Author Archives: internationalednews

Narratives of New York City Teachers Going Back to School During COVID

This week, in-person instruction began in New York City for pre-kindergarteners and students with special needs. As with schools throughout the world, the return to school looks wildly different than it has in years past. Here in New York City, heading back to school has held a level of uncertainty beyond the ongoing uncertainty of life during COVID. Just last week, with in-person classes set to begin in a number of days, New York City announced for the second time that it would delay the start of in-person instruction. Struggle, uncertainty, and chaos have become constant themes in the push to re-open New York City schools. Teachers and other school employees have expressed deep concerns and frustration with the city’s reopening plans. Families have shared both a hesitation and need to physically return to schools. Now, New York City schools plan to reopen with a staggered schedule. Elementary school students plan to return next week and middle and high schools on October 4th. Once schools re-open, they plan to continue with a hybrid learning format.

In previous years, IEN has scanned the headlines to explore what the “traditional” return to school looks like around the world. This year we scanned the headlines last week, but this week we take a step back to hear directly from educators directly impacted by and still navigating issues of reopening in New York City. Below,  teachers from across the city reflect on teaching during COVID and the complex problems of returning to school in these challenging times.

-Jordan Corson & Lauren McCoy


High school teacher, Manhattan

Let me tell you: I have missed being in the classroom terribly. I miss the daily interaction with my colleagues and students so much. I want and need some normalcy. This is why, even though I could have pushed for reasonable accommodations, I initially decided to opt for in person teaching. Did I make the right decision? If you asked me today, I would say no. Do I feel excited to be back? For the first time ever in my career, I would say no. Am I scared to step into the building? I am. Do I feel safe? I don’t. But this really isn’t about me. It’s about the students. 

I know that nothing can replace in person learning and I’m all for it. I also know that under the current conditions, my students will not be served and they will not receive the quality, equitable education each and every one deserves. We’ll be too busy preaching and worrying about coming too close or wearing our masks correctly. As an educator, this is what hurts the most. What also hurts is that I don’t feel in control. I won’t be able to reassure my kids that we are safe and that everything is going to be fine. Because I don’t know if it will be. I am not in control because I don’t know if I’m trained and equipped well enough to support my students and help them deal with their trauma when I’m still dealing with my own emotional and mental burden. I’m not ready to answer all their “what ifs” since I don’t have the answers. I feel disoriented and confused as I’m still trying to figure things out myself. I’m not in control.

Today, as I’m getting ready to go back to school, I’m thinking that in theory, I am ready to return to my classroom. I want to. But in reality, I don’t feel ready to cope with all the uncertainty, confusion, and anxiety this comes with. I’m not prepared to wear all these different hats I am asked to wear. In reality, we will be teaching remotely while in person. In reality, I’m scared.




Middle school teacher, Queens

In early March, as we began bracing for widespread infections throughout NYC I began to pay close attention to the safety protocols promised to stop the spread of COVID-19 at my school. I noticed that despite promises of safety as top priority, the soap dispensers in our windowless bathroom remained empty, the cold water from the sink remained frigid.  The promises of “Deep cleaning” sounded meaningless, particularly as the world learned the ways in which COVID actually spreads, but even these meaningless promises remained unfulfilled and my classroom only got cleaned because I cleaned it. Mid-March, I knew NYC was unprepared, unable, or uninterested in protecting its school communities, and this was confirmed last Tuesday.  My classroom remained mostly untouched, open windows remained open due to a broken latch, the closed ones remained stuck closed for the same reason, and mouse feces was scattered across my desk.  Extraordinary resources are necessary to properly educate children, but even more are needed to safely execute this academic year. NYC public schools always “do more with less” but this is completely untenable.  Our voices are scorned or ignored and our bodies are being used for political capital, I am terrified.  


Grade 9 Teacher, Brooklyn 

Our building dates from 1920, of course, many improvements have occurred, but as of now, we have no AC in all classrooms, no HPVAC, and last I was there, on Wednesday, September 9, and there was not one single room in which ALL the windows could be opened. The windows that do open, can only be opened for 4 inches, how is that for ventilation? Besides that, our Special Education Department just learned on Friday, September 11, that the DOE, in an effort to provide an adequate form of services for our students with disabilities, had just released a new plan. This new plan requires my school to add ten additional teachers, on top of the other six the school had requested before. So far, we have not heard when or if the DOE will provide those teachers. I am a special education teacher who normally teaches ELA and Social Studies, and I might have to teach Algebra 2 in the fall. How am I to teach my students a subject I do not understand nor have any passion for? 


ESL High school teacher, Washington Heights

I know this is obvious, but I want to start by saying how much I miss my students and how much I wish we could be going back to our classrooms and doing discussions and groupwork without the fear of spreading COVID. A lot of my students struggled to complete their assignments at home in the spring and I deeply understand how much they need in-person support. That’s especially true for my ELLs (as I’m sure you know!!!!) since they haven’t had the same opportunities to learn and practice English at home as they would have in school. I’m worried that my students lost a lot of their English abilities since March, in particular their speaking skills, and it’s a window of time they aren’t going to get back. 

