Category Archives: About K-12 International Education News

Three Different Types of School Leadership for Learning: Results from TALIS 2018

This week’s post comes from Alex J. Bowers who draws from his recent working paper published by the OECD using the newly released TALIS 2018 dataset. Bowers is an Associate Professor of Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. 

Across countries, what is the role of school leaders and to what extent do teachers in schools agree with the leader on perceptions of their leadership practices? How many different types of leaders are there and how do these different types distribute across countries?

I examined these issues by analyzing the responses of over 152,000 teachers, across more than 9,000 schools with their principals, in 47 countries/economies on their perceptions of practices linked with the concepts of leadership for learning. I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.

I found three very different types of schools based on the alignment and mis-alignment of teacher and leader perceptions, and the results suggest that the proportions of the three different types of schools varies in important ways across national contexts.

Over the last few decades, researchers, policymakers, and school system leaders across the globe have shifted their conception of school leadership from the heroic single leader appointed at the top of the organization, to more distributed and shared conceptions of school leadership between teachers and principals. These new conceptions include leadership for learning, which encompasses aspects of transformational leadership – engaging teachers in the collaborative work of improving instructional practice – and instructional leadership – setting the vision, mission, and goals of the school, leading professional development, and supervising instruction. Importantly, leadership for learning also includes human resource development through mentorship and induction of teachers and strong management of resources to address specific student needs, community outreach, and student behavior and discipline.

To understand the extent to which teachers and leaders agreed across key aspects of leadership for learning, I analyzed data from the newly released TALIS 2018 survey items that asked teachers and principals similar questions around issues in their school of:

  1. Student assessment
  2. Feedback on teacher practices
  3. Teacher self-efficacy and a common set of beliefs about teaching and learning
  4. Professional development and trust
  5. Professional collaboration around lessons
  6. Mentoring and induction of teachers
  7. Engagement of stakeholders, such as teachers and parents
  8. A shared discipline climate

My results showed three different patterns of responses among teachers:

  • A high response type that has the highest responses across the eight domains and is the majority of teachers. These teachers have the highest work satisfaction, more often chose teaching as a career, and are the most experienced.
  • A low response type in which about a quarter of teachers responded with some of the lowest levels of perceptions of leadership for learning in their schools. These teachers reported the lowest job satisfaction and the highest workload stress.
  • A mixed response type in which about a fifth of all teachers reported high levels of self-efficacy, professional development, trust, stakeholder engagement, and a shared discipline climate, yet low levels of teacher feedback, professional collaboration, and mentorship and induction by the principal. These teachers have high job satisfaction and the lowest workload stress.

Second, I found three different patterns of responses between these three different types of teacher responders and their principals. In the first type, the principals have the highest responses across the leadership for learning domains, and thus are generally well aligned with the majority teacher type. In the second school pattern, principal responses are somewhat more in the middle providing a moderate response type. The third type of school, however, is typified by principals who disagree primarily around issues of mentorship and induction of teachers.

Importantly, while a large percentage of the school leadership research is grounded in the USA context and education research literature, the results from this analysis suggest that the USA may have only two of the three types of school leadership identified. The third type, in which leaders disagree more often across the survey, is a type of school that is more often found in countries such as Finland, as well as Portugal, Spain, Chile, Austria, and Argentina among others.

Percentage of respondents by school leadership type and country; Figure 10 from “Examining a congruency-typology model of leadership for learning using two-level latent class analysis with TALIS 2018

As I note on pages 53-54 of the working paper:

…it is intriguing that although the research that supports both theories of instructional leadership and leadership for learning, and the TALIS 2018 items, depends to a large extent on research from the USA context, the results of this study suggest that the USA has only two of the three types globally of leadership for learning schools… Given the global conversation on both leadership for learning, as well as policy in many nations attempting to implement instructional leadership theories and ideas, this finding that the United States is missing one of the three types of schools is intriguing. I will note, that I am not arguing here that the USA research is wrong, but rather that it may be incomplete, as USA researchers have not had access in their context to this third school type in the typology… The point that this model with the TALIS 2018 data captures the current global research issue that indicates that at the education policy level, mentorship by principals is “contested practice” across multiple national contexts provides a means to extend leadership for learning frameworks to include a wider global lens of schooling practice that includes these types of differences across national contexts (p.53-54).

Although no causal interpretations can be made, the results do provide an opportunity to surface previously unknown patterns and similarities across schools and countries, increasing the opportunity for collaboration and dialogue. For instance, in considering professional development and instructional improvement, the three different types of schools may need quite different types of supports and professional development resources. An intriguing professional development opportunity would be to bring together the principals and teachers from each of the three different school clusters, and provide them with the opportunity to collaborate, discuss, and surface the issues for instructional improvement that matter most to their type of school and their instructional practice with students in their community. Countries with similar patterns of leadership for learning across national contexts, may also find interesting and useful collaborative opportunities for improvement around shared interests and conceptions of teaching and school leadership.

Bowers, A.J. (2020) Examining a Congruency-Typology Model of Leadership for Learning using Two-Level Latent Class Analysis with TALIS 2018. Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Publishing: Paris, France. https://doi.org/10.1787/c963073b-en

A view from Glasgow, Scotland: Maureen McKenna on school closures and the Pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Maureen McKenna, Executive Director of Education, Glasgow City Council. This is the fourth in a series that includes posts from Chile,  from Japan, and from the Netherlands.  The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education

IEN: What’s happening with your family and friends?

