Systems Change, Wellbeing, and Affect: Lead the Change Interviews for AERA (part 5)

This week, IEN shares the fifth and final post in a series featuring presenters from the Educational Change Special Interest Group sessions at the Annual Conference of the American Educational Research Association.  This post features presenters from the session titled: Systems Change, Wellbeing, and Affect. Excerpts include responses to the question: “What are some of the ideas you hope the field of Educational Change and the audience at AERA can learn from your work related to practice, policy, and scholarship?” Part 1 of this series featured presenters from the session titled: Transforming Education and Teacher Education: Technologies, Pedagogies, and Practice. Part 2 of this series featured presenters from the session titled: Conditions Conducive to Learning that Promote Ed Change. Part 3 of this series featured presenters from the session titled: Networks in Education and Change. Part 4 of this series featured presenters from one session titled: Engaging Educators in Equity-Focused Change and another titled: STEM and Sustainable Development Goals. The full interviews can be found on the LtC website. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb.

Reengaging the disengaged: A program evaluation of young adult reengagement programs

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Jacob Williams, Destiny McLennan, and Christopher Mazzeo of Education Northwest 

In the United States, 4.35 million youth and young adults (YYA) ages 14 to 24, or 11.2 percent of young people, are neither in school nor working. These disconnected or opportunity youth (OY) are twice as likely to live in poverty and have a disability and more than 20 times more likely to be living in institutionalized settings (Lewis, 2020).

Many factors contribute to YYA decisions to disengage from high school; however, due to a complex interplay among them, it is difficult to pinpoint one as more salient than another. Common influencers that can undermine young people’s experiences in school include a range of school or system-level factors such as lack of support or guidance from adults, school safety, school policies, and peer influences, as well as a range of life or family challenges often met with little support from schools including health challenges, becoming a parent, incarceration, death of a family member, or gang involvement (Hynes, 2014). Other research points to racial bias, low adult expectations and negative school climate as important factors influencing disengagement (Crumé, 2020). School closures, the shift to virtual learning, and an economic slowdown due to COVID-19 are expected to lead to a significant increase in number of disconnected YYA in the coming years (Lewis, 2020) and greater demand for high quality reengagement efforts.

Those who become disconnected often become overwhelmed by an accumulation of these factors, pushing engagement in school or the workforce down their list of priorities. Once a disconnection event occurs, the odds of reengagement fall due to individuals’ sense of being overwhelmed and/or a lack of easily accessible—or perceived relevant—supports.

There is some evidence showing efforts to reengage YYA can be highly successful (Aspen Institute, 2019; Bangser, 2013), yet, the field still lacks a rigorous research base examining the implementation and effectiveness of specific reengagement programs, program models, and strategies. The results of our investigation provide additional evidence on: 

  • Outcomes young adult reengagement programs hope to achieve,
  • Strategy/approach(s) reengagement programs deploy to reengage young adults and accomplish successful outcomes,
  • How reengagement programs adapt their services and approach in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and
  • Paths forward to
    • review and reform policies that were not designed to address the specific needs and contexts of reengagement programs and have been shown to have a negative impact on reengagement,
    • design reengagement programs to facilitate “going above and beyond” support that does not burden staff, recognizes the nonlinear nature of the reengagement path, includes monetary support for program participants, and better incorporates program participants’ voice, and
    • improve young adults support in the K–12 system to reduce the number of young adults requiring reengagement programs.

Teacher Perceptions of Implementation Climate Related to Feasibility of Schoolwide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Catherine M. Corbin, University of Washington, Maria L. Hugh, University of Kansas, Mark G. Ehrhart, University of Central Florida, Jill Locke, University of Washington, Chayna Davis, University of Washington, Eric C. Brown, University of Miami, Clayton R. Cook, Character Strong, Aaron R. Lyon, University of Washington

There are several things we hope our work will convey. We hope researchers take away how influential specific aspects of the school implementation context (e.g., implementation climate) can be related to implementation outcomes (e.g., feasibility). Importantly, we must examine both shared and individual educator perceptions of the school implementation context. There are statistical and conceptual reasons to take this approach.