That being said, I strongly believe the DOE’s plan to open all schools to students on September 21 is unsafe. I wish the DOE had been more creative about staggering students back to in-person learning, either by grade level or perhaps by identifying our most vulnerable student populations and giving them access to in-person resources first. There are creative ways to do this, like collaboration among schools to spread students out into the schools with the safest ventilation/building reports. Instead, the DOE has left it up to each school to figure out how to make this work on our own. At my school we’re preoccupied and overwhelmed about creating new safety policies such as: How many students can be in the bathroom at once? How are we controlling the flow of movement in the hallways? Who is monitoring bathrooms and hallways? Since our water fountains are turned off, how are we providing water for the students? What are our plans for breakfast and lunch in the classroom? How are temperatures going to be checked and who is going to be checking temperatures? Where is the isolation room and what do we do if students or staff demonstrate symptoms? etc etc etc.. Every safety question is a huge headache and we are not public health experts…we’re making these decisions based on our own gut feelings about what is safe and what best reflects CDC guidelines. Since we’re spending so much of our energy on these safety policies, we’ve barely touched instructional planning. Many teachers at my school still don’t know how to use Zoom or Google Meet, even though we’re required to use them for some form of synchronous instruction. We have not received any training on remote teaching all summer. If the DOE committed instead to a fully remote start, we could spend our time focusing on the best way to deliver remote instruction, instead of spending our limited time fine-tuning in-person safety protocols that are never going to be sufficient to stop this virus. 

Finally, I think the biggest problem is that students and staff are not required to get testing before they come to school. We have no idea who will be walking into our buildings with COVID next week and we are not at all prepared for that. I’m so worried that this is going to cause the positive cases to go up across New York City. If our numbers rise again, our most vulnerable populations will be the ones who suffer the most: such as students and families of color, immigrants, and families living in poverty. Even though remote learning is far from ideal, it is going to be much worse for these communities if COVID numbers increase, and traumatic for students in our schools. 

That turned out to be more than I expected to write….and I barely touched on my own anxiety about the idea of being in a room with my students next week…… ______________________________________________________________________________



My school will do remote learning until the end of the month and then switch to hybrid. Like many teachers, I think that remote learning needs to be extended. Although it has been difficult, I have really enjoyed remote learning so far. I miss being in the classroom, and would much rather teach in person, but I think remote learning has a lot of potential. I believe that with time, practice, and the resources that are being created, it could be effective in education even after the pandemic. Continuing to teach remotely would give us opportunities to improve remote learning, and it is one of the only ways to guarantee our safety and health. Given how much New York has recovered I feel less afraid to be around people and go to work, but I’m not confident in the reopening plans. Several schools in NYC have already closed and students are not even attending yet. It’s not worth the additional risk to public health, and it’s not worth the emotional and financial stress from closing and reopening schools due to outbreaks. 

Amidst COVID-19’s Spread, Hope For Education Innovation Glimmers In Vietnam

This week’s post comes from Michael Horn, a senior partner at Entangled Solutions, and the co-founder of and a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. This post appeared originally on

With COVID-19 spreading across the globe, I’ve watched the impact on Korea and Vietnam with some measure of connection and concern.

As the countries to which I journeyed on my Eisenhower Fellowship in 2014 and studied their education systems in some depth, the manner in which the disease’s spread has shut down their schools has struck me on two levels: worry about the health of the communities and hope for innovation.

It’s with an eye on the opportunity for innovation—improving an educational system that needs an overhaul—that I’ve paid close attention to the response of Everest Education, an after-school tutoring organization I got to know while in Vietnam and whose board I joined after my return to the United States.

Schools and after-school programs were shut down in the beginning of February in Vietnam. With no opportunity to learn in traditional classrooms, students became nonconsumers of education—literally unable to access formal education—overnight.

As students of disruptive innovation—the process that transforms complicated, expensive and inconvenient services into ones that are far more affordable, convenient, and accessible—know, disruption typically takes root in areas of nonconsumption. There the new service has a marked advantage, as its competition is nothing at all.

That describes the unintended opportunity in which Everest Education found itself, as after-school programs have remain shuttered and students have had no options to continue their studies.

One Everest student, Nguyen Viet Khanh Linh, who is studying for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)—the world’s most popular English language proficiency test for higher education—said she was worried she wouldn’t be able to stay on track for her test in May. Currently pursuing an Advance Diploma in Multimedia at Arena Multimedia Education Center in Hanoi, Linh’s plan is to transfer to an exchange program in Korea, Singapore or Europe to complete a bachelor degree after earning the 30-month program diploma.

“I’m not sure which exchange programs I will join eventually, but almost all of them ask for IELTS as a prerequisite,” Linh said. “I’m trying to get it done in my first year before the arts workload gets heavier. I [was] afraid I [wouldn’t] be able to study for IELTS and work on my portfolio at the same time.” 

Everest had fortunately been developing an online-learning solution for some time. After experimenting with a range of products, Everest had settled on a platform that facilitated a live online class that, much as Minerva does in its active learning platform, takes advantage of the learning science around active learning to create an experience in which students are interacting with each other and the teacher in real time and taking part in learning games.