Maureen McKenna: Since the UK and Scottish Governments announced lockdown, I have been working between home and the office. My youngest son has moved back home with us from Belfast and he has set up his IT equipment in the back room. He has managed to complete his probationary period with the company during this lockdown. My oldest son has been placed on furlough (a government scheme where you get 80% of salary) with a major sports company – it is hard financially for him but he is grateful to still be employed. My daughter is expecting her second child in early July and is desperate to get back to work in her nursery school but that is looking increasingly unlikely as the lockdown continues. She is helping her six year old son with his school work, completing the transition records for the four year old children in her key group to support them when they go to primary school in August and doing lots of on-line professional learning. We live outside the city so we are managing long walks most days. However, like most people, as this lockdown continues it is becoming more challenging to maintain work patterns.

https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/18418825.puzzles-glasgows-stem-experts-might-leave-stumped/

IEN: What is happening with education/learning in your community?

MM: In Glasgow, in normal times we have around 68,500 children in our primary and secondary schools. A further 12,000 are in our nurseries. Almost all closed on 23rd March 2020. We have kept some nurseries and schools open for the children of key workers. We have only around 500 children coming in to the schools and about 400 in nurseries. This has been increasing recently and in the last week we have around 650 primary-aged children in schools. Glasgow has some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK. Many of our families’ lives are impacted by poverty, alcohol and drugs. When we consider how to support our families we think of them as thriving, coping, just coping and chaotic. In normal times, most families are thriving and coping – some are just coping and a number are chaotic mainly due to addiction. In our ‘new normal’ fewer families are thriving and coping and notably more are just coping. 

Wellbeing, compassion and care had to be our focus – if we got that right then learning would follow.

Our priority for Glasgow schools and nurseries was to ensure we remained connected – in a world where news bulletins were incessant in their spread of fear, raising the anxiety of all. Therefore, wellbeing, compassion and care had to be our focus – if we got that right then learning would follow. Heads of nurseries and schools were asked to create contact trees where each member of staff would have a named contact and put in place arrangements for staff to contact families regularly, particularly vulnerable families. This has worked well. Relationships have remained strong in the main which will be essential for the next phase. Phone calls, social media, Apps, STEM e-bulletins, and YouTube channels have all been used. Teachers have sent home lesson packs as well as “sensory boxes” for students with visual and hearing impairments. A partnership with the local city newspaper produces twice weekly two-page spreads with activities in math, in STEM, and other subjects to help families support learning at home, and some inserts into national news have all worked well – all with the consistent message of ‘we care’.

https://www.glasgowtimes.co.uk/news/18418825.puzzles-glasgows-stem-experts-might-leave-stumped/

Before 23rd March we were part-way through the roll-out of 50,000 iPads to staff and pupils. We had a carefully planned programme of support for staff and pupils that launched in August 2019. Our ambitious plan had all secondary-aged pupils getting their own iPad, along with upper stage primary pupils. Other stages would have access to class sets of iPads. At the time, there were some in the educational world who criticised us for being so ambitious and told us via social media that digital learning was not all it was cracked up to be – now, there are some in the education world highlighting how awful it is that some children don’t have access to digital learning and what are we doing about it. Given our new situation, we have plans to accelerate the issuing of iPads to secondary staff and we are exploring how quickly we can accelerate the issuing of iPads to senior pupils in secondary schools, recognising that the whole of academic session 2020/21 is likely to be our new normal. So our staff are providing pupils’ work using on-line links; where this is not possible, packs of work are prepared for parents to collect or they are delivered to homes. Other staff are volunteering with our third sector partners to deliver much needed food parcels to families all across the city.

Now we are starting to think about recovery – the longer our children are out of school the wider the attainment gap is becoming between those from the least disadvantaged and the most disadvantaged communities. In the last ten years, we had made tremendous progress closing the attainment gap – I worry a lot about our children and young people who were so dependent on the structure and support of school.

IEN: What are you working on now?

MM: We need to continue to focus on the wellbeing of our school communities. In our recovery plans, we are planning on how we use the nurturing principles which are so embedded in our everyday work to help us build the confidence of staff, parents and pupils to re-establish learning. We are structuring our plans around Recovery, Resilience and Re-connection. Our psychological service has developed really good advice for schools and nurseries to support their planning. Wellbeing, compassion and care must continue to be central to our plans – recent events have been traumatic for even the most resilient of people – so it is critical that we take time to build resilience and think carefully about how we re-connect with each other, with children and young people and with families.

Recent events have been traumatic for even the most resilient of people – so it is critical that we take time to build resilience and think carefully about how we re-connect with each other, with children and young people and with families

This past week, we engaged with groups of headteachers from across the city to discuss what physical distancing will mean in their buildings, what steps will they need to take to re-connect and what will academic session 2020/21 look like in our ‘new normal’. We are gathering the findings from these discussions and we will share them more widely so that ideas are shared, promoting more discussion encouraging heads to start to include their staff. We have a strong culture of relational trust and collaboration across our schools and nurseries – this will help us build for the future. I am also linking with Directors of other local authorities in Scotland, sharing ideas while we try to find innovative and creative ways to continue to deliver high quality learning and teaching to our children and young people.

IEN: What are you most proud of?

