Lead the Change interview with Marc S. Tucker

Marc S. Tucker

Marc S. Tucker

Marc S. Tucker is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center on Education and the Economy. He is an internationally recognized expert on academic and occupational standards and assessment, and has also been among the leaders in researching the policies and practices of the countries with the best education systems in the world.

In this interview, which is part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Tucker shares his views on what we need to focus on in education today:

 I think the most urgent question is how we rebuild our education system. It is not how we teach reading, how we finance our schools, how children learn mathematics, what forms racial discrimination is now taking in our urban schools. It is all these things and none of them.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also published interviews with Diane Ravitch, and the contributors to Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013) edited by Helen Janc Malone, have participated in a series of blogs from Education Week.


The evolution of the Millennium Villages Project: Building infrastructure & local expertise

Dr. Rahika Iyengar

Dr. Rahika Iyengar

Over the past year, IEN has begun a series of interviews and events focusing on educational innovation around the world. While attention often centers on how “innovations” and other interventions are supposed to change teaching and learning, some of our interviews will highlight how the work and ideas of leading thinkers and organizations have evolved in response to the realities they have encountered. (For example, see an interview with Eric Schwarz about the changes that Citizen Schools made in order to successfully grow their model for afterschool and extended learning time and an interview with Brahm Fleisch on school improvement efforts in South Africa.) This week, we draw on a conversation with Radhika Iyengar, Director of the Education Sector at the Center on Sustainable Development at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. That conversation concentrated on how the educational initiatives of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in Africa have evolved along with efforts to address numerous challenges in agriculture, in health, and in other sectors.

The Millennium Villages Project was launched in 2005 to demonstrate how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a number of economically marginalized areas in rural Africa through “integrated, community-led development”. The project was designed to take into account the complexity of problems like poverty and to address them through inter-sector efforts to work on agriculture, health, infrastructure, education and other issues. As Iyengar put it “everything had to come together.” The work on education in particular illustrates the way work in one sector – like improving teaching and learning in classrooms – depends on and can draw from work in other sectors. In order to improve access to quality education on a large scale, the project had to deal with the facts that infant and child mortality was often high, that some children did not have adequate transportation to get to school, and those who did make it to school might be malnourished or in poor health.

Given the problems with nutrition and health, the MVP began with a focus on addressing agricultural issues in several different parts of Africa. The initial goals included improving local food supplies and making sure that farmers could be successful. Work was soon launched to tackle challenges in other sectors as well. In each case, however, “root causes” for complex problems needed to be unraveled in order to develop integrated, systemic solutions. In health, for example, the project quickly focused on key issues including the high numbers of children dying from malaria and large numbers of mothers dying during childbirth. While providing vaccines could help to address infant mortality issues, the health workers soon found critical problems with the supply-chain created by the lack of infrastructure in many regions. Thus, in order to retain their effectiveness, the vaccines needed to be kept cool when transported and stored. That created a need for refrigerators which in turn, required electricity or other power sources that were unavailable in many of the areas where the vaccines were needed most. As a consequence, pursuing the health issues, quickly merged with efforts to develop infrastructure in the villages, including establishing electricity and building health centers.

With each development, however, new challenges were uncovered. Once the health centers were built, considerable work needed to be done to make sure that the local population would take advantage of the new facilities and services. “Just creating health centers on their own was not enough,” Iyengar explained. “Mothers would not go to the health centers on their own. They were too busy. They had many other things to take care of. They had their agricultural work, their children, husbands, the household.”   Convincing mothers who were used to delivering at home to make the trek to deliver their children in an unfamiliar setting was particularly challenging.

In response to these new challenges, the MVP developed a group of community health workers, individuals from the local community who would work with the local population to help them take advantage of the new clinics, hospitals and other services. These individuals could communicate in the local languages and dialects and understood the local beliefs and norms. They visited houses, checking for malaria, testing for HIV, talking to pregnant mothers, educating mothers, checking blood pressure and assessing whether anyone needed to go the hospital. By working closely with the community health workers and a team of local officials and community members, staffer from the MVP were also able to gain key information, feedback, and perspectives that helped to identify issues and generate solutions that fit the local context.