As Don Le, CEO and co-founder of Everest, shared, “Most online learning involves watching videos or listening to lectures, and students get bored easily. With our live online classes, students… feel a social bond. The experience feels really natural and fun.”

At the onset of the crisis, Everest swung into action and took its research and development into overdrive, as it deployed its online-learning experience across all of its classes to support all of its grade 1–12 students. An astounding 98% of its students successfully transitioned to its online-learning solution.

From there, Everest began focusing on serving the now-vast market of after-school nonconsumers in Vietnam. To date, it has amassed more than 1,000 online registrations and is scaling up to open as many classes as possible to meet the pent-up demand.

And here’s the opportunity—to help take a system built on rote memorization and turn it into a student-centered learning experience that is marked by active learning far more in line with the research around how students best learn.

“In some ways, it’s even better than a physical classroom,” Tony Ngo, Everest Education’s Chairman and co-founder said. “Online learning is a great solution while students are out of the classroom, and in the long run, it will become a critical tool in how students learn.”

I’ve noted before that disaster preparedness—and, it follows tragically, outright disasters—represent opportunities to innovate. Put another way, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Amidst the challenges that COVID-19 brings, I hope we see education innovations that don’t just take subpar brick-and-mortar experiences and move them online where they will be even worse, but instead transcend the traditional lecture model to leverage technology and fundamentally transform the learning experience into one in which all students have a much greater likelihood of success.

In a country in Vietnam in which innovating in education is challenging, my hope is that Everest begins to blaze a new trail for the nation’s students.

LEAD THE CHANGE SERIES Q & A with Kirsi Pyhältö

Kirsi Pyhältö, Ph.D. is Full Professor of educational sciences in the Faculty of Educational Sciences, at the University of Oulu, Finland, and research director in the Centre for University Teaching and Learning, at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include school development, teachers’ professional agency, and student and teacher well-being. She has over 140 publications that include refereed articles, book chapters, and textbooks. Over the years Pyhältö has led several externally funded research projects on the above mentioned topics in collaboration with her colleagues. Currently, Pyhältö is leading two active research groups: Learning and Development in School and From a Ph.D. Student to an Academic Expert Dr. Pyhältö is founding co- coordinator of EARLI Special Interest Group 24: Researcher Educationand Careers. For a full list of publications see: Dr. Kirsi Pyhältö can be reached at:

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Pyhältö discusses her work on teacher agency and school reform. As she puts it:

Our recent research on teacher agency shows that a strong sense of professional agency contributes to school development in various ways. There is, for instance, emerging evidence that professional agency in the teacher community also promotes active and intentional teacher learning in the classroom. This implies that learning in and between the classroom and the professional community is one of the focal areas of teacher learning. Professional agency in the form of active and intentional teacher learning both in the classroom and in the professional community has shown to be associated with increased student engagement and academic success, reduced levels of early career in-service teachers’ attrition, teachers’ experimentation with innovative teaching methods and commitment in school development, and reduced levels of teacher stress. It can be argued that teachers’ sense of professional agency is a central determinant for the extent to which they are able to engage in continuous professional learning, contribute to school development, make a difference in their working environment, and continually develop sufficient strategies to cope with work-related stressors—to promote sustainable change in the society.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also interviewed Moosung Lee and Christina Dobbs.

Scanning the headlines on the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) on education in China and around the world

This week, IEN provides a short overview of a few articles in the Chinese media discussing the outbreak of the Coronavirus as well as a quick scan of headlines discussing the outbreak’s impact on education in many parts of the world.

The coronavirus broke out in China while students were on break for their winter holiday, and most students were still at home when the situation began to get serious. Due to the on-going spread, the Chinese government postponed the date for returning to school until late February. But in late January, as Sixth Tone reported, China’s education ministry “ordered institutions to continue administering coursework online. Daily activities including flag-raising ceremonies, roll calls, and lectures are now conducted virtually.” As a consequence, “millions of Chinese students are starting a new school term not in their classrooms, but in front of their computers.” In some cases, teachers are making recordings to share online, while in others teachers are live-streaming their lectures/classes online. Xinhuanet profiled one math teacher, Zhang Sheng, who described his routines for live-streaming, recording videos, and homework. “’This has doubled my workload, but if it makes my students happy, I will do it,’” Zhang was quoted as saying.

Some see this as a big opportunity for online education in China while others see potential problems since most K-12 and university teachers and students are not familiar with online teaching. Equity and access to technology and the internet are also concerns. Students in urban areas are complaining of slow internet connections, but many students in remote places are finding it difficult to log into their courses at all.

Government guidance for schools and headlines about the outbreak and education in China

广东印发中小学线上教学指引:APP须经审核备案,要特别关注农村地区和留守儿童, China Education Daily ,
Online teaching activities instruction from Guangdong province education department: Online platforms (APPs) need to be checked and reviewed, and more attention should be given to rural students and children from migrant family

海南:停课不停学 不要把学生“锁”在屏幕前 小学中高年级学生每天在线学习不得超过45分钟, China Education Daily
Instructions from the education department of Hainan: Students should continue learning outside of school, while not being locked in front of digital screens. It is suggested that elementary students should not study for more than 45 minutes online every day.