MM: I am always proud of the achievements of the children and young people and the commitment of our staff. It is no different through this challenging time. We have staff who are continuing to come to work in the hubs we have set up to provide childcare. They are integrating learning with fun activities for the children. The numbers are increasing as support is offered to more of our just coping families. We also have staff who have worked with health colleagues to design face shields which can be made from 3D printers and other staff who are making scrubs out of bed linen, including my mum (she’s not a member of staff – she has just volunteered to keep herself busy!). They are working in our schools doing this great work. Three of our secondary schools are being used as food distribution centres through a partnership with third sector organisations. School staff are working with them to link with families in the greatest need. I have just ordered £25,000 worth of sanitary products which will be included in packs to families.

We will all have to dig deep in the coming months drawing on our own resilience but I know that we will come back just as strong, hopefully with a better sense of community. I know our staff will rise to the challenge – it will not be easy but education is too important. We know that education is key to reducing the impact of poverty on people’s lives so we have no choice – our children and young people continue to deserve the very best we can give.

A view from the Netherlands: Melanie Ehren on school closures and the pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Melanie Ehren, Professor and Director of Research of LEARN! at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. This post is the third in a series that includes posts from Chile and from Japan.  The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

IEN: What’s happening with you in Amsterdam? 

Melanie Ehren: The Netherlands has been in ‘intelligent lock down’ for over a month now. Starting the 12th March, cafés, restaurants, hairdressers and many shops closed. Initially, schools were to stay open following advice from the Dutch National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) that there was a minor risk of children spreading the disease. Widespread concern over teachers’ health and national outrage however resulted in a closure of all primary, secondary schools and vocational schools on the 14th. I was at the Dutch Ministry of Education on the 12th to give a talk about ‘trust and accountability’ when the announcement was made. It was a surreal experience to leave the building at the end of the day and say farewell to colleagues, knowing that it would be a while before we would meet in person again. With so much time in lock-down the world has become quite small. In a short amount of time, all national and international events, meetings and conferences were cancelled and the days are now filled with a continuous stream of online meetings interspersed with attempts to write papers, develop proposals for new research (much of it now concerned with the consequences of COVID-19), finish a book on ‘trust and accountability’ with Jacqueline Baxter, and write up case study work from South Africa on the same topic. At LEARN!, as a research institute, we’ve worked hard to build a knowledge bank with our relevant research work.  We have been publishing a series of articles on education and COVID-19 for parents and educators as well as a series of blogs on the relevant education news here and internationally.  That work is informed by the weekly meetings I have on Friday afternoon with a rapid response network of practitioners in the field. The crisis is bringing unprecedented change to teaching here and to how schools are organized, and we have doubled up our efforts to map these changes as well as help schools and policy-makers to make the best evidence-informed decisions.

The view from the author’s desk, picture courtesy of M. Ehren

IEN: What’s happening with education/learning in your community? 

ME: Our university also closed on Thursday 12th March, one day before I was teaching my group of students on the MA ‘Education and Innovation’. The first week was really hectic with moving all teaching online, finding out about which platform to use for online lectures, allowing for small break out groups. Most of us are now using Zoom with break out rooms for small group work. My own teaching ended after that first week but we are now preparing to move all our courses, even those that are scheduled for the fall online, including assessments with online proctoring. It has been a major challenge and learning curve for many, and we are collaboratively learning about how to teach well in an online learning environment where large seminars just don’t work that well and students don’t show up for them. There is also a real challenge in connecting to students who go off radar, where some also experience anxiety, a lack of motivation or opportunity to study due to living in small, shared and noisy housing or losing a sense of purpose when family and friends have health concerns.

There is a real challenge in connecting to students who go off radar, where some also experience anxiety, a lack of motivation or opportunity to study due to living in small, shared and noisy housing or losing a sense of purpose when family and friends have health concerns.

The National Institute for Public Health have reported that there are over 40,000 positive COVID-19 cases in the Netherlands, but with new hospitalization falling below 50 each day, they suggest that control measures appear to be working. Consequently, primary schools are now set to reopen again on May 11, though with lessons in smaller, alternating groups of students. Secondary schools will reopen on June 1.

IEN: What do you/your community need help with?

ME: We have seen over the past weeks that schools have had to ramp up their offer of online teaching, rethinking their educational partnership with parents. Schools serving pupils from deprived backgrounds have had to think of ways in which to connect to these pupils, given that some did not even have a laptop at home and where many are still unable to understand how to access online teaching. Schools have worked with youth services and municipalities to reach these children and have come up with solutions that work best for the pupils involved. All these solutions have been highly context-specific as the reasons for why pupils are not involved vary and the best solutions capitalize on existing high-trust relations. After schools had a couple of weeks to adapt to the situation, more substantive questions have arisen, such as how to ensure the quality of teaching when schools remain closed for longer periods of time or when they only open in a phased manner and some type of blended online and classroom-based teaching is required.

IEN: What resources/links/supports have you found most useful? 

ME: The problem is that there is just too much out there and it is hard to sift through all the resources, links and support. Many reports also highlight similar issues,  particularly on how the current situation increased inequality. I find the weekly conversations with practitioners most helpful to understand the questions that still need answering and to hear alternative views. One of the practitioners in my network, responsible for inclusive education for example told me that some children are actually doing quite well in the current situation of home-schooling; the safety and structure of the home environment enables them to learn much better then in school.

The problem is that there is just too much out there and it is hard to sift through all the resources, links and support.

IEN: What are you reading, watching, listening to that you would recommend to others?  

As my days are filled with so much COVID-19 related work these days I really want to read, watch and listen to something unrelated. I’ve downloaded archived podcasts like ‘Freakonomics’ and ‘Revisionist History’ and tend to listen these during long hikes in the weekend.

