Promoting equity through language access: A virtual visit to Liceo San Nicolas (Chile) and Easton Academy (UK)

This week, IEN provides a glimpse of the “virtual school visits” offered as part of the 2022 (virtual) Conference of the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI). This post is the first in a series that will be published once a month over the next few months. This post shares some of the insights from an ICSEI session discussing the virtual visits that participants made to Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas from Chile and Easton CE Academic from Bristol, UK. This post provides a brief description of each school, key takeaways of school members from a virtual panel discussion, and the reflections from the coordinators of the virtual school visit. This post was produced by Alvaro Gonzalez (Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez, Chile) and Romina Madrid Miranda (University of Glasgow, Scotland). 

Liceo Bicentenario de Excelencia Polivalente San Nicolas (Chile)

Liceo San Nicolas Virtual School Visit (Chile)

The Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolás is a public school located in the rural town of San Nicolás, Ñuble region, in Chile. The school currently enrolls 2,505 students, from early childhood education to vocational and academic secondary education. Its educational project promotes an emancipatory, transformative, and innovative education, focused on the student, as a response to inequality and limited options for rural education. The interaction between professional autonomy, pedagogical innovation, and technology, has been key to improving school performance, school climate, self-efficacy and resilience, and the development of digital skills and competences of the 21st century, seeking to empower students to forge their own school trajectory and life project.

Easton CE Academy (UK)

Easton CE Academy Virtual School Visit (UK)

Easton CE Academy is a primary school that currently enrolls 450 pupils, from age 3-11 and serves a very diverse population. The school is in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, even though it is in the middle of the prosperous city of Bristol. Almost all of the children are learning English as an additional language, and 37 different languages are spoken in the school. To address some of the language barriers the school places a high value on oracy. Each lesson is planned with talking in mind, where teachers model ‘sentence stems’ so that children have a structure that helps them to fully participate in discussions. They have been recognized by the oracy work, which complements other subject areas such as English and Maths.

Key takeaways from educators from Liceo San Nicolas and Easton CE Academy

Marcos Caro, History and Geography teacher, Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas –

As an institution it was a pleasant experience to be invited and participate of the ICSEI 2022 virtual conference. In our panel session with the Easton CE Academy from Bristol, UK, we reflected about the importance of ethnic and cultural diversity. Among the topics discussed, we were struck by their way of approaching the development of oral language competences with students with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, producing spaces of dialogue, learning and mutual respect, irrespective of their background, making way for over 40 different languages in their school.

This is not so different to what goes on in our school in San Nicolás, where we welcome 2500 students every day, from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, offering them quality education through the teaching of foreign languages, dynamic and flexible groupings, open classrooms, where attention to diversity takes a central role in the academic development of our students. We observed Easton CE Academy places great value on language skills due to the diversity of cultures and nationalities of its students, which is very similar to the reality of schools in Chile.

“We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.”

Marcos Caro

Participating in the virtual school visit was relevant for us to showcase how we have built an environment safe and ready for learning, with students with similar educational needs as those of Easton. We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.

Slide depicting key practices developed at Liceo San Nicolas

Clare Welbourne, Head of School, Easton CE Academy

It was amazing to be part of ICSEI 2022 virtual conference even as we were still experiencing the effects of lockdown. In the visit we were able to reflect how the COVID pandemic had sharpened our minds as to the importance of promoting language and social skills for our children.

Participating in the virtual session with Liceo San Nicolas made us feel that we had travelled across the world and broadened our horizons. We were particularly excited to hear about the work of the Liceo and promoting the use of technology in education. This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy. We have also begun to use ‘Widgit’ a symbol based assistive technology.

“This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy.”

Clare Welbourne
Clara Webourne & Fallon Saint Carreyett presenting at ICSEI 2022

We were impressed with the range and depth of activities on offer at Liceo San Nicolas and participating in the ICSEI conference gave us confidence that we are also offering our younger pupils a range of experiences. Sometimes it is as you talk about your practice, you can value it and see the next steps.

Reflections: “A commitment to promote equity by removing barriers for students’ success”

The experiences of both schools, presented and discussed during the panel session, reflect on the importance of offering a high-quality learning experience and having high expectations for students from communities that experience conditions of disadvantage. Despite the differences between the schools, both had a clear focus on the development of language skills to empower students to become global citizens. This focus has become more important given the context of the pandemic.

Easton Academy’s families are ethnically and culturally diverse, which led them to focus on developing oral language skills to support students’ engagement with the UK culture in the best way possible way. For its part, Liceo San Nicolás sees language skills development as an equity opportunity, as only some social groups in Chile have access, get exposed to and learn more than one or two languages. It allows them to provide their students with the kind of exposure that wealthier students are used to receiving.

Note on ICSEI Virtual School Visits: The International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) held its 35th annual congress online in January 2022 due to the pandemic. Over many years of face-to-face conferences, participants have had the unique opportunity to visit local schools to gain first-hand experience with the host country’s education system, share ideas and insights from one system to another, and act as a catalyst for discussion and debate between colleagues from different countries during and after the visits. The Virtual School Visits sought to keep that purpose, with the added advantage of not being restricted to one host country, increasing the richness and diversity of insight, discussion, and collaboration beyond what was possible at a face-to-face congress.

ICSEI 2023 will be in Chile in January 2023 and schools’ visits will again be held virtually. For more information: https://2023.icsei.net and https://2023.icsei.net/school-visits/

The Role of Research, Advocacy, and the Law in Educational Equity: A conversation with Preston Green

In this month’s Lead the Change interview Preston Green highlights issues, challenges and opportunities for scholars to use legal theories and tools to pursue educational equity. Green is the John and Maria Neag Professor of Urban Education at the University of Connecticut, where he is also a professor of educational leadership and law. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website

Lead the Change: The 2023 AERA theme is “Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth” and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. Where does research focused on the legal principles and ramifications of particular policies fit in with the call? With educational change more broadly?

Preston Green: Scholars, through their research and advocacy, can help bring about the passage of laws that cause schools to adopt equitable policies and practices. School desegregation is an example. Indeed, the most famous instance of the power of research is the expert social science testimony co-authored by Dr. Kenneth Clark, which the Supreme Court cited in Brown v. Board of Education (Legal Defense Fund, 2022). To this day, scholars are conducting research that identifies the benefits of school desegregation and the policies that bring about desegregation, even though the judiciary is less supportive. 

“Scholars, through their research and advocacy, can help bring about the passage of laws that cause schools to adopt equitable policies and practices.”

Additionally, educational research can encourage the passage of laws that cause schools to cease classroom practices that disproportionately harm minority groups. For example, scholars have documented the disparate suspension and expulsion rates experienced by Black students and students with disabilities. They have urged policymakers to use the legal tools at their disposal to guard against the educational practices that create these disparities. This effort helped lead to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issuing a Dear Colleague Letter in 2014 that provided guidance for implementing disciplinary policies that do not unduly impact Black students. Although the Trump administration subsequently rescinded this guidance, the Biden administration is considering its reinstatement (Belsha, 2022). The Biden administration also issued federal guidance advising school districts to protect the civil rights of students with disabilities (Belsha, 2022). Researchers can continue to provide support for the adoption of policies and laws at both the federal and state levels that cause schools to develop disciplinary practices that do not unduly impact Black students.

Similarly, scholars can conduct research and develop legal theories that will protect LGBTQ+ students from discriminatory treatment and harassment. Due in part to their research and advocacy, the OCR issued a notice of interpretation declaring that Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex discrimination by schools, encompasses “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). However, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Carson v. Makin (2022), which held that Maine could not prohibit parents from using tuition assistance funds for education at parochial schools, is very concerning for LGBTQ+ students, parents, and teachers. Scholars can continue to play a role in this ongoing fight against discrimination.