Although these challenges in other sectors had to be addressed, they also created some unanticipated resources, lessons, and opportunities that could then be leveraged to work on other issues of education. Thus, the work on education in 2005 began with a focus on increasing access that in many ways paralleled the work in health. The challenges for increasing access to preschool and kindergarten were particularly pronounced as younger children often could not walk the long distances it might take to get to the nearest schools. Furthermore, many of the existing schools were dilapidated and in disrepair. Consequently, the work in education began by developing the physical infrastructure and building more schools and classrooms. The work proceeded with the MVP providing materials and assisting local teams who built new schools and made existing schools more functional. But as Iyengar explained, simply building more schools and classrooms was not enough to ensure that students would get to schools and classroom at the right time.

Communication was a key factor as many parents simply didn’t know what age students should come to school. Some students did not start coming to school until they were 7 or 8 years old; but sometimes students as young as 3 or 4 might tag along with their older siblings. Similarly, many families did not have information about when school started and ended or the timing of school vacations.

Building on the success of the Community Healthcare Workers in bridging the gap between households and the health centers, the MVP created groups of volunteers they called the Community Education Workers. These local team members went house-to-house discussing the school schedules and policies and identifying children ready for school (including helping families to identify when children were born and how old they were).

Through these kinds of efforts, more and more children started attending school on a regular basis. For instance, on average, of the total children enrolled in grade 3 in all schools in all sites, more than 85% now attend schools on a regular basis. As in many other countries, simply getting students through the door and into classrooms was not sufficient, however. There were still teacher shortages, overcrowded classrooms, and teachers struggling to teach large numbers of students from different grades and working on different subjects at the same time. Given the difficult conditions, even though more students were attending schools, many were dropping out. “They were either getting bored,” Iyengar elaborated, “or parents were seeing that after three or four years the students still weren’t able to read and write.” As Iyengar stated, “there are many, many policy issues, structural issues, instructional issues, implementation issues that we are still grappling with in terms of quality of education.”

One strand of the work to improve the quality of education has focused on developing the capacity to share and use information and data more productively. For the most part, educators and policymakers in the MVP communities have had little or no information on what’s actually happening at scale, across many different schools and classrooms in real time. To address this challenge, the work in education borrowed again from the efforts in health and the community healthcare workers. The healthcare efforts have taken advantage of the development of the technological infrastructure to use a variety of new technologies to carry out testing and to share information between households, local villages, hospitals and the regional centers. That information is being used to make individual diagnoses and treatment decisions and also enable healthcare workers to manage demand and supply for medicines, doctors, and hospital beds. These efforts benefited particularly from the developments in mobile technology and from equipping community healthcare workers with smartphones. In education, they have also begun using smartphones as well. In this case, community education workers use the phones to gather a wide range of data including data on the school environment as well as on student learning. For school environment the data may be as simple as “During the visit, was there electricity? Was there running water?” but the education data includes information on progress in reading and numeracy as well. As Iyengar points out, however, simply transmitting the data to some distant location for eventual analysis and reporting is often of little use to the teachers, teams, and local officials. Thus, the developments in the use of the mobile technologies and assessment at the school level, now go hand in hand with the development of monthly meetings where the local data can be examined, discussed and used to guide decision-making. For example, this data was used to identify and address problems with teacher absences and with low levels of reading in Mali and Ghana respectively. From Iyengar’s perspective, there are often relatively simple solutions that local teams can identify, but solving the problems depends on both on the development and use of the new technologies and the development of social communication networks that link communities with one another and with the regional and national education officials.

Part of the challenge that MVP faces is common to all those working in schools: efforts to increase efficiency and improve performance at one level of the education system – classroom or school – are still constrained by conventional policies and practices at other levels. Thus, in many cases, the educational issues that the MVP works on are also complicated by the histories and conventions of the national education systems. For example, the regional or national languages like French or English often serve as the language of instruction. But many students and teachers do not speak the language of instruction and books, textbooks, and other instructional materials are often not available in the local dialects. As a consequence, educational improvement efforts like those of the MVP face the dual challenges of trying solve problems that are created by the conventional structures of schooling at the same time that they work to increase access and improve quality within those conventional systems. (For more on these issues, see reflections on and discussions of innovation/improvement in Finland, Mexico and Colombia, and Singapore.)

The Power of Rest In and For Education: An “Idle” Conversation About the Social Brain with Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
-John Lubbock

We recently we spoke to Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a neuroscientist, developmental psychologist, and an associate professor of education at USC, about her research and its potential implications for educational change. Her work explores the inextricable link between the development and function of the brain and sociocultural experiences, particularly emphasizing the neuropsychological basis for rest and the opportunities and constraints that educational settings create for rest. Below, we share a brief summary of our conversation, touching on Dr. Immordino-Yang’s background, her work, and her new book, Emotions, Learning, and the Brain: Exploring the Educational Implications of Affective Neuroscience (Norton, 2015), which will be released next month.