Lead the Change Q & A with Terri N. Watson

This week’s post features an interview with Terri N. Watson, Associate Professor in the Department of Leadership and Human Development at The City College of New York. This is the 105th edition of the Lead the Change (LtC) Series.  The fully formatted interview can be found on the LtC website of the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.

Lead the Change: The 2020 AERA theme is The Power and Possibilities for the Public Good: When Researchers and Organizational Stakeholders Collaborate. Organizational leaders, “who bring knowledge, status, and constituents to critical educational topics” were invited to this year’s meeting to reconnect and to harness our collective possibilities. How can the leveraging of such a diverse body of scholars contribute to collaboration and engagement within and across multiple stakeholder groups and to educational change?

Terri Watson: The 2020 AERA theme rightly calls for increased collaboration amongst education researchers, organizational leaders, and stakeholders. These partnerships are essential to educational change and reminds me of a similar charge echoed throughout Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, And the Foundations of a Movement, a collection of essays and speeches by Angela Y. Davis. In this work Dr. Davis, a political activist and scholar, passionately articulates the need for ‘movement builders’ and calls for seemingly divergent movements to coalesce for a common good, a public good. She consistently challenges neoliberal policies and practices found in society at large and in far too many K- 20 schools and schooling contexts. The latter is troubling as public education is one of the few services that, if it is to be effective, must address the human condition. In this light, I view the work of education researchers, organizational leaders, and stakeholders as akin to those of movement builders who, by way of AERA’s 2020 theme, are charged to unite for a public good: public education.

We must cease conducting research in schools and communities and, instead, establish meaningful partnerships with schools and communities

If we, as an association of 25,000 scholars, are to leverage educational research for the public good, we must intentionally forge meaningful relationships with the public. And, in addition to organizational leaders and stakeholders, education scholars must join forces with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, and educational policymakers. To do so, we must cease conducting research in schools and communities and, instead, establish meaningful partnerships with schools and communities. Too often, education researchers are detached from the realities of schooling, the lives of young people, and the experiences of those deemed ‘other.’ And while we read journal articles, conduct research, and publish our findings, few researchers engage with schools and communities outside of the course of their study. Moreover, we rarely, if at all, share our findings with the general public nor employ what we have learned to inform education policy. If our scholarship is to impact educational change, we must engage with the public. To be clear, education scholars must endeavor to establish connections with the people, paradigms, and perspectives we persistently marginalize in and outside of the schoolhouse.

‘Theory is cool, but theory with no practice ain’t shit.’  – Fred Hampton, 1969.

At the start of my academic career, I conducted a longitudinal study of the leadership practices exhibited in a large urban high school. Using the lens of Critical Race Theory, I examined how teachers and school leaders identified and considered the challenges to parent involvement “without either engaging in or disrupting normative constructions of the term parent involvement” (Watson & Bogotch, 2015, p.258). Based on what I learned from the school’s parents, teachers, and administrators, and with funding obtained from a community based organization, I conducted parent meetings, teacher workshops, and worked with the school’s leadership team to redefine and reframe the function and purpose of parent involvement. I shared my experience with Sylvia Saunders, a reporter from NYSUT: A Union of Professionals. Our conversation, along with a link to the journal article, Reframing Parent Involvement: What Should Urban School Leaders Do Differently?, can be accessed here. A major lesson the field of Educational Change can learn from this study is that as critical researchers, we must be open to alternative ways of knowing and practice to facilitate change and, ultimately, student achievement.

LtC: Given your focus on how racism manifests and is manifested in schools and the impact of such racism as well as class and gender discrimination on Black girls in particular, what would be some of the takeaways the field of Educational Change can glean from your work and experiences with Black girls?

TW: I wrote the following text (tweet) on November 18, 2019:

Dear Educators,

Black girls are not loud – they want to be heard.

Black girls are not seeking-attention – they are seeking a connection.

Black girls are not aggressive – they know what they want.

Black girls are not bossy – they are leaders.

Last, Black girls are not adults.

To date, this tweet has been shared over 21K times and was ‘liked’ more than 68K times. As a Black woman and the mother of a Black girl, I know that schools, for many Black girls, are sites of trauma. This tweet is based on these truths and aimed to challenge oft-cited (mis)perceptions of Black girls. In addition, my article, “Talking Back”: The Perceptions and Experiences of Black Girls Who Attend City High School, is based on data gathered as part of the aforementioned longitudinal study. In this manuscript, I centered the voices and perspectives of Black girls and Black women scholars “to honor the voices that are oftentimes silenced in schools and to employ standpoints that are seldom considered in education research” (p.239).

As a Black woman and the mother of a Black girl, I know that schools, for many Black girls, are sites of trauma.”

The recommendations from this study appear below and were offered to improve the educational experiences of Black girls at CHS and are offered here as takeaways the field of Educational Change can glean from my work and experiences with Black girls.

Affinity groups. Several of the study’s participants described negative perceptions that many of CHS’ teachers, administrators, and security agents held of Black girls. In response, schools should establish affinity groups for Black girls: They build self-esteem, provide a safe place for students, and foster positive relationships among students and the larger school community.

Mental-health professionals. Mental health is essential to student success. Several girls shared that they suffered from depression and anxiety. Unfortunately, by-and-large, therapy is frowned upon in the Black community, and many Black girls oftentimes suffer in silence. Schools should provide access to mental-health professionals to students and, if requested, their families.