First, school implementation climate is an organizational construct operationalized by aggregating teachers’ individual perceptions of it. This means that school implementation climate includes variance among teachers and schools. Not examining or accounting for these different sources of variation (e.g., clustered standard errors, multilevel modeling) means that we will not know whether some or all results pertain to school implementation climate or teachers’ perceptions of it. This type of ambiguity can lead to interventions that target the school when an intervention targeting teachers may have been more appropriate or vice-versa.

“School implementation climate only gets better by strengthening individual perceptions of it.”

implementation context is necessary for improving it—school implementation climate, for example, only gets better by strengthening individual perceptions of it. This means we need to understand how individual perceptions of the school implementation context are related to various implementation outcomes to effectively intervene. We also hope that practitioners see the inherent value of this work to improve students’ educational outcomes. Practitioners live the challenges associated with school-based EBP implementation. Depending on their role (e.g., teacher, principal), they are uniquely situated to either intervene to improve it or report on aspects of their implementation context that need improvement.

While we have much to learn about how the implementation context develops and exerts influence, schools can take action immediately. For example, embedding school implementation climate into implementation data collection would allow schools to link their implementation progress monitoring with aspects of the climate known to influence EBP implementation. Research-practice partnerships may be key in supporting schools to set up the systems necessary to describe and then influence different aspects of the implementation context.

Finally, those who make and/or influence policy are essential to supporting organizational change at scale. For example, school districts have an important role to play in supporting the implementation context of individual schools. Are funds available to build out and/or maintain the data infrastructure needed to monitor EBP implementation? Are schools staffed to build strong implementation teams (e.g., EBP specialist, staff with extensive EBP implementation experience, implementation coach) and/or are staff schedules organized to include time dedicated to supporting EBP implementation (e.g., progress monitoring, reviewing data, creating and updating implementation plans)? Is professional development available to support school leader and teacher knowledge and skills surrounding effective organizational change as it relates to EBP implementation? These are all things that state, local, and district policy can exert direct influence on.

The affective dimension of inspections for educational change and improvement: Insights from Chilean low-performing schools

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Álvaro González, Universidad Catolica Silva Henriquez

Interestingly, I have found in my research that the portrayal of policies as “de-humanized” instruments or systems renders invisible the people who design and deliver such policies, and who have their own concerns about their impact on low-performing and disadvantaged schools and the communities they serve. Moreover, teachers and leaders are not mere “implementers” of policies aimed at their schools, but become policy actors themselves, translating and negotiating meaning and priorities between their communities and state or national policy. There are both cognitive and affective responses from both sets of actors that might determine the extent to which policies are translated into practice, producing real consequences on the lives of people who are in these contexts.

teachers and leaders are not mere “implementers” of policies aimed at their schools, but become policy actors themselves, translating and negotiating meaning and priorities between their communities and state or national policy.

I illustrate this point in my presentation by addressing the affective dimension of inspections for educational change and improvement. Inspections are a type of performance-based accountability (PBA) policy instrument to evaluate schools’ performance and deliver feedback. This paper explores the affective dimension of inspection based on a qualitative case study of three low-performing public schools in Chile, from a policy enactment perspective, to understand actors’ positionality and assimilation of performance feedback. Results indicate that emotional reactions to the performance evaluation (like anger, indifference, shame or challenge) and relational aspects (like negotiation, compliance or dismissing) before and during the inspection visit offer insights as to what extent the performance feedback offered to them was assimilated in their change and improvement efforts. This has implications to understand how and under what conditions low-performing schools can initiate and sustain improvement processes beyond a technical-rational perspective, connecting with the emotional and relational aspects of educational change.


Aspen Institute. (2019). The state of opportunity youth research: Early lessons from five multi-site evaluations of OY programs and collaboratives.

Bangser, M. (2013). Reconnecting disconnected young adults: The early experience of Project Rise. (Policy Brief). MDRC.

Hynes, M. (2014). Don’t call them dropouts: Understanding the experiences of young people who leave high school before graduation. A report from America’s Promise Alliance and its Center for Promise at Tufts University. America’s Promise Alliance

Crumé, H. J., Martinez, D., Yohalem, N., Yoshizumi, A. (2020). Creating paths for change: Understanding student disengagement and reengagement. Seattle, WA: Community Center for Education Results.

Lewis, K. (2020). A decade undone: Youth disconnection in the age of coronavirus. New York: Measure of America, Social Science Research Council.

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