Rounding up the issues of 2019 and the 2010’s (Part 1)

This week and next week, Thomas Hatch notes some of the common issues and key concerns mentioned in end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade education reflections. As in the round-ups of 2018, 2017, and 2016, many of the reflections come from US sources, but there are some global links as well. This week, Part 1 concentrates on the waves of violence and activism and the discussions of outcomes mentioned across a number of sources. Links to many of the sources that inform both posts are also provided. Next week, Part 2’s roundup focuses on common questions about the role of research and technology in improvement efforts.

Although there are many educational experiences, schools, resources, technologies, companies and other ventures in 2019 that were not around in 2010, many of the key issues and stories of 2019 overlapped with those mentioned in the reviews of the decade of the 2010’s as a whole.

Safety, gun violence, trauma…and student activism
In the US, the killings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown as well as the shootings at Sandy Hook (to name only a few) made safety, gun violence and trauma key topics inside and outside schools throughout the decade. In 2019, 25 shootings in schools and at school-related events were in the headlines, along with questions about active shooter drillsand other means of securing student safety.

At the same time, traumatic events also fueled the emergence of Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement in the US and contributed to a wave of student activism globally.  In 2015, Li Zhou and Adrienne Green chronicled in words and pictures the student activists who were demonstrating against soaring tuition, protesting police brutality, and demanding education reform. That wave continued into 2019 as students called for action on sexual assault, racism, and climate change, with Greta Thunberg’s scolding of delegates at the UN and the students’ climate strike echoing around the world.

 

Progress? stagnation?
Debates about whether schools are getting better or worse also continued throughout the decade. Internationally, PISA test results in 2012, 2015, and 2018 continued to highlight the high performance of East Asian countries like Singapore; showed a decline in Finland; and revealed high scores in some jurisdictions in China while raising questions about how representative and appropriate those scores were.

Globally, Lee Crawfurd and Susannah Hares of the Center for Global Development, summed things up by pointing out that progress on achieving primary schooling has stagnated but attention to learning has grown: they found that only about 50 articles mentioned the  phrase “learning crisis” in 2010 but almost 300 mentioned it in 2019.  For added emphasis, in 2019, the World Bank sought to focus on “learning poverty” by creating a new global target: cutting in half the number of children who are unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10 (currently at 53% in lower- and middle-income countries).

In the US, Chad Alderman pointed out that the 2010’s “may be the best decade ever in terms of college attainment,” but Dana Goldstein noted that the decade concluded with reports of largely stagnant performance and continuing inequities in outcomes on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Center on Education and the Economy highlighted a widening achievement gap on PISA in reading as well.

Inside Philanthropy’s David Callahan described the 2010’s as “a decade in which a billionaire-backed K-12 reform push largely flopped.”  Those elite-backed reforms in the US included the launch of the Common Core Learning Standards and numerous state-backed initiatives to increase accountability by tying teacher evaluations to student outcomes.  Yet the decade ended with reports of little evidence of positive impact of the Common Core and continuing debates about its value.  In 2019, studies also found little if any positive effect of the new teacher evaluation policies on student test scores.  Those top-down initiatives also contributed to a backlash against testing, and, as Madeline Will of Education Week put it, spurred teachers to take leadership into their own hands, “leading strikes and protests across the country, and even running for office.”

The charter debate did get a little bit more complex over the decade. Charter schools in some regulatory environments like Massachusetts showed some positive results, but critics continued to question the impact of charters on students and neighboring schools. Charter schools even became an issue of debate among Democrats in 2019, with opinions breaking down along racial lines, as the74 illustrated in 14 charts that changed the way we looked at schools.  (To be continued…)

Links to roundups and reflections for 2019 and the 2010’s
2010 to Now: A turbulent decade for schools, Education Week.

Teaching in 2020 vs. 2010: A look back at the decade, Education Week

14 charts that changed the way we looked at America’s schools in 2019, The 74 Million

Eight lessons we learned from research in 2019, Chalkbeat

Education may be pivotal in the 2020 election. Here’s what you need to know. Highlights from the Brown Center Chalkboard in 2019, Brown Center Chalkboard

Cheating scandals, charters and falling test scores: 5 takeaways from the year in education, The New York Times

Laugh, cry and gasp along with the best viral classroom moments of 2019, NPR

2019 education year in review with Erica Green, Alyson Klein and Josh Mitchell, The Report Card with Nat Malkus

The 7 most memorable pieces of education journalism for 2019, Phi Delta Kappan

10 pieces of education journalism that defined the past decade, Phi Delta Kappan

Online degrees slowdown: A review of MOOC stats and trends in 2019, Class Central