Among other influences, Dr. Immordino-Yang came to her current work on the social brain and the power of rest through an interest in language and culture. During her undergraduate work, she studied languages as varied as Kiswahili and Russian. These studies translated well to her first job, teaching in a school in Boston where over eighty languages were represented. In her teaching, Dr. Immordino-Yang frequently engaged and observed language learning and interaction within the school. Her interest in how cultures build, navigate, and employ language led her to graduate work in education and psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. At Harvard, she pursued her interests in development, biology and culture, merging these disparate fields in questions of education “to learn about cognitive neuroscience…what is now affective and social neuroscience.” Early in her doctoral work she began developing her current lines of research when she realized that “not very much was known about the social brain.”

After completing her doctoral work, Dr. Immordino-Yang undertook postdoctoral training with Antonio Damasio at the Brain and Creativity Institute and later joined the faculty at USC. At USC, her work has focused on the relationship between mind and brain, as she put it, “applying studies of affective neuroscience to the social realm.” From her perspective, “the biological mechanisms by which we experience emotions, and by which culture shapes the mind, are not clear.” Therefore, her work aims to illuminate what she considers an understudied and inextricable link between sociocultural experiences and neurological processes. For her, the social world and the biological world do not function as separate entities. Instead, the two are deeply related and in fact interdependent on each other. She says that “the mind is one job the brain does. So, we can’t say that one is causing the other. Our social world…facilitates and organizes our biological development, which in turn builds our interpretations of the social world.”

Within education, Dr. Immordino-Yang argues that “we should build educational theories around what is biologically possible.” At the same time, she approaches her work by asking “how culture shapes knowing and being. How do we build complex types of experiences that are culturally shaped?” She contends that this understanding helps educators and researchers recognize students’ complex identities. Extending this line of inquiry, she is currently working on a cross-cultural study in Los Angeles, looking at children from immigrant families and, “how kids cross cultures and…how relationships are reflected in their biological selves.”

Among the applications for this research in schooling, Dr. Immordino-Yang suggests that “education’s main purpose is to teach people skills and habits of mind for interpreting and understanding situations in any domain of knowledge.” If sociocultural and neurological are so deeply linked, she argues, schooling must also account for these dynamics. Already-existing approaches such as project-based learning may take such dynamics into account by integrating work and play. Additionally, Dr. Immordino-Yang’s research suggests schools need to create space for children to construct their own narratives for meaning making and understanding. These changes are “not just superficial,” Dr. Immordino-Yang explains. “They are actually hooking [students] into different biological mechanisms that allow them to tie actions to their internal, grander sense of self.” Furthermore, such work allows educators to rethink their very understandings of what learning is.

Dr. Immordino-Yang also talked about her upcoming book, where she outlines a case for the educationally productive use of rest. “What this means,” she says, “is giving time and skills to help people reflect” on their experiences. By creating space for rest (both unstructured time and literal rest) she argues that educators can introduce opportunities for imagination, daydreaming, and creativity. Time for rest, she added, can promote deep reflection, and habits of mind that support healthy learning and development.

Learning from successful education reforms in Ontario: Part II

imagesIn 2003, the Ontario government began to focus on issues of educational improvement. The government instituted a series of reforms that have proven incredibly successful, with elementary achievement results rising from 54% in 2003 to 72% in 2014, and high school graduation rates rising from 68% to 84% in the same amount of time. This past summer I spoke with Mary Jean Gallagher, Ontario’s Chief Student Achievement Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Achievement Division, and Richard Franz, Ontario’s Director of Research, Evaluation & Capacity Building, to learn more about their experiences with this reform effort thus far, and their plans for the future. As this conversation was so informative, we have decided to post it in two parts. In part one we focused on aspects of the reform that have been key to its success thus far. Here, in part two, we explore Ontario’s approach to moving forward with an expanded reform agenda.