停课不停学,我们在行动, China Education Daily
A document from Jiangxi province: Schools should have their own strategies and schedules to help students study online, especially for grade-12 students who are going to take the college entrance examination (Gaokao) in the coming summer. Specific learning platforms are identified to use for teaching and learning activities for the whole county.

Kids in Shanghai won’t be returning to school amid coronavirus outbreak, New York Post
The Shanghai government has announced that students will not return to schools now and the semester will start via online learning amid China’s coronavirus outbreak. K-12 students in Shanghai will start online classes from March 2.

Coronavirus outbreak forces China’s after-school activities to shut down — or move online, CNBC
As the virus keeps children at home, Chinese parents and schools are turning to online education, putting pressure on after school industry players to move online or get shut down.

Bans hinder international student travel, China Daily
Travel restrictions from the US government, visa issues and flight cancelations are hindering some Chinese students from resuming their studies after the winter break. US universities are using measures ranging from videoconferencing to online assignments to help Chinese students whose study plans have been disrupted by recent travel restrictions.

Free online learning platform for students sees smooth operation amid epidemic, xinhuanet
A free online learning platform was launched for China’s primary and secondary school students studying at home during the outbreak of COVID-19.

Online classes get mixed reactions from students, teachers, Sixth Tone
“…an increase in demand for livestreaming and other online education services is causing app crashes and other internet disruptions, with several related hashtags including “Tecent Classroom crashed” trending on microblogging platform Weibo.”

Online classes can’t replace classrooms, China Daily
China has been witnessing a different kind of new semester, in which the classroom was moved online, because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Yet, problems emerged and show that online classes can never replace real classes, at least for now.

Recent headlines on the coronavirus outbreak and education around the world

Schools should prepare for coronavirus outbreaks, CDC officials warn, Education Week
“’You should ask your children’s schools about their plans for school dismissals or school closures,’ Nancy Messonnier, a director at the Centers for Disease Control, said during a press briefing on Tuesday. ‘Ask about plans for teleschool.’”

Coronavirus has reached the U.S. What can schools do? Education Drive
This article gives advice on how U.S. schools get prepared for the challenges caused by the spread of coronavirus.

If coronavirus gets worse in the US, online learning can fill the gaps, Education Week
The coronavirus outbreak this year has forced K-12 schools to close for a prolonged period of time, and e-learning has helped fill the gap in instruction. Similar measures could also be considered by U.S. schools.

Universities brace for lasting impact of coronavirus outbreak, Times Higher Education
The outbreak of coronavirus could serve as a good chance for universities to brace positive changes, such as improving online teaching and the use of education technology, and providing health services and hygiene standards. Furthermore, universities in China may consider making themselves more competitive and attractive among world universities.

Will coronavirus crisis trigger an enrollment crisis? Inside Higher Ed
U.S. colleges could see a major enrollment pipeline cut off this fall if the coronavirus epidemic persists. Meanwhile, Australian universities are missing more than half their Chinese students weeks before their fall semester begins.

The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest crisis ever to hit international education, The conversation
For Australian higher education, the coronavirus outbreak may be the biggest disruption to international student flows ever before.

Korea to postpone new school year as coronavirus spikes, The Korea Herald
“’To prevent the spread of infection, and for the safety of students and school faculty, the education ministry will postpone the first day of the 2020 school year at kindergartens, elementary, middle and high schools across the country by a week,’ Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a government press briefing.’”

Vietnam sharply divided on coronavirus school closures, VOA News
“Supporters want to keep students at home until April, while opponents say the panic is overblown.”

Coronavirus: Hong Kong school closures cripple bus companies, South China Morning Post
Drivers and minders on Hong Kong school buses have been left unpaid and threatening to quit, because of class suspensions aimed at curbing the coronavirus outbreak.

Education companies set back by China’s coronavirus crisis, EdWeek Market Brief
Education companies are feeling the effects of the spread of the coronavirus in the world in a number of ways. Education-focused businesses are worried about keeping China-based employees healthy and safe. Other companies that have developed products for use in the Chinese education market are seeing usage numbers drop as students and teachers stay home from school.


  • Aidi Bian & Thomas Hatch


The Same New Things From The New York Public Library (Part 2 of 2)

This post is the second part of a piece on the nonformal education work at The New York Public Library. In the first post, we reported on NYPL president Tony Marx’s work in implementing new educational programs.

Some Things Don’t Change

Since Tony Marx’s arrival in 2011, NYPL has undergone dramatic changes, particularly in its educational programming. Despite these changes, the Library’s work continues a long tradition embedded in its founding. “We’ve always been there, helping kids read, before they start school, once they’re in school,” Marx says. The Library has always been a place to explore learning as a lifelong pursuit. From its founding, Marx suggests that since its inception, learning has always been foundational to NYPL’s identity. Combining these goals and the Library’s already-present infrastructure, NYPL has been able to dramatically increase its presence in the nonformal education sector in the city. In this way, the library is the same place it has always been. It sits outside of schools, but it is a recognizable place of learning. If anything, these programs act to solidify NYPL’s mission.

In fact, the library has committed almost a billion dollars to improving its branches. Specifically, they are focusing on improving branches in outer boroughs, helping to work toward all New Yorkers having a civic space that could act as a learning center for the community.