A decade in review: Reflections on 10 years in education technology, Ed Surge

What problems has edtech solved, and what new ones did It create?, Ed Surge

The 100 worst ed-tech debacles of the decade, Hacked Education

  • Thomas Hatch

LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Yi-Hwa Liou

Yi-Hwa Liou, Ph.D. is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Management at the National Taipei University of Education. Her research primarily focuses on leadership and development, organizational dynamics and learning, professional and networked learning communities, with a particular methodological emphasis on social network analysis. She has led and participated in multiple (inter)national research projects and works with research teams/scholars from across different countries/areas around the evolution of organizational networks and systemic change across all levels of education. She currently serves on the editorial boards for Journal of School Leadership and School Leadership & Management, and as a guest editor for International Journal of Educational Research. While her scholarly works primarily focus on educational leadership in PK-12 settings, she also expands her work to include the examination of social and emotional aspects of professional learning for pre-service and in-service teachers. She is committed to using network analysis to support organizations’ strategic planning and development. She is currently conducting several longitudinal projects using a design-based approach to organizational innovation by looking into the effect of network interventions on the development of individual and organizational capacity for improvement. She can be reached via e-mail at yihwa.liou@gmail.com and you can learn more about her work at: https://ntue.academia.edu/YiHwaLiou

 

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Liou discusses her work on how understanding social ties and cultural norms impact educational change. As she puts it:

This social perspective may help us think about leadership roles in creating conditions for learning. For example, formal leaders include those who have a formally designated role such as principals, department heads and coordinators, etc. The informal leaders are those who do not necessarily have a formal leadership title but are influential individuals among school staff. These leadership roles are somewhat distinct by definition, but sometimes overlap within individuals and/or coexist within an organization. Each of these roles has to do with how conditions are created for desired change. The formal leaders can be helpful in communicating the vision, goals, policy and school development plan with their staff at some of the structured meetings to develop a shared value and language, which remains to be one of the top challenges most schools face. In practice, school leaders, on average, spend less than 20% of their time on discussing, revisiting, or co- developing their core values and plans together, even less time invested in making sense of the reform policy (Grissom et al., 2013; Horng et al., 2010; Sebastian et al., 2017). A useful approach to address this issue might be to change the structure of staff meetings to a “mini workshop” format. In this approach, teachers are able to share their thoughts within and across their grade level or subject team, present it to the whole staff, and continue this discussion and practice until they come to have a shared understanding. This ongoing course of practice is ideally coupled with the use of social influence through informal leaders such as those staff members to whom others would turn to for advice, information, or addressing immediate problems at work. Many times, these informal leaders are also formal leaders, but the key point here is the notion of peer influence through which individual beliefs are likely shaped. These informal leaders are often active teachers who initiate opportunities for collaboration and exchange of resources among teachers and act as spokespersons or representatives of their teacher teams. These leaders can convey the needs and messages or support information flow between different segments of school structure. They can be helpful in diffusing ideas and information, getting more teachers’ buy-in, and identifying needs for professional development. In the meantime, formal leaders have to make sure resources (e.g., time, budget, space) exist supported by infrastructure to assist the execution of initiatives or reform related plans that were collectively prioritized among school staff. In all, both formal and informal leadership roles go hand in hand in creating the conditions for learning and development (e.g., Liou & Canrinus, 2019; Liou & Daly, 2018; Sun et al., 2013).

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 interviewed Kristin Kew and Christina Dobbs.

Coherence and Alignment: Reflecting on Two Decades of Research on Educational Reform

This week, Elizabeth Leisy Stosich discusses her interview with IEN’s Thomas Hatch, published in the new Cornerstone Series from the CPRE Research Minutes podcast.  This will be our last post of 2019, as we will be on hiatus until January 7th. Happy New Year!

Last week, I had the chance to speak with Thomas Hatch from Teachers College about  two articles that I have drawn on in my own work on coherence and standards-based reform. In the interview Hatch discusses his 2002 article “When Improvement Programs Collide” and his co-authored 2004 study, led by Meredith Honig, “Crafting Coherence: How Schools Strategically Manage Multiple, External Demands.”

I was interested in doing this interview to share it with the students in my course, Leading Educational Policy and Reform, for experienced educational leaders in Fordham’s Ed.D. program. Often, when discussing policy, we only consider one policy at a time rather than examining it in the complex policy environment that educational leaders must navigate on a daily basis. In the interview, we discuss how Hatch’s work on coherence has evolved, our common interests in the social process of interpreting and making sense of policy, and connections to the work of other scholars in the field including Richard Elmore and Karen Seashore Louis.