With respect to educational change more broadly, research based on legal principles can help policymakers adopt laws that protect students and communities. Educational privatization is illustrative. Supporters of privatization have asserted that educational reforms, such as school vouchers and charter schools, will help minority communities obtain educational outcomes that have proven elusive in the traditional public-school setting. However, in exchange for these educational benefits—which are not guaranteed—students and communities may forfeit constitutional rights and community resources (Green & Connery, 2022). This example shows that scholars must be sure to study the possible legal tradeoffs posed by any broad proposal for educational change.

LtC: Recently, there have been a rash of Supreme Court decisions that have fundamentally reshaped American society and schools including, but not limited to, women’s rights to bodily autonomy, guns, the use of public funds for religious schooling, and shifting rules regarding prayer in schools. Your work examines how law shapes education broadly and specifically. How might educational change scholars understand the impact of some of these rulings on the U.S. education system?

PG: Educational scholars should understand that the recent outbreak of Supreme Court decisions signals the Court’s willingness to reject decades of legal precedent. Legal precedent refers to the concept that court decisions serve as legal authority for deciding future cases with similar facts and issues (Legal Information Institute, 2020). Individuals and institutions come to rely on the protections and rights created by these decisions. Because of this reliance on precedent, many supporters of abortion were shocked by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision (2022), which overturned Roe v. Wade (1973). Justice Clarence’s Thomas’s concurrence, which declared that protections for birth control, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage were also in danger, was even more stunning.

Similarly, the Court’s religion decisions this past term indicate that long-standing legal precedents in education are no longer safe. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022), the Court ruled that a school district violated the Free Exercise Clause by disciplining a public-school coach for praying after games in view of his players. Lupu and Tuttle (2022) explain that the Court’s decision ignored sixty years of precedent under the Establishment Clause, which gave schools the authority to police the “communication between a coach or teacher and those under their charge.” Instead, the Court implemented a rule requiring the Establishment Clause to be interpreted based on the historical understanding of the Founding Fathers. One can infer from this language that the Court might soon permit teachers to lead students in prayer (Lupu & Tuttle, 2022).

In addition to the concerns about LGBTQ+ discrimination discussed above, Carson v. Makin (2022) has major implications for charter schools. Charter schools are often defined as public schools that must operate in a secular manner. However, charter schools have many private characteristics, which could cause the Supreme Court to categorize them as a private school option. If the Court ruled this way, then states would have to provide funding for religious charter schools. Indeed, Justice Breyer raised this possibility in his dissenting opinion in the Carson case. States that disagree with this situation might respond either by capping the number of charter schools or dismantling this choice option altogether. 

LtC: How can those educational scholars and practitioners who wish to take civic action against discriminatory legal precedent engage in such efforts effectively? 

PG: Because of the solid conservative majority in the Supreme Court, it will be difficult for scholars and practitioners to challenge discriminatory practices in the federal courts. Therefore, they should also look to state law for protections. School finance litigation provides an example of this approach. After the Supreme Court ruled in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez in 1973 that the Equal Protection Clause permits school funding disparities created by local property taxation, plaintiffs then challenged school finance formulas through state courts. School finance scholars, educational historians, and legal theorists have provided the research that have helped attorneys push for increased resources for disadvantaged communities.

A school desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill (1996) also demonstrates how educational researchers can help litigators challenge discriminatory practices in state courts. After the Supreme Court ruled that de facto segregation – racial separation that is not caused by intentional governmental policies – did not violate the Constitution, the federal courts became a much less effective venue for combatting school segregation. Lead attorney John Brittain and his colleagues responded to this obstacle by convincing the Connecticut Supreme Court that de facto segregation violated the state constitution. Brittain supported this claim using expert testimony from educational scholars who showed the negative impact that school segregation had on Hartford’s urban schools.

LtC: What issues of law, education, policy, and change do you see as ripe for research in the coming months and years?

PG: One topic that is ripe for research is the relationship between race and school funding. Despite decades of school desegregation and school finance litigation, a report by the non-profit group EdBuild found that school districts serving predominantly nonwhite students received $23 billion less than white districts during the 2015–16 school year. According to the report, the average nonwhite district received $2,226 less than a white school district per student. Racial disparities remained even after controlling for wealth: Poor-white school districts still received around $1,500 more per student than their poor-nonwhite counterparts (cited by Green, Baker, and Oluwole 2021).

“Scholars and practitioners should also look to state laws for protections.”

Scholars have begun to explore the reasons for these disparities. Culprits include an array of local, state, and federal housing discrimination policies and practices over the course of more than a century (Baker, DiCarlo, & Green, 2022; Lukes & Cleveland, 2021). I sincerely hope that scholars help litigators develop legal strategies and policy solutions to tackle these disparities in the courts and through legislation.

References
Baker, B., DiCarlo, M., & Green, P. (2022). Segregation and school funding: How housing
discrimination reproduces unequal opportunity. Retrieved August 8, 2022 from https://www.shankerinstitute.org/segfunding

Belsha, K. (2022, July 19). Feds urge schools to reexamine discipline of students with disabilities, calling it ‘an urgent need.’ Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/19/23270102/school-discipline-guidance-students-with-disabilities.

Carson v. Makin, 142 U.S. 1987 (2022).

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, 142 U.S. 2228 (2022).

Green, P., Baker, B., & Oluwole, J. (2021). School finance, race, and reparations. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 27, 484-558.

Green, P., & Connery, C. (2022). Beware of educational blackmail: How can we apply lessons from environmental justice to urban charter school growth? South Carolina Law Review, 73, 643-74.

Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. Dist., 142 S.Ct. 2407 (2022).

Legal Defense Fund. (2022). A revealing experiment: Brown v. Board and the “Doll Test.” Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.naacpldf.org/brown-vs-board/significance-doll-test/.

Lukes, D., and Cleveland, C. (l2021). The lingering legacy of redlining on school funding, diversity, and performance (Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper: 21-363).

Lupu, I. & Tuttle, R. (2022, July 26). Response, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District – A Sledgehammer to the bedrock of nonestablishment. George Washington Law Review On the Docket, https://gwlr.org/kennedy-v-bremerton-school-district-a-sledgehammer-to-the-bedrock-of-nonestablishment/.

Legal Information Institute. (2020). Precedent. Retrieved August 29, 2022 from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/precedent.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973).

Sheff v. O’Neill, 678 A.2d 1267 (Conn. 1996).

U.S. Department of Education. (2021, June 16). U.S. Department of Education confirms Title IX
protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-confirms-title-ix-protects-students-discrimination-based-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity.

Going back to school in 2022 (Part 3): Scanning the headlines from around the world

In recognition of the UN-sponsored Transforming Education Summit, Part 3 of our roundup of back-to-school headlines draws together links to the stories we’re seeing in some of the major sources of education news outside the US. Part 1 revealed some of the back-school issues highlighted in US (Hope and trepidation:  Scanning the back-to-school headlines in the US) and Part 2 looked specifically at the impact on schools of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic 2 (“Over it” but enable to escape it: Going back to school with COVID in 2022). A future post will survey some of the many stories we are seeing about the discussions, questions and challenges of the “teacher shortage.”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

A return to school after the COVID closures and hopes for a “bounce back” characterize some of the back-to-school headlines; but in Ukraine and some parts of the developing world, many of the headlines focus on critical challenges including violence, war, floods and famine that are continuing to keep some students, particularly girls, out of school.