Post clear rules and regulations. Several Black girls felt CHS’ security agents targeted them. By posting clear rules and regulations throughout the school building, unpleasant interactions between students and security agents may be avoided. Moreover, if a student is disciplined, the student should know why she is being disciplined, and the consequence(s) should be clearly articulated in the regulations.

Form a task force. While all the study’s participants were on track to graduate from high school, data trends show Black girls tend to drop out of high school at higher rates than their peers. Furthermore, based on the data gathered for this study, several Black girls at CHS were found to experience challenges during their high school career that could have caused them to drop out. To ensure their success, schools should form a task force aimed at improving the educational experiences and outcomes of Black girls.

Professional development. Several Black girls interviewed for this study detailed conflicts they experienced with teachers and administrators at CHS and readily offered advice for the school’s leader to improve their lived experiences. In this light, schools should invest in professional development centered on meeting the needs of culturally, socially, and linguistically diverse students to improve teacher practices and, ultimately, student achievement.

LtC: In your recent work, you conceptualize racism in schools through an ecological lens to show the ways it operates across the system (i.e., individual, dyadic, subcultural, institutional, and societal) and how it is dynamic and changing. In so doing, you challenge school leaders and others to think beyond traditional approaches to addressing racism in schools and towards more systemic approaches. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice to address these findings and bring them into practice?

TW: To effectively address racism in schools through policy and practice, we must first commit to the fact that society in general and public schools, in particular, are fundamentally racist. This truth is evident in the nation’s founding charter and in legal jurisprudence and throughout the history of public education. It is also quantified in the disparate educational outcomes of America’s children (see NCES Graduation Rates). Next, we must problematize the process of schooling. Meaning, we must ask hard questions about the ways in which schools function in our society. Paying close attention to how neoliberalism and its byproducts (capitalism, school choice, and standardized testing) have polarized the most vulnerable children, families, and communities. Then, we must gather the political and moral will to create systemic race-conscious educational policies and practices. Gathering such will is challenging, as while most people will readily admit that they are not racist, very few will support mandates that operationalize racial equity and social justice in the places that we call schools (see NYC’s Chancellor’s school desegregation efforts) In fact, I will go one step further and suggest that while most people, especially White people, will call out overt racism, very few will acknowledge and address the systemic and insidious ways racism functions in our society and schools. And that, dear colleagues, is wherein the challenge lies.

We must gather the political and moral will to create systemic race-conscious educational policies and practices.”

Dr. Rosa Rivera-McCutchen, my colleague at the City University of New York, and I drafted the case study #BlackLivesMatter: A Call for Transformative Leadership to provide aspiring and current school leaders with the opportunity to engage in critical reflection and transformative leadership practices. We were inspired by the acceptance speech Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings delivered in the spring of 2015, upon her receipt of the Social Justice in Education Award at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting:

In her lecture aptly titled “Justice . . . Just, Justice!” Ladson-Billings explained why she was troubled by the current use of the term “social justice” and feared how it was, for some, purely ideological. Most distressing, she noted how many social justice advocates fail to recognize injustice. Poignantly, Ladson-Billings challenged the audience to move beyond justice as a theory to justice as praxis.” (p. 3).

Public education will not right itself. We must move beyond rhetoric and theory – if we are who we say we are.”

Dr. Ladson-Billings’ message rings true for the field of Educational Change. Public education will not right itself. We must move beyond rhetoric and theory – if we are who we say we are.

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?

TW: I began my teaching career in 1994 at a middle school in East Harlem. I elected to teach at JHS 45 because it was located between two housing projects and many of the students who attended the school shared life experiences similar to my own. Nearly 20 years later I joined the Department of Leadership and Human Development at The City College of New York (CCNY). The College’s legacy of proffering “access, opportunity, and transformation” to the children of the City of New York aligns with my primary aim, as a scholar-activist, to improve the educational outcomes and life chances of historically excluded and underserved children and families. Moreover, based on my educational experiences, I deeply understand that schools are complex systems and require a heavy lift from individuals and groups who seek to transform them. Hence, during my first year at CCNY, my colleague, Dr. Hope Hartman (Professor Emeritus) and I explored the effects of metacognition on school leaders. Our article, Transformational Leaders Who Practice Metacognition, appeared in the New York Academy of Public Education’s research journal here.

Dr. Hartman and I wrote the aforementioned manuscript with our graduate students in mind. We knew that as novice school leaders they would be charged to contend with systemic racism, inequitable funding, and the legacy of low expectations for children of color. We explained:

“We posit that in order to reform schools, specifically in urban areas, transformational leaders who systematically practice metacognition are better able to promote effective, caring, and socially just schools and communities than those who do not. This article provides a paradigm for and examples of metacognitive transformational leadership” (p.8).

The field of Educational Change can best support individuals and groups engaged in the transformation of schools by creating and offering workshops on transformative leadership practices (see Shields, 2010) and metacognition (see Schon, 1983). Those who seek to transform schools and the process of schooling “must observe their own actions, inactions, and attitudes, as well as their impact on others. Upon awareness, they should take steps to enhance their effectiveness” (Watson & Hartman, 2013, p.9). Learning experiences centered on transformative leadership practices and metacognition promotes social justice and self-awareness and can help individuals and groups actualize their goals for educational change.

