Category Archives: About K-12 International Education News

From Learning Loss to Learning to Read: High Leverage Strategies for School Improvement

This week IEN shares a post drawn from IEN founder Thomas Hatch’s new book with Jordan Corson and Sarah van den Berg, The Education We Need For A Future We Can’t Predict (Corwin 2021). An edited version of this post was published originally at: https://corwin-connect.com/

Along with the devastation of the coronavirus outbreak and widespread school closures come hopes for reimagining schools as they reopen. These hopes for the future, however, rest on making the concrete improvements in schools that we know we can make today.

Despite the enormity of the challenges and the massive race and income-based inequities in society and schools that the coronavirus exposed – again – the pandemic has also made visible the fact that many communities already have the capacity to address at least some of these challenges. In New York City, in the first month of the school closure, the Department of Education worked with businesses like Apple and Microsoft to provide almost 500,000 computers and iPads to students who needed them. Across the US and around the world, even with limited digital infrastructure, communities are opening up hotspots for public use, equipping buses with Wi-Fi (and sometimes solar power), and pursuing other innovative ways of getting students online. Given the existing possibilities, one commissioner for the US Federal Communications Commission testified that the connectivity gap could be closed “virtually overnight.” If it can be done, then it should be done. No need to wait any longer.

Getting students connected to the Internet is no panacea for educational challenges, however, particularly in many parts of the developing world, where almost half of all students don’t have a computer at home and over 40 percent lack access to the internet. We also know that even with Internet access and online opportunities, significant improvements in students’ learning depend on developing more powerful instructional practices and providing better support for educators. Nonetheless, the responses to the coronavirus show that we have the capacity to address some inequitable learning opportunities, and we can take these steps right now by responding to high-leverage problems.

High-Leverage Problems

My colleagues in the New Jersey Network of Superintendents and I argue that those efforts can begin by developing a coordinated response to what I call high-leverage problems:

  • High-leverage problems concentrate on issues widely recognized as central to the development of more equitable educational opportunities and outcomes.
  • They present opportunities for visible improvements in relatively short periods of time.
  • They establish a foundation for long-term, sustained, systemic efforts that improve teaching and learning.

Addressing high-leverage problems depends on developing a keen sense of what matters to people and what matters in an organization. It requires careful analysis of multiple problems and continuous reflection on the process of addressing them. It relies on a powerful repertoire of strategies that meet the specific demands of different situations and on developing new practices and resources when necessary. All together, these steps can lead to the “quick wins” that help propel organizational and social changes in many sectors.

#Learningloss & Learning to Read

Take the critical concern for the “learning loss” likely to be created by the massive disruptions to schooling that so many children around the world are experiencing. That term – now almost a one-word hashtag – actually obscures a host of challenges that have to be unpacked to be addressed productively. First, different children experience learning loss to different degrees; they may experience it in some academic areas and not others; learning loss may also be affected by experiences of trauma and the stresses and socio-emotional challenges that come with the pandemic; it may result from inaccessibility to online learning and school support services including free meals and counseling; and it may stem a loss of relationships with peers and teachers, disengagement with school, and prolonged absences from learning in person or online. Such a litany of problems can make any first step seem inadequate and pointless. Nonetheless, breaking down a high leverage problem like learning to read yields a coordinated series of strategies that many communities already have the capacity to pursue:

  1. Make books by authors from a variety of backgrounds freely accessible.
  2. Find children with vision problems and provide them with glasses.
  3. Develop and understanding of why some children are chronically absent from school/online learning and support regular attendance.
  4. Identify children who are struggling to learn to read and provide targeted interventions.

The logic is simple: when children have access to books, when they can see, when they’re in school, and when they receive targeted support if they’re struggling, they’re much more likely to learn to read.

The logic is simple: when children have access to books, when they can see, when they’re in school, and when they receive targeted support if they’re struggling, they’re much more likely to learn to read.

Even in countries like the United States, children in high-poverty areas have a much harder time getting books than their peers in middle-income areas, but a number of programs (including one sponsored by the country singer Dolly Parton) have taken advantage of book vending machines, doctor’s offices, and other mechanisms to address this issue. Organizations like EmbraceRace and the Jane Addams Peace Association post lists of books by authors from different racial and cultural backgrounds so that there’s no excuse not to provide all children with access to materials that reflect their heritage.

 Of course, making books and print materials available in a variety of languages, by authors from a range of backgrounds, is just one step. Children still need to be able to read those books once they get those books into their hands. Nonetheless, 25 percent of school-aged children in the United States have undiagnosed eye problems that inhibit their ability to read, and one in three children haven’t had their vision tested in the past two years (if at all); but relatively low-cost programs to test students’ vision and get glasses to those who need them do exist. In the developing world, it may be complicated to create a supply chain that makes print materials readily available and ensures every child who needs glasses gets a pair, but it can be done.