“[F]or many students here and around the world, especially girls, there is no excitement around supply shopping or reuniting with their friends again — because none of that will happen at all. Between schools staying closed over fears of a new COVID-19 wave and other barriers to getting an education, back-to-school doesn’t look quite as bright.” – Back to school? Think again, Plan International

Afghanistan

For most teenage girls in Afghanistan, it’s been a year since they set foot in a classroom, AP

Bangladesh

Frequent blackouts, school and office hours cut: Is Bangladesh going way of Sri Lanka?, Firstpost

Seven classes a day during new school year in Bangladeshi high schools, bdnews24

“The government says it has changed the routines so that the students do not fall behind in lessons due to the two-day weekends”, bdnews24

France

French schools are back today: what changes for the year ahead?, The Connexion

Kenya 

Kenya postpones schools reopening a second time over vote tallying, The East African

India 

Parents in India choosing homeschooling for the new school year, The Indian Express

Italy

Italy reopens schools without masks, Wanted in Rome

Norway

At the same time that the students are going back to school, a major strike is simmering, Norway Posts English

Pakistan

Over 2 million students could give up education due to floods in Sindh, Pakistan, Pro Pakistani

No back-to-school for thousands of children as nearly 19,000 schools damaged, destroyed by floods in Pakistan, Save the Children

Philippines

Philippine kids back in school after 2 years lost to virus, AP News

Sri Lanka

Education Ministry in Sri Lanka announces change in conducting schools, Sri Lanka Internet Newspaper

Switzerland

Swiss apprenticeships bounce back after Covid-19 pandemic, Swissinfo

“Every August a new cohort of students begin their apprenticeships across Switzerland. The appetite for vocational training remains strong despite the impact of Covid-19, with experts pointing to a return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Thailand

Thai schools, unis fully reopen after 5 months of lockdown, The Nation Thailand

Uganda

Teenagers in Uganda offer insight into their return to school after enduring the world’s longest COVID school closure, NPR

Ukraine

The race is on across Ukraine to build new bunkers. Not for soldiers on the front lines, but students in schools, CNN

“The new school year is a day of celebration in Ukraine, where children dress up and give bouquets of flowers to their teachers. But Russia’s invasion has cast a shadow on the happy day. Now educational facilities across the country are racing to build bunkers and bomb shelters for returning students,” CNN

Pencil, chalk and first-aid kits: Ukrainian children return to school in the midst of war, New York Times

Traumatized and displaced but determined, kids in Ukraine head back to school, NPR

Ukrainian Refugees Head Back To School In Poland, Forbes

‘We are in this together’: the Ukrainians starting a new German school year, The Guardian

 “Ukrainian teachers vital for providing ‘welcome classes’ to 150,000 children who fled to Germany after Russian invasion”, The Guardian

Back to school for Ukranian Refugees, Expats means Fresh Start with Old Fears, The74

Yemen

Children in war-torn Yemen skip class to survive ‘misery’, France 24

Venezuela

““Right now, I don’t even have a pencil for my children to start classes in September,” said Florena Delgado, who teaches first and fifth grades at two schools in one of the lowest-income neighborhoods of the capital, Caracas”- NBC News

 Teachers in Venezuela march, threaten to strike over low pay, few resources, NBC News

“Over it” but unable to escape it: Going back to school with COVID in 2022

Part 2 of this year’s back-to-school scan pulls together some of the headlines that highlight issues related to the continuing impact of the  COVID-19. Part 1 revealed some of the issues, fears, and (a few) hopes expressed in some of the major sources of US education news over the past few weeks and Part 3 will provide a roundup of the back-to-school headlines we are seeing from around the world. We will also follow-up with a post surveying some of the many discussions and debates about the realities and challenges of the “teacher shortage”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

“Over it” but also unable to escape it seems to capture the sentiment of many of the back-to-school stories that address the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools. A series of articles from the74 in particular highlight that although many schools and educators are making decisions to end closures, remote options, and masking, there also appears to be a recognition that those decisions could lead to more surges requiring schools to respond again. Education Week also highlighted how, in the US, those decisions have been supported with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the White House to help schools deal with the “new abnormal.”

‘Over It’: Most Educators Say They Won’t Mask This Fall, Education Week

Many Remote Learning Options Shutting Down as School Reopens for Fall 2022, The74

“According to a new review by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, the “approaches of America’s 100 largest districts suggest that most are jettisoning remote learning entirely, or reverting back to programs that existed before the pandemic forced them to swiftly provide all families with some sort of online option.”

‘Treat This as You Would Any Illness’ — Schools Downgrading COVID Rules, The74

“As students return from summer vacation, school systems nationwide are scaling back COVID masking and quarantine requirements — in some cases, eliminating them altogether. Many are simply telling students to stay home if they have symptoms, much as they did before the pandemic.”

School Mask, Vaccine Mandates Are Mostly Gone. But What if the Virus Comes Back? , The74

Student Absences May Spike Due to Low Vaccination Rates, Weaker Immunity Education Week

Thousands without childhood vaccinations unable to return to school, EdSource

CDC’s Latest COVID Guidance for Schools Ends ‘Test-to-Stay,’ Quarantine Recommendations, Education Week

“The White House followed the CDC’s lead, de-emphasizing the importance of masking and quarantining and instead focusing on vaccinations, testing, and air quality as major prevention strategies.”Education Week

White House Outlines Key COVID-Prevention Strategies for This School Year, Education Week

FACT SHEET: BACK TO SCHOOL 2022: Giving Every School the Tools to Prevent COVID-⁠19 Spread and Stay Safely Open All Year Long, The White House

Back to School: 10 Steps Schools and Districts Can Take to Address New and Ongoing COVID-19 Challenges, Learning Policy Institute

“My biggest concern is that we’ve seen a ton of viral infections just over the summer,” says Magna Dias, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatrician. “So, when we get back to indoor settings with kids being together again, it could mean that we will see more infections happening—both with COVID-19 and with other viral infections.”Yale Medicine

Respiratory Viruses, Colds, Fever, COVID: This Year’s Back-to-School Guide for Parents, Yale Medicine

Hope and trepidation:  Scanning the back-to-school headlines in the US

This year’s scan of the back-to-school headlines begins with a focus on the issues, fears, and (a few) hopes expressed in some of the major sources of US education news over the past few weeks. A future post will look specifically at how schools will be dealing with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic; one will provide a roundup of back-to-school headlines we are seeing from around the world; and one will survey the many discussions and debates about the realities and challenges of the “teacher shortage”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

“It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better,” Lydia McNeiley, a college and career coordinator from Hammond Indiana, summed up the sentiments reflected in many US back-to-school stories this year. Quoted in an Education Week story on “Student Wellness Issues for Schools to Watch This Year”, McNeiley captured the mixed feelings expressed in many of the headlines.

“It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better,” Lydia McNeiley quoted in Education Week

Despite occasional optimism, for the most part, the talk of “re-imagining” schools has been replaced with stories about the realities of dealing with concerns about missing students, money, socio-emotional development, health, safety, and, particularly with the recent release of the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, learning.

Reports of some positive changes and offerings of hopeful advice are also pprinkled among the headlines For his part, US Education Secretary Cardona noted the importance of addressing issues like how to provide more support for teachers, but he also looks forward to a “return to normal:” “I’m really thrilled that students are feeling that back-to-school excitement the way it was before. It’s not back to school with a caveat.” (U.S. Secretary Cardona: how to fix teachers shortages, create safer schools, EdWeek).