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

We are currently experiencing unprecedented times. In an attempt to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus NYC’s public schools, the nation’s largest public school system, recently announced that its 1,700 schools will remain closed for the remainder of academic year. I am sure other school districts throughout the U.S. will soon do the same. While many are lamenting the possibility (and impossibilities) of this decision, I am inspired by its promise. The physical closure of schools will force many in the field of Educational Change to reimagine and redesign the form and function of schooling. We can no longer rely on traditional paradigms and practices and must find new and different ways to engage young people, establish community, and effect change. This forced shift will be refreshing. The traditional structure and function of schools and schooling created nebulous and hostile environments for far too many children, particularly those of color. This is the time for the field of Educational Change to implement new solutions to old problems. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

This is the time for the field of Educational Change to implement new solutions to old problems. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain!”

References

Schon, D. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Shields, C. M. (2010). Transformative leadership: Working for equity in diverse contexts. Educational Administration Quarterly, 46, 558-559.


Watson, T. N. (2016). “Talking back”: The perceptions and experiences of Black girls who attend City High School. The Journal of Negro Education, 85(3), 239-249.

Watson, T. N.,  & Rivera-McCutchen, R. (2016). #BlackLivesMatter: A call for transformative leadership. Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, 19(2), 3–11.

Watson, T. N., & Bogotch, I. (2015). Reframing parent involvement: What should urban school leaders do differently? Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(3), 257-278.

Watson, T. N., & Hartman, H. (2013). Transformational leaders who practice metacognition. The Professional Journal: The New York Academy of Public Education, 8-11.

A view from Japan: Hirokazu Yokota on school closures and the pandemic

This week’s post features an e-mail interview with Hirokazu Yokota, a government officer at Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). At MEXT, he has tackled such missions as increasing the number of public school teachers, encouraging Community School initiatives, promoting special needs education, and spearheading a ministerial reform. Recently, he published an article on school leadership in Japan in Journal of Educational Administration. The post shares his own views and does not necessarily represent the views of MEXT. This post is the second in a series launched by IEN last week with a post from Chile. The “A view from…” series editors are IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

1. What’s happening with you and your family?

Hirokazu Yokota: I was taking a paternity leave from October 1 of 2019 to April 7  in order to take care of my second child (who has just turned one year last week!). As you might know, being a stay-at-home dad is as hard a job as working for the government. Although I enjoyed such things as playing with my son, cooking lunch for my wife and helping my four-year-old daughter with reading and writing letters, I sometimes needed a pastime. That’s why once a week, I was looking forward to having lunch with my old friends – just to chat and do a little catch-up. That has completely changed over the past three months. During weekdays, I refrained from going outside – to avoid getting infected and to make sure that my son and I did not spread it if we had it. What was especially concerning was my son had been sick early in March for nearly two weeks – but his fever did not go as high as the threshold of 37.5 Celsius. Now he is doing fine and has finished the phase-in at a nursery school which started on April 1, but I’m kind of feeling guilty about not being able to continue my paternity leave despite this COVID-19 outbreak.

“What is extremely challenging is that education is the act of human interaction, and now we must stay away from that”

2. What’s happening with education/learning in your community?

HY: Although almost all of the public elementary, junior high, and high schools in Japan have been closing after March 2, this does not apply to nursery schools. Therefore, my daughter was going to her nursery as usual, although I kept her at home for a week or so at the beginning of March. Because the nursery refrained from taking children outside, my daughter seemed to feel stressed, so I oftentimes could not help going to the playground, while practicing social distancing (which, I admit, is very difficult for kids).

My children at the playground (Photos from Hirokazu Yokota)

HY: Nationally, as of March 24th, MEXT announced new guidelines for the reopening of schools after spring break (e.g. necessary measures for local governments to implement in order to prevent further spread of the COVID-19) and for temporary closures in the new school term (e.g. how to determine whether the school should be closed on a temporary basis, in case of an infection of children, students or teachers. At that time, this policy decision was reasonable given the relatively slow rise of confirmed cases in Japan, although MEXT revised the latter guideline on April 1 to suggest how to determine the temporary closure based on the overall situation in the community, even if there are no infected people in the school. However, due to the recent rapid increase of confirmed cases, the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency, which took effect from April 8 to May 7. At first this measure had been targeted at seven prefectures (mostly metropolitan areas), but later was expanded to all the forty-seven prefectures on April 16. Accordingly, on April 10, MEXT issued a notification on the instruction to students who cannot go to schools owing to the temporary closure. In this notice, MEXT asked Boards of Education to ensure that schools couple instruction and assessment by teachers with appropriate learning opportunities at home (based on the instructional plan devised by schools), while taking into account the current status of infection in each area. Additionally, it mentions that after schools open, they should assess learning that occurred at home during the temporary closure and implement measures to supplement the lost learning opportunities. Although schools are supposed to make maximum efforts to ensure learning and to reteach material that should have been learned at home during the closure, schools do not have to cover the same content again if and only if assessments confirm that students fully understand the material (NOTE: this measure is an exception rather than a rule).