A Unique Place In the Landscape

Though the Library aims to continue this mission, it is undeniably changing in more radical ways than it had in its first 100 years. As the library shifted from a passive to a more proactive role in nonformal education in OST spaces, the question was not only what to do or how to do it. Marx joined the NYPL at a moment when people questioned the very role of a Library in a city. At this time, Marx saw an almost-unique opportunity built into what many viewed as an existential threat to the Library. Large scale institutions with an established legacy almost never innovate at scale. Yet, when Marx took over as president of the NYPL, he recognized an opening.

NYPL is equipped with the resources of buildings and is known as a learning institution. It also sits outside the standard educational bureaucracy. Marx suggests that in the library there are “no judgements, no exams, no expectations other than we want to help.” Without the common constraints and regulations of other educational institutions, NYPL found the freedom to pursue the programs they have developed in the last decade. Of course, this freedom also comes with risks. The Library may not be beholden to much other than its patrons’ interests and needs, but many of these programs rely on funding sources such as grants or gifts rather than the more permanent, sustainable structure of public funding.  The Library may be less vulnerable to political shifts, but it is still exploring how to continue innovating without losing its position.

Marx offers a detailed story that illustrates this point:

 Two to three million New Yorkers live in the digital dark. They don’t have broadband at home. I discovered this for myself by meeting this kid. I’m leaving a branch in the Bronx, it’s after hours, a beautiful evening. There’s a kid sitting on the stoop and he has an ancient laptop and I say “what are you doing?” And he says “my math homework. It’s online, it’s assigned.” I say, “that’s great. Why are you sitting here?” He tells me it’s because he can’t afford broadband at home. “So,” the kid says, “I sit here after the library kicks me out and get bleed through the door.” I thought “oh my god, he’s trying to do his math homework. We want him to do his math homework. That’s crazy”. So, I come back [to the office]. I discover that there are millions of people in his situation, which is shocking to me. Maybe it’s shocking that I was shocked. And then I think, ok, let’s do something. We’re going to lend people broadband at home. We can play, at scale. So we raised millions of dollars from Google. We started lending to 10,000 families at a time Wi-Fi hotspots that they could take home for a year. Then, we said, ok, so this depends on soft money. At the time, with the Obama administration, we had the FCC interested in what we were doing. It was a national problem. But of course, things changed…

Additionally, the library may largely operate free of restraints, but it is not an island. The NYPL seeks connections with other institutional bodies in the city. Notably, Marx comments on how strange it seemed that when he arrived the largest library system and the largest school system did not often talk. He began meeting regularly with Chancellors of schools to explore how to increase learning. More, connections and this work in general helps reach more New Yorkers and directly responds to some of the systemic inequities youth encounter in the education system and beyond. For instance, as Marx sought funds to continue the broadband program, he found that in 2017, there was still a federal program offering broadband to kids who qualify for a free or reduced lunch. The Chancellor at the time told him that they could not do the program. The problem here was that the government would pay for the subscription, but they would not pay for the “little $50 box that makes it work,” as Marx puts it. Once more, the relative autonomy of the Library allowed them to pay for the devices and allowed the DOE to take advantage of the free subscriptions. The connection allowed the library to uncover a more sustainable model and provided a way for both the DOE and the NYPL to better serve New York City children.

The Library clearly fills a gap between school and OST education. Conversely, as many of these programs suggest, the Library is also pushing at the bounds of what nonformal learning can be at a large, institutional scale. As Marx and others in the Library continue searching, they aim to find new programs, new ways of connecting, and reach more families throughout New York City.

The Same New Things From The New York Public Library (Part 1 of 2)

In this post, part of our series looking at educational change in nonformal settings, we speak with Anthony W. Marx, President and CEO of The New York Public Library. In previous posts, we’ve written about the Beam Center and CS for All.

 When Tony Marx traveled to The New York Public Library (NYPL) as a child, he found everything he could possibly imagine. The Library housed books, news, and all the information a future academic could desire. These days, Marx,  NYPL’s President and CEO, notes that almost every person walking around the city carries a library in their pocket. It would seem that in a world of smart phones, some might contend that brick and mortar libraries serve little purpose. Yet, Marx sees the rise of the internet and increased access to information as a unique opportunity for the NYPL. More than ever, he suggests, libraries can be active sites of learning.

Of course, NYPL has long been an institution devoted to education. From the time Andrew Carnegie’s donations helped build branches in communities throughout the city and across the U.S.,  NYPL has always been rooted in education. The Library welcomed kids learning to read and encouraging lifelong learning of New York City’s residents. Since Marx’s arrival in 2011, however, the library has undergone drastic changes in the shape and scope of their educational programming. In the last decade, the NYPL and its 88 branches scattered across the city have more actively focused their offerings to meet community needs and respond to the changing role of libraries. During this time, the NYPL as an organization has leveraged its status as a stalwart institution and its relative autonomy to greatly expand its role in the city’s educational landscape. Throughout these many changes, the Library has maintained its long history of providing space and learning opportunities for New York City residents.