In our conversation, Hatch describes the challenge of policy alignment as “a technical issue”; whereas, policy coherence is an issue of meaning. He was motivated to pursue this line of research when working to support educational reform in the 1990s. As he explains, “Even if all of the efforts of systemic reform in the 1990s were successful and we produced all these aligned policies, there could be so much work and so many demands on people that they’d still feel overwhelmed and fragmented. And it’s that sense of overwhelmingness and fragmentation that we were trying to address, particularly in thinking about that article around crafting coherence where I think we really emphasize that this is an issue of learning and meaning making that people and organizations like schools are engaged in.” Over time, his work has reinforced the importance of understanding the challenge of “crafting coherence” among external policies and internal goals from a collective perspective, one that takes into account the fact that educators are engaged in this meaning making process simultaneously but from their own unique perspectives.

In the interview, Hatch also shares practical advice for educational leaders at the school- and district-level who face the difficult task of leading policy implementation. As he explains, educational leaders should “recognize this is a part of the job. It’s not a sign that you’re not doing well if you’re feeling overwhelmed. It’s a reality of the circumstances in which the work is done, and you have to recognize that you’re facing conflicting incentives.” My recent article, “Principals and Teachers ‘Craft Coherence’ Among Accountability Policies,” examines how educators respond to the demands of the Common Core and a new teacher evaluation policy and reinforces how challenging maintaining this balance can be in the face of high-stakes accountability policies. In fact, the pressure from standards-based accountability policies can lead some leaders to abandon their local school goals to focus on external demands. To be successful in the long run, leaders must both respond to the requirements imposed by external mandates but also maintain a focus on the goals that matter most to the community they serve.

Around the World in PISA 2018 Headlines

Around the world, another flurry of headlines followed the release of the 2018 PISA results last week.  As we did in 2015, we’ve pulled together some of those headlines and links in a scannable alphabetical list.  That scan showed that critics continue to stress the difficulty of using the PISA results to draw any definitive conclusions on the quality of educational systems (“PISA Doesn’t Define Education Quality, And Knee-Jerk Policy Proposals Won’t Fix Whatever Is Broken,” The Conversation; How PISA Created An Illusion Of Education Quality And Marketed It To The World,” The Washington Post), but at the same time, most headlines focused on changes in scores or rankings by trumpeting gains, highlighting losses, or lamenting stagnation.

Overall, the negative news stole the spotlight, even for countries like Singapore at the very top of the rankings (“Mainland Chinese students best in world as Singapore, Hong Kong slip down rankings”, South China Morning Post).  Pasi Sahlberg summed it all up by pointing out that, on average, scores were declining in the 37 OECD countries (including top PISA performers like Finland, Japan, Korea, and many provinces of Canada) and declaring “Sleepless, distracted and glued to devices: no wonder students’ results are in decline.”

Although China’s astronomical scores were featured in many stories, some international headlines pointed to the problems with those scores as well (“Teens From China’s Wealthiest Regions Rank Top Of The Class In Global Education Survey,” CNN.com; “China Is No. 1 On PISA — But Here’s Why Its Test Scores Are Hard To Believe,” Washington Post). Some of the headlines from sources in China also noted areas for improvement, including concerns about inequity, students’ emotional health, and lack of attention to learning that cannot be measured in standardized tests like PISA (“China To Further Promote Education Equity In Light Of PISA Test: Ministry,” Xinhua Net; “给看不见的教育指标更多关注” [translated as “Pay More Attention To Invisible Indicators”] China Education Daily; 教育体检PISA的启示:成绩卓越但仍需努力 [“Reflection From PISA Test: Excellent Scores But Need Improvement”], China Education Daily).