3. What do you/your community need help with?

HY: Before the COVID-19 outbreak, our ministry published an ambitious policy package to ensure every student in elementary and junior high schools will have access to an ICT device at school by the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023. The official document in Japanese is here, and English version is here (p23-24) (you might find this article by the Japan Times helpful). Moreover, given the importance of ICT as a tool to ensure student learning during such temporary closure, on April7, the aforementioned policy package was revised so that MEXT can subsidize ICT devices in order for each student to have an access at the end of THIS YEAR (FY2020, not 2023) (p12 here, although it’s in Japanese). Now is the time to fully expand the potential of ICT devices, but when it comes to implementation, there are so many issues to be resolved – from teachers’ capacity to use ICT devices, internet access at home, and from security concerns to measures for tracking student progress. What is extremely challenging is that education is the act of human interaction, and now we must stay away from that. However, at the same time, I’m hopeful that after this pandemic is over, we can find a proper balance between face-to-face teaching and remote learning, and accordingly the desirable roles of teachers/schools in this era.    

In this period of turbulence and uncertainty, we, regardless of our own positions, have to collaborate with each other to protect ourselves, our family, our community, and our society

4. What resources/links/supports have you found most useful?

HY: Thanks to the great efforts of my colleagues, our ministry opened a new web portal (in Japanese), to support children’s learning during this temporary closure – just ONE DAY after we asked schools to temporarily close. This website includes such contents as textbooks of each subject, “how to make masks on your own,” “museums at home,” and “my sports menu.” Of course, private companies are working on providing inspiring contents for children – such as NHK for school and Katariba online.  Personally, as a father, I found textbooks with intriguing pictures and sounds useful as a tool to help my daughter learn Japanese, math and English.

My daughter learning phonics

5. What have you found most inspiring?

HY: In this period of turbulence and uncertainty, we, regardless of our own positions, have to collaborate with each other to protect ourselves, our family, our community, and our society. But I’m deeply encouraged by, and grateful for, the fact that people around the world are combating, to the best of their ability, this unprecedented predicament. It was not until what we take for granted was taken away that it brought home to me that I, and we, are protected by our society. Since I restarted my journey of public service, we as government officers also work from home every two days in order to considerably reduce contacts with other people. Of course, you can easily imagine that while we have far more tasks than usual due to the coronavirus outbreak, we cannot maintain the same productivity as when we stay at the office every day. This reality becomes even harsher when our nursery schools ask parents who work from home to refrain from sending their children – that is exactly the case with me. It’s like going through a long tunnel, just trying to manage two extremely important, but sometimes conflicting, missions – working for the government and being a father of two at the same time. But I know what keeps me going forward in such a difficult time – my sincere desire to dedicate myself to helping those who are affected by COVID-19!

My workplace (only 9 out of 24 people in this room were at the office)

A view from Chile: Victoria Parra-Moreno on school closures and the pandemic

This week IEN launches a new series of blog posts – “A view from….” – that provides short email interviews about the experiences under quarantine of educators in different parts of the world. The first post comes from Victoria Parra-Moreno, an educational consultant in early childhood education and an Adjunct Professor at the Universidad del Desarrollo, in the Department of Psychology. Parra-Moreno lives in Temuco, Chile which has a significant number of Covid-19 cases per capita. The national government declared a quarantine on March 25th, meaning that no one can go outside without a permit and a “condon sanitaire” strictly controlling people moving in and out the city. The “A view from…” series is edited by IEN’s Thomas Hatch and Karen Edge, Reader/Associate Professor in Educational Leadership at University College London’s Institute of Education.

1. What’s happening with you and your family? 

VP: We have been in complete lockdown for a week, although schools got canceled in the middle of March, my two daughters (7th grade and 10th grade), my husband, and I have been at home a bit longer. As a family, we are trying to have schedules that allow us to meet our personal and professional tasks, so usually during mornings the four of us are connected to computers having meetings, doing homework and sending documents. We have two dogs, so in the afternoons we have a 1/2-hour permit to take them for a walk, which is a moment of immense happiness. It is incredible how small things like walking the dogs became a great gift for us.

2. What’s happening with education/learning in your community? 

VP: In terms of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ministry of Education announced the suspension of schools in March 15th for two weeks although some universities and colleges began closing a few days earlier. On March 25th, the government announced the suspension of schools until April 24th, and just this week the Minister declared it unlikely that students will return to schools in April. After the suspension of schools, the government implemented a website to support online teaching aligned with the national curriculum, so now schools can use this resource as they see it fit. However, there are a significant number of students with no access to the internet so the government started sending curriculum packages to some remote districts for them to share with students directly

3. What do you/your community need help with?

VP: To me this question has two lines of thought. From a more philosophical perspective, I think teaching communities need support to rethink the goals of education under crisis. Despite all the resources and assistance TIC’s (ICT) provide, teaching and learning are a challenge, and maybe we need to put our energy in providing students’ learning opportunities that help them to cope and thrive in a situation like today. I see the efforts of my daughters’ teachers in helping them learn physics and proper grammar, and I’m not arguing they shouldn’t learn that, but I think it could be more useful to engage in critical thinking to help them understand what is going on in the world.  At a practical level, I think teaching communities need more help in understanding how to promote learning and how to assess competencies. In my experiences, professors and teachers rely on testing to evaluate students’ progress, and now I see and hear colleagues struggling to design learning and assessment tools that support students’ growth. It is hard because for so long learning has been understood in terms of students’ tests results. 

4. What resources/links/supports have you found most useful? 

VP: Online platforms for organizing materials and resources have been useful to me, like google classroom and Canvas. These platforms are also useful in providing tools for “meeting” and exchanging ideas. I have seen my daughters’ teachers using social platforms like Instagram to keep students connected with the pace of classes, providing information about incoming meetings and deadlines. For example, my sophomore daughter’s physics teacher created an Instagram account where he posts the information for upcoming calls and provides links to online resources that supplement materials he sends to students by email. Also, one of the head teachers made a WhatsApp group for sending students information about different subjects and to touch base and find out how students are doing.  UNESCO’s list of “distance learning solutions” has also been useful to search for options to fit different needs and available resources.