Back-to-school headlines from around the US:

Bracing for the worst, hoping for the best: A country holds its breath as children return to school, U.S. News

As a new year starts, schools prepare for fewer masks, more learning and joy, NPR

Hope, relief and lessons learned: Teachers anticipate a smoother school year , EdSource

COVID-19 ‘shocked’ education with steepest declines in half-century, K-12 Dive

The pandemic erased two decades of progress in reading and math scores, New York Times

Some Students Are Routinely Denied Challenging Work. The Pandemic Made That Worse, Education Week

Cities face crisis as fewer kids enroll and schools shrink, AP 

School is back in session in LA. Where are the students?, NPR

Public School Enrollment Continues to Stagnate, Education Week

49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools in fall 2021…well below the 50.8 million students who were in public pre-K-12 before the pandemic began. Where are the other 1.3 million kids?” – Education Week

Fearing ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ District Leaders Reluctant to Hire Full-Time Teachers, The74 

As pandemic aid runs out, America is set to return to a broken school funding system, Chalkbeat

Inflation weighs on back-to-school buying for many families, AP

Edtech Funding Falls Sharply in 2022Crunchbase

As Free School Meals End, School Nutrition Directors Brace for Challenges, Education Week

As students go back to school, many face a school lunch bill for the first time in two years, NPR

Inflation means teachers who buy their own supplies have to spend more or ask for help, Marketplace

For the first time in 20 years, teachers can deduct more for school supplies, NPR

Teachers Take to Twitter to Crowdfund Classroom Supplies, Education Week

Youth mental health is in crisis. Are schools doing enough?, AP

Kids are back in the classroom, and laptops are still spying on them, Wired

5 Big Technology Challenges Teachers and Administrators Will Face This School Year, Education Week

Eighty-three percent of school district technology leaders report that they will expand their cybersecurity initiatives, with a majority (62 percent) also increasing their cybersecurity budgets…By contrast: in 2020, only 31 percent said they were increasing their cybersecurity budgets. Education Week

‘Heat day’ school closures on the rise because the climate crisis is already here, Daily Kos

First day of school? Nationwide heat waves say ‘not so fast’, District Administration

Another year, another reason to cancel classes: soaring school heat worsened by faulty or non-existent air-conditioning. School closures due to heat are not new but they have been increasing significantly, with numbers doubling in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver and Philadelphia”, District Administration and Daily Kos.

Stress, Harassment, Censorship: What Educators Face as Politics Roils Schools, Education Week

“Sixty-one percent of principals and 37 percent of teachers surveyed by the RAND Corporation reported experiencing harassment about these politicized topics, which contributed to burnout, frequent job-related stress, and symptoms of depression…. And there are signs this contention has led to a chilling effect: 1 in 4 teachers have been told to stay away from conversations about political and social issues in class. Seventeen states have imposed bans and restrictions on how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, either through legislation or other avenues” Education Week

Back to school in DeSantis’ Florida, where teachers are looking over their shoulders, New York Times

How the Overturning of ‘Roe v. Wade’ Will Reverberate Through Classrooms, Education Week

For some students, back to school will mean better-ventilated classrooms, NBC news 

Let the kids sleep: California becomes first state to mandate later school starts, Today

The Best Advice for New Teachers, in 5 Words or Less: 2022 Edition, Education Week

5 Strategies for a Successful Start to the School Year, Getting Smart

– Thomas Hatch

Revisiting Innovative Educational Change in Africa, the US and India

IEN will be taking a break until the end of August, but in the meantime, please revisit some of our posts highlighting specific improvements that organizations like Fount for Nations, Van Ness Elementary School and Transcend, and the Central Square Foundation are making in schools and learning opportunities around the world. IEN returns in September with our annual scan of “back to school” headlines in the US and other parts of the world.

Collaboration, Coherence and Learning in Educational Improvement: A Conversation with Elizabeth Leisy Stosich

In this month’s Lead the Change Interview, Elizabeth Leisy Stosich talks about her work focusing on understanding how district, school, and teacher leaders can work together to strengthen the quality and equity of students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. Stosich is Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy at Fordham University. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website

Lead the change (Ltc): The 2023 AERA theme is Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. What specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich (ELS): I appreciate how AERA’s theme this year urges us as scholars to take responsibility for critically considering not simply what we research but how we approach our research and the consequences of these decisions. As educational scholars, we are (hopefully) deeply invested in understanding and supporting meaningful improvements in schools and systems. Yet, as educators and scholars, one challenge we face is that we each bring our own biases to understanding problems in education and, correspondingly, the change that is needed. These biases can lead us to define problems and identify solutions in particular ways, ways that may not reflect the actual problem as experienced by those closest it. For example, as a scholar focused primarily on instructional improvement, I can be quick to identify problems as student learning challenges that require new professional learning for teachers and school leaders. When you’re a hammer, every problem requires a nail. For me and many of the educational leaders I work with, we can be quick to see each problem as simply requiring new or different teacher PD. We can also be slow to give up on ideas that we’ve deeply invested in even when they either are a poor fit for the problem or we see little evidence of authentic improvement.

As educational change scholars, I think a central aspect of centering equity and pursuing truth is to engage as partners with the stakeholders closest to the “change.” In improvement science this is often described as being “user” centered. When we partner with practitioners, we need to take time to carefully understand and define the problems we seek to address with our change efforts. These initial decisions have important implications for the change work we take up. I think we are much more likely to be successful in supporting meaningful change when we engage in shared problem diagnosis and solution identification as partners with educators and the students and communities they serve. Through this collaborative process, we can bring more diverse perspectives to defining the problems we center in our change efforts.

Ltc: In your work, you examine relationships between school leaders on decision-making teams and during policy implementation. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?  

ELS: In my own research (Stosich, 2020, 2021) as well as a number of large survey studies one thing stands out: principals think they are involving teachers in decision-making and teachers do not agree. Looking closely at decision-making in instructional leadership teams (ILTs), I found one explanation for this gap; principals typically involve teachers in decision-making only superficially. For example, principals may ask teachers to decide whether or not to move forward with a proposed initiative (e.g., Should we do lesson study?) rather than engaging them more fully as partners in problem diagnosis and solution identification (e.g., How could we work together to strengthen our instruction?).

This is a big problem for two reasons. First, truly engaging teachers as partners in decision-making is a powerful leadership practice because it allows for teachers to draw on their instructional expertise and knowledge of students and colleagues to inform the decision. Second, when principals and teachers make decisions together, principals gain teachers’ commitment for implementation as part of the decision-making process. When principals only engage teachers superficially in decision-making, they don’t benefit from teachers’ knowledge in shaping the decision and are unlikely to gain their commitment for implementing the proposed solution.

“Through this collaborative process, we can bring more diverse perspectives to defining the problems we center in our change efforts.”

Ltc: In your recent work investigating how educators experience policy shifts in high-accountability contexts, you find that policy alignment, thoughtful sequencing, slower pace, and extensive support can be helpful in creating successful change. How might your findings help scholars and practitioners imagine and implement policy changes more effectively? 

ELS: I think we would benefit from paying greater attention to the larger environmental conditions we are creating for policy change. What are the conditions we are creating and what do they feel like for the educators responsible for policy implementation?