Planning the Future:

In 2013, Ontario’s Ministry of Education (MOE) set a renewed vision for the education system. This process allowed them to identify critical information about what they have achieved, and share this information with parents, business leaders, community members, teachers and students. As Gallagher explained, as a result of Ontario’s success over the past decade, “we have a newfound respect for our ability to set goals and measure progress and achieve them, so we are more careful about goals we set.” By engaging in a broadly based, 7-month collaborative consultation process, they engaged both qualitative and quantitative research methods to determine their next steps.

This process culminated in the production of their “Achieving Excellence” report. This report identifies four new, interconnecting goals for the education system. As they are described in the report:

  • Achieving Excellence: Children and students of all ages will achieve high levels of academic performance, acquire valuable skills and demonstrate good citizenship. Educators will be supported in learning continuously and will be recognized as among the best in the world.
  • Ensuring Equity: All children and students will be inspired to reach their full potential, with access to rich learning experiences that begin at birth and continue into adulthood.
  • Promoting Well-Being: All children and students will develop enhanced mental and physical health, a positive sense of self and belonging, and the skills to make positive choices.
  • Enhancing Public Confidence: Ontarians will continue to have confidence in a publicly funded education system that helps develop new generations of confident, capable and caring citizens.

As Gallagher and Franz explained, the process of determining these goals helped them to understand that in the future they need to “heighten the relevance of what people are learning, increase experiential learning, and use the community more broadly.” By engaging community members in the process they were able to learn that those members felt they had valuable information and experiences to offer the educational system, and were being underutilized. As a result, the MOE is now thinking of better ways to reach out.

Another key aspect that emerged is the importance of student voice. Since the consultation process included school-age students, the MOE was able to learn more about what the students felt needed to be changed about their own education. The MOE, for example, developed a program called “Students as Researchers,” which invites students to formulate questions about how to make their schools better places and trains them in research skills and ethics so that they can design and implement their own research projects, which are then shared with the MOE.

Challenges of new goals:

Looking ahead, Gallagher and Franz explained that there is some tension around the notion that good teaching and learning must be measured. New challenges include thinking about ways in which the system might be able to broaden the measures of success, and what counts as success, so that the emphasis is not only on test scores. This is particularly relevant since one of their new goals is to improve student well-being. In setting the goal, the MOE also must consider how to measure something that has no history of measurement or policy focus.

Another concern is the additional demands of the bureaucracy that might be added once new goals, and new measurement systems for those goals, are implemented. As Gallagher and Franz noted, one of the reasons for the success of the education reforms so far has been attributed to the narrow focus on a small number of goals. With a focus on the renewed four goals, how can they be incorporated into a successful system without overburdening it? As Franz explained, the new tension is about how to do it all is such a way that gets you the insight and information needed to guide the practices of all involved in the system in addressing the new goals, while continuing to build coherence such that actions in the name of one goal also support achievement of the other goals.

For more information:

Ontario Ministry of Education

Deirdre Faughey

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Learning from successful education reforms in Ontario

class-roomIn 2003, the Ontario government began to focus on issues of educational improvement. The government instituted a series of reforms that have proven incredibly successful, with elementary achievement results rising from 54% in 2003 to 72% of elementary students performing at or above the provincial standard in in reading, writing and mathematics in 2014, and high school graduation rates rising from 68% to 84% in the same amount of time. This past summer I spoke with Mary Jean Gallagher, Ontario’s Chief Student Achievement Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Achievement Division, and Richard Franz, Director of Research, Evaluation & Capacity Building, for the Student Achievement Division, to learn more about their experiences with this reform effort thus far, and their plans for the future. As this conversation was so informative, we have decided to post it in two parts. Here, in part one, Gallagher and Franz share some of their thinking on aspects of the Ontario reform effort that have been essential to its success.

Bringing educators into policymaking realm

In 2008, Gallagher was the leader (Director of Education) of Canada’s southernmost school district when she was selected for her new position at the Ontario Ministry of Education (MOE). This position – Chief Student Achievement Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister of the Student Achievement Division– was envisioned as an innovation. While MOE officials were typically promoted from public service positions, Gallagher’s experience was in schools, as a teacher, a principal, superintendent, and Director of one of Ontario’s 72 school districts. With the creation of this Division and position, and the hiring of Gallagher, the MOE demonstrated that it valued the expertise of educators. This went along with the MOE’s renewed emphasis on valuing the work of educators, particularly in positions that focused on student achievement. At that time, the MOE wanted to ensure that all of their work was based on valuing educators—seeing improved learning as a result of improved teaching.