“It’s Right There In The Name” 

Entwined with the notion that the Library has always been a place of and for education, it is also a place for the public. In Marx’s words, “We’ll take anyone who walks through our doors, without exams, without judgments.” As long as the Library is open, anyone that wants to can pass through its doors. For decades, this publicness allowed library branches to act as kind of educational safe haven. They could offer homework help after school or an air-conditioned space during summer breaks. At the same time though, the library largely played a passive role in education. While local branches did offer small classes or adult education programs, these were scarce and informally organized. Now there are 2 million visits to formal programs.

In a similar vein, the Library’s ongoing commitment to the public means that it is open, democratically available, but optional. “If we don’t offer what people want, they won’t come,” Marx suggests, “but they are coming in record numbers.” At the start of the 21st century, with the Library’s offerings increasingly accessible simply by logging onto a computer, what people used to have to do by traveling to the Library, they could suddenly accomplish in the comfort of their own home. One might think that in modern times, the library as a public site had become obsolete. NYPL certainly had to wrestle with the question of how to best serve New Yorkers and entice them to come to the Library. But, Marx and his colleagues never saw these issues as problems.

Among many other initiatives, upon Marx’s arrival, the library began new, targeted educational programming. Where in previous decades the library had been more of an implicit educational site with a hodgepodge of offerings, they took on a more active role in New York City’s educational landscape. This expansion began in earnest in 2013, when Maggie Jacobs joined the library as the Director of Educational Programs. Surveying different neighborhoods to understand needs and opportunities in local branches, the library began developing new “Outside of School Time” models for New York City’s youth. Though still evolving, the library now operates several main educational endeavors.

One such program provides homework help in several local branches for 1st through 8th grade students. Library visitors still identified help with schoolwork as a service they most wanted from the library. With a staff of tutors, this program supports diverse groups of students in structured learning time. A related program creates a direct link between the NYPL and local high schools. The program offers an apprenticeship, guiding 10th to 12th graders toward becoming reading tutors. During the fall semester, they attend classes and train to become tutors. Classes in this semester also carry credits that the DOE recognizes. In the spring semester, participants work as paid interns, teaching reading to 1st and 2nd grade students. Another program offers a place-based digital curriculum for middle school students. Here, students research different aspects of their community and undertake projects such as

digital photography, podcasting, and neighborhood mapping. Finally, the Library has developed a program from a 15 million dollar “magic grant” from the Helen Gurley Brown Trust to academically support high school students. Students who participate in this program receive academic resources to apply for and succeed in college. Students also design and pursue a passion project and are able to receive grants for participating in other enrichment programs.

These programs both filled an educational gap in the nonformal space. Along with more traditional programs such as ESL classes or computer skills classes, the library increased its annual visits almost tenfold (to around two million people a year). Much of this work focuses on working with youth in underserved communities. To help make these programs a reality, the Library both increased direct partnerships with the DOE and others

Next week, we will share the 2nd part of this post.



Moosung Lee holds one of the University of Canberra’s prestigious Centenary Professor appointments, ten of which have been made across the University’s five strategic areas of research. Having been appointed tenured full professor within 4 ½ years of completing his PhD, Moosung is by far the youngest Centenary Professor. He currently leads a research group focusing on Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Canberra. He also holds a joint appointment as a professor of comparative education at Yonsei University in South Korea. Prior to joining the University of Canberra, he held appointments as Associate Professor and founding Deputy Director of the Education Policy Unit at the University of Hong Kong. His research areas are educational leadership administration, social contexts of education, and comparative education. He has published extensively in these areas. His scholarly productivity and quality output contribute to the research fields. This has been evidenced through a number of international scholarly communities’ recognition of his work; as examples, he received the Richard Wolf Memorial Award by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) in the Netherlands, and he was the first scholar in a non U.S. university to receive the American Educational Research Association’s Emerging Scholar Award (Division A – Administration, Organization, and Leadership). He was also chosen as a recipient for the University of Canberra Research Excellence Award in Social Sciences in 2018. He has been a Fulbright Scholar, UNESCO Fellow, Korean Foundation Fellow, Asia Pacific Center for Leadership and Change Senior Research Fellow, Erasmus Mundus Visiting Scholar (at UCL Aarhus University), YFL Outstanding Visiting Scholar (at Yonsei University), and Visiting Fellow (at Seoul National University Asia Center). His work has been funded by UNESCO, the European Commission, the Australian Research Council, the University Grants Council in Hong Kong, the Korea Foundation, the Academy of Korean Studies, American Educational Research Organization, Economic and Social Research Council (U.K.), National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services (U.K.), and the International Baccalaureate Organization. He has served on the editorial board of a number of international journals. Also, he is Co-Editor of Multicultural Education Review and Senior Associate Editor of Journal of Educational Administration. Having gained extensive academic networks and experiences as a researcher and teacher in South Korea, Hong Kong, the U.K., and the U.S., he has opened a new chapter of his career in Australia since 2014.