We know that chronic absences from school have a devastating effect on children’s learning and have a disproportionate impact on students in communities of color, but that knowledge has also led to the development of a number of successful strategies for helping many children to get to and stay in school. Despite the re-emergence of the “reading wars” over the best approach to teach reading, there are a number of well-established strategies and supports that many teachers and schools are already using that target the specific needs of at least some of the students who experience difficulties in learning to read when they are in school.

Improve Schools and Transform Education

These first steps may not reach every student right away, and any initial success has to be followed by developing educational activities that foster more advanced skills and a broader set of developmental needs – an even more challenging proposition. Ultimately, addressing these challenges will depend on truly reimagining schooling, and, reconceptualizing notions like “learning loss” that ignore the mile-wide and inch-deep curriculum and age-graded pacing that make it almost impossible for students to catch up once they’re left behind.

We need to reimagine schooling, reconceptualizing notions like “learning loss” that ignore the mile-wide and inch-deep curriculum and age-graded pacing that make it almost impossible for students to catch up once they’re left behind

In short, the pandemic itself will not change schools:  Nothing will change in schools unless we change it. Yet the strategies to provide glasses, to address chronic absences, and to provide targeted support in reading can lead to real improvements in schools – even in the midst of a pandemic – if we choose to dedicate the time, resources and commitment to put them into practice on a wide basis.  We can take these critical steps to make the schools we have more efficient, more equitable and more effective today and to lay the groundwork for transforming education as a whole in the future.

On Leadership, Strategy, and Equity: The Lead the Change Interview with Isobel Stevenson

This week, IEN features the Lead the Change (LTC) interview with Isobel Stevenson. Stevenson works for the Connecticut Center for School Change, a nonprofit organization that supports school districts in their organizational improvement efforts. She is co-author, with Jennie Weiner, of The Strategy Playbook for Educational Leaders: Principles and Processes and writes The Coaching Letter, a newsletter supporting the work of coaches and leaders in education.  A pdf of the fully formatted interview will be available on the LtC website.

Lead the Change: The 2021 AERA theme is Accepting Educational Responsibility and invites those of us who teach in schools of education to accept greater responsibility for the inadequate preparation of educators for work in racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse P–12 schools and postsecondary institutions. For example, when educators discipline African American students at disproportionately higher rates, misdiagnose them for special education, identify too few of them for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, deliver to them a culturally irrelevant curriculum, teach them in culturally disdaining ways, and stereotype their families as careless and hopeless, the schools of education that produced these professionals are just as responsible as the professionals themselves. Furthermore, if scholars who study and document these trends do too little to make our findings actionable, then we, too, are contributors to the cyclical reproduction of these educational inequities.

Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

 Isobel Stevenson: My day job, so to speak, is in an organization that has equity in education as its mission, so this is an issue that I spend a lot of time working on and thinking about. My contact with school and district leaders (including coaches, department heads, and so on) tells me that they have already got the message that the system generates and perpetuates inequities. They are looking for ways to do something about it. But a lot of what is available to them is still at the problem-identification level. And for sure, having good data, completing an equity audit (Skrla, Scheurich, & Garcia, 2004), identifying the inequities that exist and seeing them for what they are–all those are essential. But even when you know the problem, the “now what?” can remain elusive.

Much of the attention being paid to equity at the moment is in the form of books that discuss why race is hard to talk about, how our personal biases show up in our work, etc. See, for example, White Fragility (DiAngelo, 2018), Unconscious Bias in Schools (Benson & Fiarman, 2020), How to be an Anti-Racist (Kendi, 2019). These are all great books, and you have to start somewhere, but many educational leaders seem to have gotten the impression that engaging in this kind of work is what it means to “do equity work”. I think there are other aspects of “doing equity” that, if not red herrings, are overstated in their importance. By which I mean, it’s not that they are not important, it is that they are not, by themselves, long enough levers to bring about meaningful change. I would include in this category: “relationships”, “SEL” (currently the single most overused and under-specified construct in education), and “trauma-informed Text Box: “How can we re-introduce the idea that in addition cultural relevance, intellectual challenge and academic press are also crucial?”instruction.”

If I have one big complaint, it is that programs in educational change are not paying enough attention to instruction–or they do so in a lopsided way. We use terms like culturally-responsive or culturally-relevant, but these are only one part of the picture. A culturally relevant curriculum that does not expose students to grade-level tasks is missing the mark, but “rigor” has become a tainted concept, and we don’t seem to talk about teacher expectations any more. How can we re-introduce the idea that in addition cultural relevance, intellectual challenge and academic press are also crucial?