With this new effort to bring educators into the policymaking realm, the MOE also made sure that approximately two-thirds of staff within the Student Achievement Division was comprised of practicing educators who had already proved themselves to be strong instructional leaders. In order to do this they created new positions in which practitioners, such as teachers and school leaders, could work for up to three years with the MOE. The theory behind this model was that working closely with “front-line” educators would build the capacity of both those who worked in the field, as well as those who worked in the central offices. Franz pointed out that working with educators on the creation of new policy helps the MOE officials by providing perspective on how such policy might “land” in schools. Additionally, once those educators complete their temporary positions in the MOE offices and return to their schools, they arrive with more knowledge and understanding of how such policies were developed and created. This new “blended” model builds appreciation in both spheres. As Gallagher and Franz explained, this effort helps create alignment between goals, priorities, methodologies and implementation, and over the past 13 years it has proven a “formula for wonderful results.”

Maintaining a limited number of goals

Gallagher and Franz also attributed Ontario’s success to the MOE’s narrow focus on a limited number of educational goals, specifically increasing student achievement, closing educational gaps, and increasing confidence in public education. As Gallagher and Franz explained, these are the goals that everyone working in the Ontario education system can recite, as well as the targets associated with them. By focusing closely on a limited number of goals they have seen a huge difference in their ability to keep focused on what is important.

In addition to knowing these goals, educators have become increasingly aware of the ways in which they can measure improvement and identify success as they work to achieve them. This allows teachers to develop an understanding of their own efficacy and agency, which, as Gallagher and Franz noted, excites and motivates educators. Ontario’s focus on province-wide testing standards in literacy and numeracy, and a set curriculum, has promoted clarity about what students are expected to know, understand, and be able to do.

Using data and assessments to test the system, not individuals

Starting in the mid-1990s, Ontario’s government began implementing a set of tests based on Ontario’s Curriculum Expectations and Standard of Achievement for grades 3 and 6 in reading, writing, and math, as well as in grades 9 (math) & 10 (literacy). As Gallagher explained, Ontario holds very high standards for their students. Student work is identified as level 1, 2, 3, 4, and the provincial standard of success is level 3 (the equivalent of a letter grade of B), which is higher than what is expected on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Ontario’s assessment organization is an arms-length organization of the government, funded by the MOE but separate from it with its own board of directors. This organization has become, over time—an opportunity for professional learning as well, as teams of educators are assembled to devise test items and mark assessments over the summer months. As a result, teachers become well versed in the standards and measurement of performance and thereby build their own assessment literacy.

Gallagher and Franz note that these assessments are not standardized, and are not proprietary. Instead, they are criterion referenced assessments of the curriculum. The tests are used to gather information about the degree to which the students are able to demonstrate what they have learned from the curriculum. As a result, Ontario’s teachers feel less pressure to “teach to the test”; instead, the teachers are teaching to a curriculum they approve of and which teachers have had a hand in developing. The overall sense is that the tests are used to assess the entire educational system, rather than individual teachers and students. This collective focus also encourages teachers to work collaboratively and use assessment for learning for student achievement efforts.

Ontario has also moved to a common data system across the province as well. Starting in the late 1990s, the government created a tracking system in which all students were assigned an ID number. This allows the MOE to track individual school’s assessments of student performance, and compare those results to province-wide results. The ID number is also now being used to track students from early childhood education through to college (or apprenticeships). As Gallagher and Franz noted, this ID number is not linked to student names, but is used to analyze trends and patterns to understand what is happening system-wide.

Collaborative Inquiry

Teachers in Ontario regularly work together to analyze student work and plan new instructional strategies. These practices are articulated in an assessment policy called “Growing Success” and have been put into practice through a collaborative inquiry model of professional learning. Professional learning through collaborative inquiry has been so successful that it has replaced the old model of professional learning in which teachers were corralled in “banquet hall style” training sessions, where experts presented and teachers broke out into workshops. As Franz explained, “We assume that teachers come now with a certain level of skill, and we work with teachers on how to use a collaborative inquiry approach to examine student work, thinking about how to move students, and making that the object of their inquiry.”

How have classrooms changed?