5. What are you reading, watching, listening to that you would recommend to others?  

VP: Twitter has been pretty useful these days to read other practitioners ideas and struggles in rethinking education. No one in particular, but as ideas float around it provides me opportunities to grasp with what other challenges and approaches are emerging. Listening to podcasts, related and not related to education is always useful to me, as they help me to frame issues from different perspectives. I totally recommend Ted Radio Hour, Radio Ambulante, Hidden Brain and Have you Heard.

Global School Leaders Respond to COVID-19

How are school leaders responding to the coronavirus outbreak? This week’s post describes the responses to school closures of members of Global School Leaders (GSL). GSL provides preparation and professional development programs for school leaders in India, Malalysia, Indonesia, and Kenya.  Sameer Sampat and Azad Oommen launched GSL to build on and expand work they and their colleagues began at the India School Leadership Institute (ISLI) in 2013. Sampat discussed the initial evolution of ISLI in an IEN interview in 2016.  An interview with Sampat about the work of Global School Leaders and the challenges and possibilities for seeding leadership preparation programs around the world will be published in IEN later this spring. This post appeared originally on Medium

School leaders can respond to GSL’s global survey about their responses to the outbreak in their communities: https://t.co/NEQNCgxu6l

As the COVID-19 crisis deepens and spreads, a strong response by school leaders (SLs) is urgent to mitigate against the disruption faced by children who may be out of school for the foreseeable future. SLs are uniquely positioned to have the respect and personal relationships to guide families on how to support their children at home during this unprecedented, fast-moving challenge.

In our program partner regions in India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malaysia, schools are shut and public gatherings, including training workshops, are banned. We are bringing our four partner organizations together to provide motivation and thought-partnership as we face this unprecedented crisis. Our partners’ response to taking responsibility within their communities is inspiring.

This blog shares the actions taken by our team and partners to support SLs through this crisis. We hope it sparks ideas that other SLs can localize for use in their own communities. We are still finding ways that our SLs and partner organizations can meaningfully build collective action to support those most in need. If reading this blog sparks any thoughts, suggestions, or feedback, we would love to hear from you.

GSL Response Framework

As GSL, we are focused on supporting playing a leadership role by motivating and supporting our partners to take a collective response. Two primary thoughts are centering us:

  1. We must keep the physical and mental well-being of our leaders, teachers, and students at the top of our actions
  2. This moment highlights the critical leadership role our SLs must rise to in service of their schools and communities. To that end, we must first and foremost model the same care and urgency that we hope to see from our SLs.

We are working with our partners to address the needs of our SLs so that they, in turn, can ensure that every child is cared for and their basic needs are met. Parents see the SLs as community leaders, but SLs are dealing with an unprecedented situation.

Partners are now working through a three-step initial response and sharing updates on weekly network calls. We drafted this tool to codify a framework for action that collects the thoughts we’ve heard from our partners:

  1. Set-Up Communication Channels: Partners are checking in on, finding resources to support, and motivating SLs to ensure that they have the energy and ability to serve their communities, despite the personal challenges they may be facing.
  2. Understanding Community Needs: Based on the information that is emerging from the communication chain, partners are facilitating responses to community needs. Partners are collecting data and sharing regular updates on the assets/ needs of the communities.
  3. Inspiring with Stories of Hope: Partners are surfacing and documenting stories about how SLs are finding ways to respond to provide insight and motivation for others, both in our networks and beyond.

Partner Progress and Resources

Over the past week, our partners have been putting together multiple efforts to support their SLs and communities. Here are a few highlights with attached resources:

Pemimpin GSL (Malaysia)

Dignitas (Kenya)

  • Building communications channels with SLs to understand their needs, which they have captured here
  • Developing a comprehensive plan that includes:
  • Skill-building with SLs on relevant Leading Learning competencies — engaging parents, dealing with trauma, leveraging online and radio learning tools
  • Clusters of Support — ways to bring groups of schools together to distribute resources and check-in on well-being

Inspirasi (Indonesia)

  • Creating a call for SLs to share short video clips of how they’re responding to the crisis
  • Developing a webinar on “School Leadership in Crisis” that will feature a panel of Ministry of Education and Culture officials, local academics, and practitioners
  • Will be delivering their planned last workshop of the academic year via Zoom in mid-April

Alokit (India)

  • Setting up weekly small group calls with SLs from the ISLI program in Delhi and Hyderabad that Alokit co-founders worked with personally to understand their needs. See their notes.

Next Steps

As next steps, we are building resources that address the following questions that have emerged from the work being done by our partners:

  1. Are there conversation templates for how teachers should be using their time speaking with families during this crisis?
  2. What are some pre-skills we can be working on with SLs to motivate them to more fully interact with teachers and their communities if they aren’t doing so on their own accord?
  3. What kinds of data should partners be collecting? What is the impact we want to be able to have at the end of this and what is the data we need to be collecting now in order to ensure that we’ve done this?

While our contexts are different, our partners are united by a fierce belief in the importance of school leadership in meeting the needs of learners and their communities. We are compiling a list of education-related resources — please feel free to look through these if they are helpful to you. We will be checking in with our partners regularly and will continue to update our community through this evolving situation.

— Global School Leaders