In the US, headlines predictably focused on the bad news (“It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts,” New York Times), and even those with a more slightly positive take still ended with a negative spin (“U.S. Students Gain Ground Against Global Peers. But That’s Not Saying Much,” Education Week). The Director of the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, Mark Schneider, didn’t see the PISA results as providing grounds for optimism either (“The New PISA Scores Tell Us Lots About the Sad State of American Education. What They Can’t Tell Us Is How to Fix It,” The74).  But there’s always next year, or, in this case, PISA 2021…

Australia
‘Alarm bells’: Australian Students Record Worst Result in Global Tests (Brisbane Times, December 3, 2019)

Belarus
Belarus Fares Well in its Maiden PISA Test (Belarus News, December 3, 2019)

Belgium
Young Francophones’ Improve at Maths, but Remain Poor at Reading (Brussels Times, December 3, 2019)

Canada
Canadian High School Students Among Top Performers In Reading, According to New International Ranking (The Globe and Mail, December 3, 2019)

China
China To Further Promote Education Equity In Light Of PISA Test: Ministry (Xinhua Net, December 4, 2019)

给看不见的教育指标更多关注 [translated as “Pay More Attention To Invisible Indicators”] (China Education Daily)

教育体检PISA的启示:成绩卓越但仍需努力 [“Reflection From PISA Test: Excellent Scores But Need Improvement”] (China Education Daily)

England
Pisa Tests: UK Rises in International School Rankings (BBC News, December 3, 2019)

Estonia
Estonia Tops Tables in PISA International Education Rankings (ERR, December 3, 2019)

Finland
PISA: Gap Between Girls’ and Boys’ Reading Skills Largest in Finland (YLE, December 3, 2019)

Germany
German Education System Has Room for Improvement: Report (DW, December 3, 2019)

Iceland
Icelandic Students Below Average in Reading (Iceland Monitor, December 3, 2019)

Ireland
Pisa Rankings: Irish Teens Among the Best at Reading in Developed World (The Irish Times, December 3, 2019) 

Japan
Japanese 15-Year-Olds Rank High in Math, sciences, but Reading Down: PISA Exam (The Mainichi, December 3, 2019)

Malaysia
Malaysia’s Ranking in Pisa Improves (Malay Mail, December 3, 2019)

Northern Ireland
Pisa Tests: NI Pupils Better than World Average at Reading (BBC News, December 3, 2019)

Philippines
Philippines’ Dismal Pisa Scores Spark Soul-Searching Over State of Education (South China Morning Post, December 8, 2019)

Poland
Polish Students’ Results in Top Three in International Study (The First News, December 3, 2019)

Romania
PISA 2018 test results show over 4 in 10 Romanian students don’t understand what they read; education minister not that worried (Romania Insider, December 3, 2019)

Scotland
Pisa: Mixed Report for Scottish Education in World Rankings (BBC News, December 3, 2019)

Singapore
Pisa 2018: Singapore Slips to Second Place behind China but Still Chalks Up High Scores (The Straits Times, December 3, 2019)

Spain
Spain Receives Its Worst Ever Science Results in PISA Test (El País, December 3, 2019)

Switzerland
PISA Study Finds Swiss Students ‘Still Behind’ on Reading (Swiss Info, December 3, 2019)

United Arab Emirates
UAE Is Up 8 points in Mathematics According to PISA 2018  (Emirates News Agency, December 3, 2019)

United States
U.S. Students Gain Ground Against Global Peers. But That’s Not Saying Much (Education Week, December 3, 2019)

It Just Isn’t Working’: PISA Test Scores Cast Doubt on U.S. Education Efforts (New York Times, December 3, 2019) 

U.S. Students’ Scores Stagnant on International Exam, With Widening Achievement Gaps in Math and Reading (The 74, December 3, 2019)

U.S. Students Show No Improvement in Math, Reading, Science on International Exam (U.S. News, December 3, 2019)

U.S. Students Continue to Lag Behind Peers in East Asia and Europe in Reading Math and Science, Exams Show (Washington Post, December 3, 2019)

Vietnam
VN Gets High Scores but Not Named in PISA 2018 Ranking (Vietnam News, December 6, 2019)

Wales
Education: Why Have Wales’ Teenagers Under-Performed? (BBC News, December 3, 2019)

LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Anna Sfard

Anna Sfard conducts research in the domain of learning sciences, with particular focus on the relation between thinking and communication. Her studies are guided by the
assumption that human thinking is a form of communication. Inspired mainly by the work of Wittgenstein and Vygotsky, this basic non-dualist tenet implies that discursivity – the discursive mediation of all our activities – is the hallmark of humanness. Discourses are repositories of complexity that underlie uniquely human ability to always build on
achievements of previous generations rather than beginning every time anew. Results of Sfard’s theoretical and empirical research guided by this communicational (or “commognitive”) framework and focusing mainly on the learning of mathematics have been summarized in the book Thinking as communicating: Human development, the
growth of discourses, and mathematizing (2008). Her other volumes, edited or co-edited,
include Learning tools: Perspectives on the role of designed artifacts in mathematics learning (2002), Learning discourse: discursive approaches to research in mathematics education (2003), Development of Mathematical discourse: Some insights from
communicational research (2012), and Research for educational change: Transforming
researchers; insights into improvement in mathematics teaching and learning (2017). Sfard is Professor Emerita at the University of Haifa, Israel. She served as the first Lappan-Philips-Fitzgerald Professor at Michigan State University and is the Visiting Professor in the Institute of Education, University College of London. She is the recipient of 2007 Freudenthal Award, the Fellow of American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the member of the American National Academy of Education (NAEd).