As Gallagher explained, one of the things that everyone has learned is that the ideal classroom is less about teaching strategies and more about teacher thinking and behavior. This process starts in the assessment domain, with deep teacher knowledge of the students, the curriculum, and the learning goals. Then, the teachers can utilize any of the strategies they might have in their “backpack,” to help the students progress. Generally, in an ideal classroom one might see high levels of engagement, individual and group work, and differentiation; however, there is no particular reliance on any specific strategies or programs throughout the period. The aim is to allow teachers the space to try out their own strategies, and to develop their ideas through collaborative discussion with other teachers. This way, teachers feel accountable to one another and the classroom becomes a “de-privatized” place.

What Gallagher and Franz have noticed is that there is a trend of more inquiry-based learning in classroom. While there are some concerns about how much curricular content there is to learn, there is an increase in student-led learning, focusing on problem solving and creative work. In the following audio excerpt, Gallagher describes a recent visit to a kindergarten classroom where the teachers allowed students to lead an extended study of trees:

Be on the look-out for part two of this post, in which we focus on how Ontario plans to move ahead with an expanded reform agenda.

Deirdre Faughey

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Leading school change in Singapore

How do school principals make sense of education reforms that push them into unchartered territory?   I recently spoke with Dr. Vicente Reyes, Lecturer, with the School of Education, University of New England, Australia, who argues that when schools leaders are faced with uncertainty they have an opportunity to create the future they would like to see. In 2015, Reyes published a study titled “How do school leaders navigate ICT educational reform? Policy learning narratives from a Singapore context.” In this study, Reyes (2015) examined the experiences of school leaders in Singapore as they grappled with policy reforms that aimed for ubiquitous use of information communication and technology (ICT). Reyes (2015) found that as they tried to respond to these policies, school leaders experienced “shifting identities, emerging roles and ambivalent capacities.”

The policymakers Reyes spoke with described ICT as the “external wings that would propel the economy to the next stage.” As Singapore has a small domestic market of only 4 million people, cloud technology is valued for the potential it holds to help the country reach out internationally, to China, India and beyond. Similar to the view that the cloud technology can broaden Singapore’s economic reach, Education Ministry Officials also view it as holding the potential to broaden the traditional definition of a classroom, and therefore develop the skills and competencies students will need to participate in this future economic market. However, while the direction forward has been identified, and education has been identified as the vehicle for implementing the required changes, no one knows exactly what changes need to be made or how it will play out.

As the Singaporean education context is highly structured and focused on high stakes exams, both in primary and secondary school, the ICT reforms introduced a promise of creativity and experimentation that was a stark contrast to the traditional “drill and kill” educational focus. However, the new policy introduced a predicament for school leaders who need to remain high achievers while experimenting with creativity.

Reyes shows that in order to respond to this predicament, school leaders had to adopt a pioneering spirit. Since these leaders didn’t have prior experiences or examples to learn from, they needed to go outside of their comfort zones, which can be unnerving. Reyes used the metaphor of a captain on a ship— a ship in the middle of an ocean without functioning navigation tools. As Reyes explained, “If you don’t move forward, you will find peril. If you do, you might hit an iceberg. School leaders need to make those decisions.”

In order to help school leaders navigate these difficult contrasts, as Reyes explained, Singapore’s Ministry of Education has made an effort to promote create incentives to encourage innovation and eliminate pressures that might limit risk-taking. One example is their “Coyote Funds,” or funds given to school leaders to use for experiments. MOE officials encourage school leaders to think of the goal of these projects as experimentation that leads to learning rather than to focus on whether or not they are “successful.” However, as Reyes explained, a number of the proposals for Coyote Funds were rejected for their “failure to be true failures,” or insufficiently innovative. Each proposal was scored and evaluated, which ultimately supported Singapore’s high stakes status quo. While Singapore is interested in creating an education model inspired by what they view as a meritocratic and creative U.S.A. school model, Reyes cautions that the changes may be incremental rather than fundamental or transformational.

–Deirdre Faughey

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Lead the Change interview with Helen Timperley

Dr. Helen Timperly

Dr. Helen Timperley

Helen Timperley is Professor of Education at The University of Auckland in New Zealand. Her early teaching and school leadership career led to a research focus on promoting leadership, organizational and professional learning to improve the educational experience of students currently under-served by our education systems.

In this interview, which is part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Timperley shares her vision for successful educational change:

“My vision for educational change to be successful includes policy makers, school leaders, teachers and students all having the knowledge and skills to undertake effective diagnoses of challenging situations and the capacity to design fit-for-purpose solutions.”

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also published interviews with Diane Ravitch, and the contributors to Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013) edited by Helen Janc Malone, have participated in a series of blogs from Education Week.

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