In this interview, part of the Lead the Change series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, Dr. Lee discusses his work on educational leadership and increasing equity and rigor for students. As he puts it:

I have conducted my research mostly in Asia. I wish to share three lessons, given the limited space, from my work in the Asian context. First, continuity is important. Continuing organizational traditions, routines, rituals, and missions are necessary for sustaining organizational survival and stability. But the continuity of change is more important. For the long-lasting continuity and stability of organizations, paradoxically, organizational change is inevitable. Second, organizational change should start at the end users in an organization, if you like. Let me share a short story about Charlie Munger, the well-known American investor. He was at a local shop to buy a fishing lure and found a sparkling plastic fishing tackle. He asked the shop owner “My God, they’re pink and green. Do fish really take these lures?” The shop owner replied “Mister, I don’t sell to fish” (Griffin, 2015, p. 17). This story offers an analogy to the problems embedded in educational change in the era of accountability. A sparkling object (e.g., turnaround reform, NCLB) is viewed as a quick-fix measure for changing schools and is attractive to various institutional and organizational stakeholders such as policy makers (i.e., customers for the fishing lures). However, such educational changes (i.e., the shiny lure) are, in essence, not appealing to teachers and students (i.e., fish). In other words, it often seems that stakeholders involved in educational change and reform may have been more attentive to a seemingly sparkling tool than what will get teachers and students hooked, and how/whether they will bite. The most important stakeholder has been seriously overlooked (see Lee, 2018 for details). Third, tensions around school improvement and change have emerged between global grammar (a set of institutionalized rules that give legitimacy to certain discursive practices) and local semantics (active interpretations and sense-making processes by local agents or communities in particular societal contexts) in Asia (Cha, Gundara, Ham & Lee, 2017, p. 217). For example, we know that instructional leadership has been integral to school improvement (cf. Hallinger, 2005; Robinson et al., 2008). As a highly rationalized global education discourse (given its strong association with student learning outcomes), instructional leadership is widely accepted as a sort of universal policy instrument for school effectiveness and improvement (cf. McEwan, 2008). In this regard, instructional leadership can be called global grammar in “making sense of what and how leadership practices ought to be embodied in school improvement” (Lee, 2018, p. 468). At the same time, however, as local semantics, the enactments and effects of instructional leadership on student learning outcomes can vary across schools and schooling systems in Asia, since local agents articulate, interpret, and make sense of the concept of instructional leadership differently in the local setting in which they work (cf. Lee, Walker, & Chui, 2012). This is where tensions and dynamics between global grammar and local semantics emanate when it comes to educational change. Research is much needed to understand them better.

This Lead the Change interview appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also interviewed Kristin Kew and Christina Dobbs.

New year, new predictions?

In this week’s post, Thomas Hatch scans of some of education predictions in the news over the past few weeks and reflects on the possibilities schools and education in the coming years.

Last week and the week before, my roundup of key issues of the past year and decade highlighted for me the difficulty of making predictions about the future.  The safest thing to do is probably to stick to ambiguous statements like “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” My recent work looking at why so many efforts to change schools fall short of their goals suggests that statement may be particularly accurate in education. That does not mean that things have not and will not change at all and scanning the predictions for the coming the year and decade (listed at the end of this post) provides a glimpse of what some commentators think might transpire. By the end of the 2020’s there will undoubtedly be many new schools, new learning experiences available outside of schools, and new technologies. Looking back at the concerns about stress, safety, data privacy, the spread of false information and other problems that emerged in the last ten years, the new developments of the 2020’s may well have some undesirable effects. But it’s possible to imagine some more positive effects as well:

  • Beyond school choice? Rather than arguing over whether students should be able to choose schools, students might have more opportunities to fashion learning pathways that match their specific needs and interests. Those pathways might include learning experiences in schools, but students might be able to draw on a much wider array of learning opportunities outside of schools in their own communities but also around the world, online.
  • Beyond the “usual subjects”? Rather than intensifying the focus on testing and basic skills, new developments might make it possible for more students to learn the basics more efficiently and in less time, creating opportunities for them to develop their abilities in many different ways. Those will likely include more formal and informal opportunities to participate in e-sports, to produce their own music and other art works, craft their own products and services, and participate in virtual communities where they can share those experiences and products far beyond their local schools.
  • Beyond personalization? Rather than having to rely on educators to figure out how to personalize learning or differentiate instruction for every child, students and parents may be able to play a more active role in choosing the goals of their learning experiences and the nature of those experiences as well.
  • More time for teaching and learning? Rather than making teachers obsolete, new technologies may tackle many of the “back-end”, administrative, and managerial aspects of schooling; in the process, those developments might create more room for teachers to work with students and other educators on teaching and learning.

Nonetheless, as it has been in education for the past 100 years, many of the most unconventional developments are likely to be confined to the margins, to alternative schools and special populations, and to the white and/or wealthy elites who are most likely to be able to take advantage of them.  At this point, I’m not sure there is any reason to revise substantially what I said when looking ahead last year:  That changes in schooling happen slowly, and incrementally and that the most significant changes will come as society as a whole changes, as the environment evolves, as new economies and technologies develop. Those changes may have the most significant impact on schools when the nature of work and family life shifts and parents no longer have to rely on schools to look after their children from 8 to 3 PM five days a week. At that point, as the nature of childhood changes, schools may change and some may be left behind entirely, allowing children to explore far beyond their own neighborhoods, develop their abilities, and express themselves in ways that might change their world.