In a strategy activity in my book with Michelle Forman and Candice Bocala, The Internal Coherence Framework: Creating the Conditions for Continuous Improvement for Schools, we ask educators to reflect on the question: What does it feel like to be a teacher in this school? I think this question is essential in policy change. Do teachers feel like they are focused and engaged in sustained learning in an effort to implement a change that will result in meaningful benefits for students? Or are they overwhelmed by multiple initiatives with little time to really understand and apply new learning about these ideas in their classroom? We typically pair ambitious policy goals with pretty limited support for learning what changes are necessary to meet these goals. Changing practice is difficult and time-consuming work!

My research looking specifically at principals suggests that when principals acknowledge the challenge presented by new instructional policies and frame this challenge as one that requires learning to work with students and content in new ways, they are more likely to close the gap between current practice and policy goals than when they frame the challenge as one of simply executing new approaches (Stosich, 2017). As research from Amy Edmondson and others suggests, when we frame policy change as a “learning” rather than an “execution” challenge, we acknowledge that we don’t know everything we need to know to meet our goals for policy change and, thus, open ourselves to new learning and change. An execution challenge is more appropriate for routine changes, which are rarely the focus of policy change.

In my research with Emily Hodge on the Common Core (Hodge & Stosich, 2022), we found that when policies are introduced in rapid succession even those that are connected and reinforcing can be experienced by teachers and leaders as overwhelming and incoherent. This is particularly true when you introduce high-stakes accountability. We need a supportive environment for learning and change during policy implementation, one that provides the time and support necessary for learning and change before introducing accountability. This should include sustained, job-embedded opportunities for professional learning about the policy change and systems that reinforce and support this learning, such as aligned curriculum and assessment materials and ongoing, developmental feedback for teachers and school leaders.

“Learning is challenging but also rewarding—something we need to acknowledge and celebrate.”

Ltc: Educational Change expects those engaged in and with schools, schooling, and school systems to spearhead deep and often difficult transformation. How might those in the field of Educational Change best support these individuals and groups through these processes?

ELS: Be part of the change yourself! As scholars, we learn and change our thinking all the time (hopefully!) based on new understanding we gain from those with whom we study and work.

We need to share openly with our partners about how we are shifting our beliefs and practice and why. I think this modeling is important for reinforcing the idea that learning and change is an opportunity for growth and not simply an admission of weakness. Just this past fall I really shifted how I think about how people connect and develop relationships through improvement work after a comment from a member of our doctoral program led me to question some of my assumptions. I always assumed that we build the relationships that support our collaborative learning and improvement through working together towards shared goals. A student remarked with some surprise that we seemed to just “get right down to business” working on identifying and addressing problems of practice before really getting to know each other on a more personal level. This comment really struck a chord with me and led me to think more deeply about the very personal nature of change and what relationships could best support our collective change efforts. I tried to reflect openly about this change and how her thinking had changed my own during the course in hopes that this would encourage others to be open to change. I also thanked her—learning is challenging but also rewarding—something we need to acknowledge and celebrate.

Still, change can be personally challenging. Something I read in James Spillane’s (2004) book about standards implementation has stuck with me for a long time: when we ask people to learn new ways of doing familiar things, we risk damaging their self-concept. Essentially, when we ask people to change what they are already doing, we ask them to admit that what they have been doing wasn’t good enough and needs to change. This can feel a lot like telling me that I’m not good enough. I think the change process becomes less daunting when we share openly and model how we are changing our own beliefs and practices. This is important for people in all roles but particularly for leaders—are you asking others to be open to change without being open to change yourself? This creates an inhospitable environment for authentic learning and change, which requires acknowledging the limitations of our current knowledge and being open to new ideas and approaches.

Ltc: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future? 

ELS: I am excited about the more critical lenses educational leaders and scholars are bringing to their work in educational change. In doing so, there has been greater attention to not only issues of achievement and access but also issues of identity and power as part the focus of change. For instance, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some very exciting work happening in a Bronx Community School District that involves networks of principals working together to address three equity-focused issues: reducing racial disproportionality in chronic absenteeism, strengthening culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE), and creating more affirming and inclusive school environments. In my view, chronic absenteeism is an access issue, while the district’s work on strengthening CRSE addresses issues of identity—including ensuring students’ identity is reflected in the curriculum—and power, as they teach students to understand and address systems of oppression. I am energized by the focus on more holistic, student-centered, and culturally responsive discussions of learning and change taking place in so many districts and schools.

My favorite recent book is Decoteau Irby’s Stuck improving: Racial equity and school leadership. One important lesson I took from his research on racial equity improvement is that centering Black and Brown people’s perspectives, what he describes as “Black and Brown people’s influential presence,” is essential for understanding problems and monitoring progress (and setbacks) with attention to the influence of race and racism. This involves much more than simply seeking out the perspectives of Black and Brown youth, educators, and community members on the change work at one point in time. Instead, it involves building the organization—the school or district—in ways that will ensure Black and Brown people are not only present but actively influencing our change work at every step—including the problems we identify, the decisions we make about how to work on them, and all our learning along the way.

References

Forman, M. L., Stosich, E. L., & Bocala, C. (2017). The internal coherence framework: Creating the conditions for continuous improvement in schools. Harvard Education Press.

Hodge, E. & Stosich, E. L. (2022). Accountability, alignment, and coherence: How educators made sense of complex policy environments in the Common Core era. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737221079650

Irby, D. J. (2021). Stuck improving: Racial equity and school leadership. Harvard Education Press.

Spillane, J. P. (2004). Standards deviation: How schools misunderstand educational policy. Harvard University Press.

Stosich, E. L. (2017). Leading in a time of ambitious reform: Principals in high-poverty urban elementary schools frame the challenge of the Common Core State Standards. Elementary School Journal, 117(4), 539-565. https://doi.org/10.1086/691585

Stosich, E. L. (2020). Central office leadership for instructional improvement: Developing collaborative leadership among principals and instructional leadership team members. Teachers College Record, 122(9). https://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=23383
Stosich, E. L. (2021). “Are we an advisory board or a decision making entity?”: Teachers’ involvement in decision making in instructional leadership teams. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2021.1995879

Is Schooling Around the World the Same? Classroom photos from France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Sweden and India

Do schools around the world show the same basic patterns of organization and instruction found in US schools and classrooms over the past 100 years? Larry Cuban explored this question in a series of speculative blog posts over the past few months. Cuban acknowledged the limitations of his unsystematic review of classroom photos he found on the internet, but Cuban’s reflections also serve as another opportunity to continue conversations about what has and hasn’t changed in schooling over time and across contexts. To that end, in this week’s post, Thomas Hatch pulls together some of Cuban’s observations and photos.

To what extent does the prevailing organization of the age-graded school and dominant teacher-centered way of instruction found in many U.S. public schools characterize schools and classrooms in other countries? Larry Cuban asked this question in a series of seven blog posts that began with Schooling in the U.S. and around the World (Part 1). He posed this question as one means of challenging his own observation of these patterns in the US, wondering, “perhaps I am incorrect because there are other ways to organize classrooms and teach elsewhere in the world of which I am ignorant. This latter possibility of my being unaware of other patterns in organizing schools and teaching approaches in other nations is one I want to explore. I may be incorrect in claiming these historic patterns of schooling and teaching in the U.S. are present in other nations.”