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Sfard discusses her work on building teacher capacity through context specific and collaborative professional development efforts. As Sfard puts it:

I want to talk about the need for a change in discourse. This time, it is the discourse of practitioners that has to be transformed. In other words, my advice to Educational Change people would be to try to open the eyes of the educational transformers to discursive bumps evenly spread along the roads traveled by the teacher, the curriculum designer and the policy maker. In the words of Wittgenstein (1967), this is a call for “erect[ing] signpost at all junctions where there are wrong turnings” (p. 47). Those who wish to spearhead the change must have a clear picture of what it is that needs to change. My research has showed time and again that, more often than not, what happens around us is the product of our tiniest, automatically performed discursive moves rather than of those macro-action that we can name, discuss, plan, and change at will. Thus, in the already-mentioned South African study we saw how a good-meaning teacher, through his minute discursive moves – the words in which he chose to present mathematical tasks, the brief phrases with which he invited the students to participate – unwittingly deprived the learners of proper opportunities for learning (Sfard, 2017). In another recent study, Candia Morgan and I showed that in England, some elusive, but critically important aspects of school mathematical discourse have been changing incessantly over the last 30 years (Morgan & Sfard, 2016). This made us realize that those who claimed a gradual decline in students’ achievement might have been grounding this assessment in comparison between things that should not be compared: after all, different mathematics was learned by the students of different periods. In result, in their attempts to make a change, the reformers were likely to direct their efforts at a wrong target.

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 interviewed Kristin Kew and Christina Dobbs.

Season of Giving, Featuring International Education Organizations

With the holiday season starting here in the U.S., we wanted to look back at some of the organizations we have featured on IEN and offer links to their donation pages. These organizations are doing impactful work around the world and we encourage our readers to consider supporting their work. Happy holidays to all!

 

Educate!
The organization was featured in our recent post on the HundrED Summit. We will also be featuring them in an upcoming post in 2020.
Donate to Educate! here

 

Second Chance (Speed School)
Last year, we featured Second Chance, an organization bringing thousands of students back to formal schooling in Ethiopia and Liberia. As part of the Luminos Fund, you can donate to organization here.

 

Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop’s work, in partnership with the IRC, has led to the creation of a new Sesame Street show and related health and educational programs for displaced children in the Middle East.
Donate to this project and 
other here.

The Citizens Foundation

Back in May, we featured The Citizens Foundation in a 2-part piece, examining their work to open schools for girls across Pakistan. Donate to TCF here.

The Buildup to PISA Results with Highlights from the IOE Blog

In the buildup to releasing the latest PISA results, many sites have begun sharing PISA-related pieces. As we have done in previous years, IEN will share its own scan of headlines across the world when the results are released in a few weeks. This week, we wanted to highlight one piece in particular. As part of the IOE blog, John Jerrim offers an intriguing critique or caution of reading the PISA results. To share just a few excerpts from Jerrim’s “Should we eat more fish or more ice-cream to boost PISA scores?” Jerrim suggests:

If anyone has ever read one of the international PISA reports or seen Andreas Schleicher present they will know that the OECD is rather fond of cross-national scatterplots. These illustrate the relationship between two variables measured at the country level.

Take, for instance, the chart below. This has been taken from one of Mr Schleicher’s blogposts, and illustrates the relationship between a country’s test scores and its rate of economic growth. It has been interpreted by the OECD as showing “that the quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run”.

The take-away message (no pun intended)

Hopefully, the point of this blogpost has become clear.

When the PISA results get released at the start of December, the international report and presentations given by the OECD are bound to include this kind of graph, along with stories about how ‘high-performing countries’ all do X, Y or Z.

Clearly, we should be treating any such interpretation of the PISA results with caution. There are likely to be hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons why some countries do well on PISA and others don’t. In reality, it is almost impossible to separate these competing reasons out.

What we do know is that overly simplistic “explanations” for the PISA results must be avoided. Organisations like the OECD have their own agenda, and it is just too easy for such groups to use the results to promote their own hobby-horses.

 

For the full blog post, see the IOE blog.