

Nearly 300 Royalty-Free High-Quality Images of Teachers and Students Now Available for Use by Editors, Educators, and Non-Profit Organizations

WASHINGTON, DC—Students in deeper learning environments graduate from high school as confident, life-long learners, equipped with the knowledge, skills, and mindset they need to be successful and lead productive, fulfilling lives. To demonstrate what deeper learning looks like in the classroom, the Alliance for Excellent Education today released “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action,” an online gallery of nearly 300 original print-quality, royalty-free images of teachers and K–12 students of all ages and backgrounds. The images are being released as openly licensed stock photos, specifically to replace many of the outdated stock images of education that exist.

“Education in America is changing,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Our classrooms look different and our students spend more time working together in groups than ever before. But the photos we see in the media and online often don’t reflect that change. This new set of photos aims to give the public a look inside real twenty-first-century schools where deeper learning is happening.”

Ninth-grade students assemble robots at MC2 STEM High School. Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

Ninth-grade students assemble robots at MC2 STEM High School. Courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

To encourage sharing beyond the more than 500 schools nationwide that are in the deeper learning network, the Alliance is making the photos available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 license (CC BY-NC 4.0). The Alliance released the images in conjunction with the 70th Education Writers Association National Seminar in Washington, DC and encourages reporters, photo editors, website designers, and others to use them in their work.

Deeper learning practices are guided by a core set of values—equity, responsibility, opportunity—and focus on a set of six skills that students need to succeed in and out of the classroom. These skills include applying content knowledge; thinking critically; communicating clearly; working collaboratively; learning to learn; and academic mindsets, which mean that students are excited about coming to school and engaged in the subjects they are learning.

“For the United States to succeed today and tomorrow, all students need access to the rich learning opportunities that deeper learning provides,” said Wise. “Through this photo project, we wanted to demonstrate to school leaders, teachers, parents, and students that deeper learning can succeed in schools of every type with students from all backgrounds.”

Deeper learning environments give students more responsibility for their own learning while helping them develop the real-world knowledge, skills, and abilities to prepare them for college, career, and life. Teachers in deeper learning classrooms encourage and support learning rather than serving only as an authoritative source of facts.

Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action,” features teachers and students from Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC, Skyline High School in Oakland, and MC2 STEM High School in Cleveland.

The images were captured by Allison Shelley, a contributing photographer to The Verbatim Agency. Ms. Shelley is co-founder of the nonprofit Women Photojournalists of Washington (WPOW) and has worked as director of photography for Education Week and as a staff photographer for The Washington Times. Her photography regularly is featured in publications such as National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among others.

“This project has been an impressive opportunity to witness classroom education taken to another level,” said Shelley. “Students are using Play-Doh, power tools, and pencils to learn about beekeeping, boat building, and bugs from teachers, as well as artists, actors, and authors. But the most inspiring interactions I photographed involved students working with and learning from one another.”

The “American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action” photography project is another in the Alliance’s efforts to support deeper learning for all students, especially those who are traditionally underserved. In the coming weeks, the Alliance will release a redesigned website,, and a deeper learning toolkit designed to support state and district leaders as they explore whether to launch a deeper learning initiative; strengthen or expand existing deeper learning practices; and commit the financial resources, political support, and expertise necessary to ensure success.

“American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action” is available at


The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, a career, and citizenship.