Subsequent posts then went on to describe the basic organization of education in France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Sweden, and India and a non-representative scan of online pictures of classrooms in each system. Cuban also shared responses from readers who had experience in schools in Russia, Japan, and France (Chemistry Lesson in Russian Secondary School (Mary Sue Burns); Japanese Classrooms: From Chaos to Complete Control (Mary DeVries); Teaching in a French School (Renee Z. Wang)

Cuban’s posts show photos with common images of students sitting in rows facing the front of a classroom:

Clockwise from top left: Sweden; Uttar Pradesh, India; Preschool in Japan (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama); 1st grade in Russia; secondary school classroom in Germany; Second grade classroom in France

Some of those posts also show photos that feature both the same classroom organization that dominated US classrooms throughout the 20th Century and the display or use of new technologies invented at the beginning of the 21st Century:

Schoolchildren listen to a teacher showing how to use “GraphoLearn”, an application on a digital tablet, to learn to read, in a primary school in Marseille, France & classroom use of technology used in a pilot project in India

Along with the pictures of students in sitting in rows around the world, an occasional picture shows students and teachers seated in a circle:

Sweden; India; Japan; Germany (Gordon Welters for The New York Times)

While acknowledging the short-comings of his approach and inviting readers to challenge his generalizations, Cuban concluded “…similarities are obvious:

  • Every nation compels parents to send their sons and daughters to school up to a decade or more.
  • Every one pays the costs for schooling either directly or indirectly.
  • Every one is age-graded.
  • Every one publishes national (or state) curriculum standards for each elementary and secondary school subject.
  • Every one tests student performance in elementary and secondary school subjects.
  • Every one has at least one teacher for each classroom.

Some are national (or federal) systems and some are state-operated with the federal government and states splitting funding and supervisory responsibilities. All of these nations and their states set curriculum standards for each subject and administer tests to determine if schools and students are meeting those standards.

Some nations have centralized systems (e.g., France, Russia, Italy, Japan) where ministry officials make decisions for schools and some are decentralized (e.g., Canada, U.S. Norway) with states and local districts having a moderate degree of discretion to alter what national authorities require. Whether centralized or decentralized, individual schools in every nation have some autonomy in adapting national or state curriculum when organizing for instruction. Need I add that once they close their classroom doors, teachers also exercise discretion in teaching the lesson they planned for the students in front of them that day.

What needs to be stressed that these commonalities among nations in establishing and operating systems of schooling over the past century exist side-by-side with inevitable within-nation variations between rural and urban and wealthy and poor schools that exist. Both commonalities and variations influence the schooling and teaching that occurs daily.”

For Cuban’s full posts see:

Schooling in the U.S. and around the World (Part 1)

Schooling around the World (Part 2)

Schooling around the World (Part 3)

Schooling around the World (Part 4)

Schooling around the World (Part 5)

Schooling around the World (Part 6)

Schooling around the World (Part 7)

Chemistry Lesson in Russian Secondary School (Mary Sue Burns)

Japanese Classrooms: From Chaos to Complete Control (Mary DeVries)

Teaching in a French School (Renee Z. Wang)

Scanning the News on High-Dosage Tutoring (Part 2): Initiatives and Implementation So Far

“High dosage” tutoring has emerged as a common response, to help support student learning in the wake of pandemic school closures.  In Part 1 of a scan of some of the headlines on the related news and research since the start of the pandemic, Naila Shahid reported on the discussions of the emergence of tutoring initiatives, related research, and support programs, particularly in the US. This week Part 2 of the scan focuses on some of the tutoring initiatives launched in different states and questions about implementation so far. 

The emergence of high-dosage tutoring initiatives across the US

As students pile back into in-person learning settings, many school districts across the US are using COVID relief funding from the American Rescue Plan for high-dosage tutoring programs. A report from The Education Trust, FutureEd and Education Reform Now reveals that by the beginning of 2022, “at least 17 states have committed to investing in targeted intensive tutoring, at least five have committed to building statewide tutoring programs, and at least six have committed to providing state-level guidance and support targeted intensive tutoring programs.” According to the report, states that have committed to utilizing a significant portion of their funding on high dosage tutoring include: Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, and Texas. Louisiana expects to spend  $90 million of its $4.1 billion, New Mexico $176 million out of  $1.5 billion, Tennessee $200 million out of  $3.9 billion; and Texas  $1.4 billion out of $19.2 billion.  

“At least 17 states have committed to investing in targeted intensive tutoring, at least five have committed to building statewide tutoring programs, and at least six have committed to providing state-level guidance and support targeted intensive tutoring programs.”

Promising Practices, Education Trust, Education Reform Now, and FutureEd 

Among the state programs underway or proposed: 

New Jersey

Two years ago, the College of New Jersey’s School of Education, in partnership with the Overdeck Family Foundation, launched the New Jersey Summer Tutoring Corps. The program hired in-service and preservice teachers to tutor students for a minimum of 10 hours a week. The tutoring locations were YMCA and Boys & Girls Club. Tutors earned $20 to $25 per hour. The NJ Summer Tutoring Corps  provided tutoring to 2,000 students in the summer of 2021 and expanded to 42 sites in the fall of 2022. 

Tennessee

Tennessee proposed spending $200 million to initiate a three-year tutoring project called Tennessee Accelerating Literacy and Learning Corps.  That project involves 83 districts across Tennessee participating in the Corps serving 150,000 students in either Math or English language Arts.  The program primarily targets elementary students who are below the proficiency level. 

Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Education has also launched an Arkansas Tutoring Corps. That initiative aims to build a system to recruit and train tutors to meet the academic needs of students in their geographic area. Total compensation for tutors is expected to be up to $3,000 in their first year and $2,500 in subsequent years. Arkansas Tutoring Corps tutors can be students enrolled in the educator prep programs in institutions of higher education, retired educators, current teachers, and community members. 

Indiana

The City of Indianapolis in Indiana also planned to expand a virtual tutoring initiative as part of their effort to help students catch up on reading and math skills. According to a Chalkbeat report, the results of two pilot programs showed improvement in participating students’ math scores of 12% to 26% and English/language arts scores by 4% to 9%. 

Quality of implementation and effectiveness 

Although it is far too soon judge the effectiveness of most of these plans, despite the promise, numerous questions about the implementation and effectiveness of scaling-up tutoring programs remain. In particular, some stories are already documenting challenges and progress of implementation, including basic logistical issues that are delaying the full implementation of these programs in some places. In Chicago, for example, tutors were hired before decisions were made on who will train the tutors or how they would be trained. Lack of space for tutoring as well as scheduling have also been problematic. Recruiting and staffing also remains one of the critical challenges (Schools need tutors and mentors. Can a new federal initiative find 250,000?). According to the Hechinger Report, in Tennessee, despite strong gains for students overall, the percent of students who were reading at the lowest level on the state’s proficiency test — the students who were the focus of the state’s tutoring initiative grew from 31% to 36% over the past two years (“Early data on ‘high-dosage’ tutoring shows schools are sometimes finding it tough to deliver even low doses“). In the UK, the National Tutoring Program has also been criticized for failing to reach some of the students that need the most help, and there are similar concerns that in the US it will take longer to scale the Federally-supported tutoring initiatives than expected. As Robert Balfanz from the National Partnership for Student Success told the74​​, “We can’t mobilize fast enough. There are still some lost opportunities.”

What role do professional organizations play in helping educators navigate these tumultuous and dangerous times? Lead the Change responds to the US Supreme Court

In place of this month’s Lead the Change (LtC) Interview, Alex Lamb, LtC Editor posed this key question to leaders of several professional organizations in education. Below, we share Lamb’s introduction, her question, and the responses she received. Lamb is a postdoctoral researcher in the Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy program at the Neag School at the University of Connecticut.