Grim and hopeful global trends to watch in 2020 (and fold into a zine) (NPR)

A teacher makes 10 predictions for education in 2020 — some of them rather hopeful (Answer Sheet, Washington Post)

Six education stories to watch in 2020 (Forbes)

Ten Education Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2020 (Straight Up, Education Week)

Will higher education roar in the ’20s? (Inside Higher Ed)

10 Higher Education Predictions for a New Decade (Inside Higher Ed)

5 K-12 trends to watch in 2020 (Education Drive)

2020 priorities inside America’s 15 biggest school districts: Student protests over equity, school boundary changes, abuse charges, & more (The 74 Million)

Albany primer: Here are the big NYC education issues to watch in the new legislative session (Chalkbeat, New York)

California education issues to watch in 2020 — and predictions of what will happen (EdSource, California)

New Year’s Resolutions for Leaders of Social Change (SSIR)

Philanthropy in the 2020s: 16 Predictions (Inside Philanthropy)

14 predictions for the future of classroom technology (Forbes)

From artificial intelligence to augmented reality to peer-to-peer learning, 7 ed tech trends to watch in 2020 (The 74 Million)

Four Things You Need To Know About STEM And Education For 2020 (Forbes)

Report: Climate change literacy, early childhood focus shaping STEM in 2020 (Education Drive) 

  • Thomas Hatch

Rounding up the issues of 2019 and the 2010’s (Part 2)

In this follow-up to last week’s post on some of the common issues and key concerns mentioned in end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade education reflections, Thomas Hatch highlights questions about the role of research and technology in improvement efforts.

Last week’s post showed that many reviews of the key education stories of last year and the preceding decade noted some progress as well as some stagnation and continuing inequities in student outcomes.  At the same time, those reviews also often came back to concerns that neither research nor technology were having the hoped-for effects in improving education.

What research adds value?
The discussions of progress and stagnation over the past decade reflected continuing concerns about educational research, its quality and value. The championing of “value-added” research in the 2000’s was succeeded by an embrace of large-scale data sets and data mining which contributed to rising concerns about data-privacy and cyber-security (as Audrey Water highlighted with a link to the K-12 Cyber Incident Map).

In what Alexander Russo identified as one of the 10 pieces of education journalism that defined the decade, Emily Hanford may have both re-ignited the reading wars and made concerns about the lack of impact of research on practice a hot-button issue again.  (We shared our own take on the problems of getting research into practice in blog posts and a podcast about our study of the 112 external support providers working to improve K-3 reading outcomes in New York City).

At the same time, Matt Barnum’s review of 8 lessons learned in 2019 pointed to some key of issues of equity, race, and poverty that research is shedding light on.  The awarding of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo, and Michael Kremer also capped a decade in which the use of randomized controlled trials expanded even more, particularly in the developing world. As Crawfurd and Hares report, a systematic review of RCTs in education research found just over a thousand unique studies between 1980 and 2016, with more than half of these produced between 2010 and 2016.

What’s changed? Technology? Schools?
Even another ten years of promises of an ed-tech revolution couldn’t seem to speed up the slow pace of change in teaching and learning in primary and secondary education (as Larry Cuban continues to chronicle). Some things have changed. Students can now use their phones to access google classroom (and get texts from their parents in the middle of the day) and teachers can download lessons from a host of sites offering open and free access to tons of instructional materials (though many of those don’t appear to be aligned with academic standards). Yet, in 2019, both students and teachers still worked in the same schools and classrooms, for roughly the same amount of time, with the same instructional approaches, focusing on many of the same skills and outcomes as they did in 2009.

At the same time, questions about the quality and the value of higher education have erupted along with  the development of online courses, micro degrees, and other new higher-ed entities that few had imagined when the decade began (and the “Varsity Blues” elite college admissions scandal and the student loan crisis hasn’t help much either).

For those that aren’t already depressed, Audrey Waters provides a detailed accounting of the 100 worst ed-tech debacles of the decade.

Looking ahead?
Although many education conversations in the 2000’s in the US were consumed by debates of the No Child Left Behind Act, only a few of the reviews of the last decade mentioned the Every Child Succeeds Act of 2015 or other policy developments. Instead, partisanship seems to have overwhelmed many discussions of policy and the fractures seem to be growing. It gets harder to tell the “reformers” from the “non-reformers,” and even those who thought they held similar views – Democrats, charter advocates, free marketeers among others – find themselves trying to make sense of who stands for what in the age of Trump.

But students are standing up and speaking out.  One more scan for “student activism” in the news in 2019 reveals some of the people and the stories we could be following in the coming years:

2019 was the year of the protest, thanks to a new generation of activists, I-D

A ‘new wave’ of activism on campus: Students are aggressively seeking their demands, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Where Did All These Teen Activists Come From?, KQED

Young people across Asia pushed for change in 2019. Meet five of them, CNN

Greta Thunberg isn’t alone. Meet some other young activists who are leading the environmentalist fight, CNN

8 young activists you need to hear from today, XQ

19 youth climate activists you should be following on social media,

Youth Activist Movements of the 2010s: A Timeline and Brief History of a Decade of Change, Teen Vogue




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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight lessons we learned from research in 2019, Chalkbeat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Thomas Hatch