Note from Alex Lamb, LtC Editor: This month, we decided to pause our regular format to better respond to the wave of recent Supreme Court rulings deeply impacting the daily lives of millions of educators and school children specifically. These rulings have shaken many of those in our community and ushered in sweeping changes to the systems we rely on for care and learning.

As I read the news, I felt scared, rageful, demoralized, and dehumanized. I thought about
how we might use this platform and this community to build coalitions that move us to a better future. In these desperate times, how can we lean on our communities to find solace and energy for the path ahead?

In this issue, we hear from the leaders of professional organizations, AERA (American Educational Research Association), AEFP (Association for Education Finance and Policy), UCEA (University Council for Educational Administration), and our Educational Change SIG chair. In hearing from these leaders, we hope to provide guidance, solidarity, hope, and community. I asked them to respond to the following question:

Recently, there have been a rash of Supreme Court decisions that have fundamentally reshaped American society and schools including women’s rights to bodily autonomy, the use of public funds for religious schooling, and shifting rules regarding prayer in schools. What role do you see professional
organizations of education scholarship playing in helping scholars and practitioners navigate these tumultuous and dangerous times?

These leaders all generously offered ideas about how to best move forward in these trying times. I
hope you find something in this issue to support and sustain you. These responses helped me to
feel less alone, and I hope they can do the same for you. Take care of yourselves.

-Alex

The Work of Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth

H. Richard Milner IV, President, AERA,

Felice J. Levine, Executive Director, AERA

The questions posed to us by the editor of the Lead to Change Series are very timely and
complex. There is no single function or role that defines what we do. The American Research Association (AERA) as a scientific member association has multiple tools and approaches at our command consonant with our mission.

On matters of public policy and position taking, AERA has been enabled by a statement on Position Taking and Policy Processes Guidelines adopted by AERA Council in January 2005.1 That document overviews the range of ways that AERA as a professional research association can address significant social policy issues through research. The value of featured symposia, teach-ins, and professional workshops at the AERA Annual Meeting; research briefings to governmental agencies and holding public fora that bring together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners; special issues of journals elevating research and research directions; and professional development workshops to build capacity in the research community are just some of those ways.

When the issues are societally significant and the research is compelling, AERA with Council’s approval has prepared and led research amicus briefs or joined sign-on letters to communicate the scientific studies and scholarly bodies of work that need to be considered by courts or policy bodies. AERA has done so over two decades in a series of “affirmative action” education cases before the Supreme Court. The decision to do so is consonant with AERA’s mission to serve the public good and make accessible research when the education research is compelling, when the issues are of high social significance, and when distortion of research for advocacy ends may also be evident.2

As we at AERA see it, professional research organizations have an essential role in supporting and facilitating the advancement of knowledge, in building the capacity to do so and in fostering wide awareness of that knowledge to peoples around the globe. Especially in these deeply polarizing and political moments in the United States, our attention to salient issues of public significance needs to be more rather than less elevated, and we need to press for evidence-based decisions. Where there is germane education research, we also have an organizational responsibility to be sure that work is visible and accessible in policy and practice settings and that researchers in our field are encouraged to do so.

“Education research must be designed intentionally to bring to light when policy or practice formulations harm certain groups or the collective good.”

The work of professional organizations in response to Supreme Court decisions such as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the decisions on religion and schooling bring to the fore all these issues. To be sure, members of AERA embody an enormous range of diversities and have various belief systems. Members also reflect a spectrum of political views ranging from ultra-liberal to highly conservative. They also approach their research and the problem spaces they probe from different epistemological orientations. They draw from divergent conceptual and theoretical tools. They construct different conjectures and support or are active in different forms of advocacy or mission organizations that reflect those interests and views. What binds us together, however, is our members’ commitment to our research mission—to advance knowledge in ways that embrace discussion and debate, that allow for and consider divergent questions and issues, and that arrive at research implications or applications based on the best of our knowledge at any point in time.

“The lives of many women will never be the same under this ruling, and our organizations must be responsive to these shifting times.”

In our view, this means that AERA must be steadfast in our emphasis on research—in naming, speaking out against, and building systems to dismantle injustice and inequity based on robust and sustained study.3 To be consequential – it should lead to evidence about education in relation to the potential deleterious effects of rulings and policies that have a real bearing on physical, psychological, and emotional health and wellbeing of our members as well as the communities in which we study. In this way, education research must be designed intentionally to bring to light when policy or practice formulations harm certain groups or the collective good. Moreover, education research must be consequential in making recommendations based on science— for what these moments of societal shifts might mean for the lives that education helps to shape.

As an organization, we hope we will as a community work to do the following:

  1. Listen to, be sensitive and empathetic toward, and work in collaboration with the people most influenced by oppressive policy and practice shifts. This means that expectations for research, knowledge production, teaching, and service in institutions such as higher education, think tanks, and other organizations must shift expectations based on needs of women.4
  2. Learn about and make recommendations on ways to co-construct communities of health and wellness and not operate from a business-as-usual framework. The lives of many women will never be the same under this ruling, and our organizations must be responsive to these shifting times.
  3. Focus our research, teaching, and service on matters that address intersections of the Supreme Court rulings and education. In short, educational organizations have a responsibility to work with communities to design research agendas of education consequences in theory, practice, praxis, and policy.
  4. Share what we know widely and often. What we learn and come to know from education research must be shared as widely as possible with communities inside and outside of the academy. As politicians make decisions about education, they should be able to rely on the world’s largest education research association to find answers to problems. Because those outside of our communities may not read traditional outlets with education research such as full-length books or journal articles, our work can be informative and shared through blog posts, poetry, data-rich opinion essays, social media commentaries, music, short films, YouTube clips, and newspaper articles.

Consonant with steps 1-4 above, AERA’s 2005 guidelines also provide for AERA’s speaking out in opposition to or in support of public policies that centrally affect our field (see 2005 guidelines on “mission-oriented policy and position taking”), including related to the education research workforce. The Dobbs decision is likely to have an adverse impact on women graduate students and professionals in education research. The implications of this situation for further actions by AERA, including with other scientific associations, is under active consideration.

AERA has not heretofore been silent in unparalleled times. But we reaffirm that our responses must be guided by the best of what we know from sound empirical research in pursuit of truth and the Association’s commitment to diversity and equity for all.

Jason A. Grissom, President, AEFP

The Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) is a professional organization for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners tackling the most important education finance and policy issues of the day across the spectrum from early childhood to postsecondary education. Our primary goal, stated in the AEFP mission statement, is to promote research and connections between researchers and policymakers/practitioners that can inform education policy and finance and, ultimately, improve educational outcomes.

The question of how professional organizations like ours can help scholars and practitioners navigate the current environment is one for which we have very incomplete answers right now. That’s why I start with our mission: when organizations face new questions, mission statements can provide direction. And ours highlights that two ideas sit at the center of AEFP’s work: research and connections. So, in thinking about how AEFP can help our members respond to the current moment, I start with those ideas.

Let’s start with research. An important way we can meet the current moment is by creating space and visibility for timely, high-quality research to inform the policies and practices that must respond to these big changes in our social environment, especially as they intersect with education. Our members care deeply about current issues and no doubt will be generating new evidence about these shifts and their impacts on students and educators. We can promote that evidence and help push it into public debate.

To this end, the last annual conference featured a special track for research on racial and other forms of educational equity and another for research on COVID-19. We organized “policy talks” (featuring researchers and practitioners in public conversation) that directly addressed these topics. We invited a keynote who spoke to the connection between research and advocacy around this “dual pandemic.” We plan for our next conference to similarly highlight research, policy, and practice around social and educational issues exemplified in Texas, given that Fort Worth is slated to host the event. This means directing attention toward research at the intersection between education and, for example, reproductive care or LGBTQI+ rights that are so salient in Texas and beyond.

The point is that AEFP members often shape their research in response to issues of the day, and we want the conference and our other events to be ready vehicles for sharing, discussing, and spreading that research. Professional organizations like ours are uniquely positioned to play this kind of elevating role.

“A more inclusive community is going to supply better answers to more complex problems of policy and practice.”

Finding new ways to build connections are just as important. A defining characteristic of AEFP has always been the sense of community among its members, and community feels more valuable now than ever. One of our major initiatives of the last year has been the creation of new “community groups” organized around different aspects of identity (e.g., scholars of color, LGBTQI+ members) to promote networking, reflection, and professional learning opportunities. In tumultuous times, a role of professional organizations is to build this kind of connective tissue, and indeed this year we are doubling down, investing new resources and starting new groups. Tighter connections to fellow travelers can be key sources of support and reinforcement.

They can also present new opportunities for collaboration around the research the field needs to address the challenges a rapidly shifting policy environment poses. That’s why it’s so important now that we strengthen connections not just among the kinds of researchers and policymakers who traditionally have made up AEFP’s membership but among a more diverse set of voices. A more inclusive community is going to supply better answers to more complex problems of policy and practice. The current moment should be (and in our case, at least, is) intensifying efforts of professional associations to become more welcoming and deliberately inclusive of a diverse membership.

David DeMatthews, President, UCEA

Education research societies, such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), play a critical role in encouraging and supporting education research and preparing the next generation of researchers and practitioners. Education research societies provide important opportunities for training future researchers and practitioners, disseminating research findings, and incubating and testing innovations and new ideas. Over the past few years, the importance of these research societies has become even more critical.

“Over the past few years, the importance of these research societies has become even more critical.”

Perhaps more than ever before, education researchers and practitioners are working in a highly politically-divisive environment. Climate change continues to disrupt life on our planet and the work of education systems while many elected officials deny its existence. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted communities, families, students, and educators. The murder of George Floyd and ongoing calls for racial and social justice led many state legislatures to make it illegal to teach about racism or a true accounting of U.S. history. The Trump administration’s separation of children from families at the U.S.-Mexico border, the January 6 th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a wave of recent Supreme Court decisions undermine American values, civil rights victories, and the separation of
church and state (e.g. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization; Carson v. Makin).

The current divisive political context is a serious challenge for education research societies and its members, but also serves as an important opportunity to reflect, build and strengthen relationships, and further advance knowledge for the public good. At this moment, education research societies are extremely important because they serve as powerful, formalized social networks able to speak to broad social challenges and offer the public evidence-based insights into complex issues. However, education research societies must be even more intentional about how they mentor aspiring and current researchers and practitioners, how they sponsor and disseminate research, and their approaches and opportunities for incubating new ideas.

Moving forward, education research societies can be more responsive and further their missions by:

  • Investing in preparation pipelines that attract more diverse researchers and practitioners capable of drawing from different disciplines and experiences;
  • Partnering and participating within other research societies and practitioner organizations to champion research, practitioner knowledge, and justice;
  • Safeguarding academic freedom so researchers and practitioners can raise questions and new ideas without fear of retribution;
  • Strategically investing into areas of research that can serve the public good and address pressing problems of practice;
  • Mentoring researchers and practitioners to be more effective at communicating research findings and relevant information in nation, state, and local policy arenas.

These actions are not comprehensive but can bolster the impact of education research societies and their members as they seek to advance the public good. Many education research societies are already engaged in these efforts, so it is also important that researcher and practitioner members remain engaged, volunteer, participate in governance and oversight activities, and offer ongoing support within their respective societies.

Jennie Weiner, Chair, Educational Change SIG

As someone who considers herself an intersectional feminist and spends quite a bit of my professional life thinking about how to make educational systems more equitable and better places for adults and students to grow and learn, it is perhaps not a surprise I have recently been in conversation with a number of people, including some of my students, colleagues, friends, and family members trying to make sense of these court decisions and seeking advice of how to respond. Never have I felt so unable to provide comfort or really answers of any kind to myself or others. I feel gutted, I am despairing, and honestly, I don’t know what to do.

My paralysis is not due to a lack of affiliation or a failure of those in positions of power or leadership in our field to try to give comfort or purpose to our work. Rather, I am at a point where I think, just as our foremothers argued, that using the very systems that enabled these things to happen will not work to change them. I don’t think these are problems that can be solved with better research or doing more of the work we have always done (or even some of what we haven’t). The tools that I have as an educational researcher are insufficient to make the laws of this country treat me and other women, girls, and any other pregnant person as human beings with bodily autonomy and the right to live. No matter how good I am making my work accessible via social media or through op-eds, I do not believe I can make those in power reinstitute the separation of church and state or to stop the use of public funds for religious education and prayer in school.

So what to do? Well, I might suggest that there are lots of people who have been fighting for our rights and the rights of educators, communities, and children without it being officially sanctioned by those in power and that we should be looking to them and not to the academy for answers. I note here that some of these are folks are in our SIG and AERA more broadly and have worked hard to tell us that we would never get real transformation through the existing system. There are also community organizers, educators, parents, young people, and lots of others who have long been doing this work and know what to do and how to do it. We should ask them what to do and listen when they tell us. I’m trying to follow this advice and do all I can to listen deeply to them, learn from them, use my resources to uplift, bankroll, and promote their work.

“There are community organizers, educators, parents, young people, and lots of others who have long been doing this work and know what to do and how to do it. We should ask them what to do and listen when they tell us.”

This does not mean I am giving up on my work or educational research more broadly and what I believe it can do – move people to ask different and hopefully more thoughtful questions about change and school systems and equity. In this best cases, such efforts will then lead to new and better solutions. As such, I still plan to engage in my research, serve the larger education community, and teach and learn from my students. In my professional life, I will continue to make a stink that can push the academy, the professional organizations with which I affiliate, and my institution to be fairer and more humane.

As the Educational Change SIG, I would suggest too that we can do the same in our organization and respective institutions. We can push for policies and structures that challenge the status quo and evoke research ideas and methods that promote equity and justice. But I am also going to be honest with myself that while this work is important, it is not, in and of itself, my solution to how to navigate these times, nor do I expect it to be – and that makes me feel just a little bit better.

Notes

  1. American Educational Research Association. (2007, January/February). AERA position taking and policymaking processes guidelines. Educational Researcher, 36(1), 50-54. https://www.aera.net/Portals/38/docs/About_AERA/AERA%20Position%20Taking.pdf
  2. See, e.g., Levine, F. J., & Ancheta, A. N. (2013). The AERA et al. amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: Scientific organizations serving society. Educational Researcher, 42(3), 166–171. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X13486765
  3. Note that AERA adopted a social justice mission statement in 2004 reaffirmed in 2006. See American Educational Research Association. (2007, January/February). AERA social justice mission statement. Educational Researcher, 36(1), 49. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X06299093
  4. The adverse impact of COVID-19 for graduate student and early career women and women of color was pointed out in Levine, F. J., Nasir, N. S., Rios- Aguilar, C., Gildersleeve, R. E., Rosich, K. J., Bang, M., Bell, N. E., & Holsapple, M. A. (2021). Voices from the field: The impact of COVID-19 on early career scholars and doctoral students [Focus group study report]. American Educational Research Association; Spencer Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3102/aera20211v

The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A fully formatted pdf of this month’s post is available on the LtC website.