“How can we re-introduce the idea that in addition to cultural relevance, intellectual challenge and academic press are also crucial?”

The irony here is that we have research going back a long way that shows that teachers cannot think their way out of their biases–not because they are bad people, but because they are human, and the whole point of implicit bias is that it is implicit. The question then becomes how can we construct policies and practices, for instruction and other aspects of education, that are not dependent on educators overcoming their biases in order to improve opportunities, experiences and outcomes for all students? Specifically, in my experience, organizing for equity means consciousness-raising for educators (by reading books like Unconscious Bias in Schools (Benson & Fiarman, 2020), for example) SO THAT they understand, and agree with, the need for them to alter their teaching practices to increase BOTH the challenge AND the support that traditionally marginalized students receive. Paul Gorski, Zaretta Hammond, and Matthew Kay all provide guidance on how to do that.

LtC: Given your focus on strategic planning to enhance school performance and equity opportunities and outcomes, what would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?  

IS: A lack of strategic thinking can lead educators to make choices based on un-tested thinking, including but not limited to:

  1. Believing that because another district appears to have had success with a program, it should be adopted in our district.
  2. Proposing solutions without thinking through what the problem is (this tendency is compounded by the temptation to talk about solutions as if they were problems, as in “the problem is we don’t have enough counselors.”)
  3. Adopting a program/approach/ initiative without a tough conversation about the capacity needed to implement it.
  4. Thinking that the answer is professional learning for teachers; the answer is never just professional learning for teachers.
  5. Believing that writing something in a plan means that it will happen.
  6. Believing that having a vision or adopting ambitious goals has power other than inspiration; it is, at best, the starting point for coherence.
  7. Thinking that filling out a template for a school improvement plan or a district strategic plan is the same thing as being strategic.
  8. Making assumptions that everyone in the organization is clear about what the organization’s strategy is (in fact, most teachers in most districts don’t know what the district is focused on).
  9. Making assumptions that everyone in the organization is clear on their role (coaches, for example, are often decidedly unclear on what they are supposed to be coaching towards).

Leaders need a strong conceptual framework for strategic planning, so that they don’t fall into these traps. They also need tools for strategic planning, but, above all, they should deploy these tools thoughtfully, not replace one set of compliance activities for another. Obviously, I think the antidote is, at least in part, that educational leaders should read my new book with Dr. Jennie Weiner, The Strategy Playbook for Educational Leaders: Principles and Practices;but Being Strategic : Plan for Success; Out-Think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change by Erika Anderson is also really great.

“Leaders should deploy these tools thoughtfully, not replace one set of compliance activities for another.”

Both books emphasize process over product. They provide a big-picture methodology involving building a bridge from what is to what is desired. Obviously, that sounds simple and straightforward, but implementing the process well is actually quite challenging, and so they contain a lot of guidance for how to go about it.

LtC: In your recent work, you make the case that strategic planning can be an important tool for continuous improvement but requires a principled framework of equity, logic, capacity, and coherence to facilitate such change. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice in response to this argument? 

IS: There are many areas where I see policy under-utilized, and many where it is wielded clumsily. For example, many districts have created policies around the creation of strategic plans that are more about compliance to external mandates and/or the format of the plan than about the substance of the plan relative to the needs of the district.  I understand the desire for accountability around the practice of planning, but putting so much emphasis on a product–and, more than that, a product in a specified format–makes the creation of the product a rather onerous task. For example, we have seen templates that require the inclusion of a root cause analysis, or pages of data. I don’t see that as helpful, and simply reinforces a couple of things: the message that planning is a compliance activity; district and schools’ priorities are only loosely coupled; schools get to choose how and when to pursue equity.

At the same time, districts choose not to wield their power when it comes to policy that perpetuates inequity. I don’t understand why districts don’t have stronger equity-related policies around, for example, placement in advanced courses, discipline, grading, and high-quality instruction.

Capacity building is neglected at a policy level. Sometimes it seems to me that a realistic conversation about capacity becomes impossible, because it can be construed as a lack of faith in the mission. Educators who ask difficult questions about capacity fear that they will be labeled as “negative”, “resistant”, or “nay-sayers.” There is a lot of work to be done on psychological safety in education.

To change these patterns, you have to think of policy as part of strategy, rather than separate from it, which is how it’s often treated. School boards are often involved in the creation of the strategic plan, but they seem to see themselves as separate from it, as though it is a mechanism for them to delegate the work rather than direct the work.

Text Box: “Collaboration and support in transformation requires psychological safety.”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?

IS: In addition to my training and experience in educational leadership and change management, I also have training and experience in coaching, and that has been completely invaluable. So, I’m going to answer this question by highlighting how my coaching background shines a light on the question of supporting educators facing difficult challenges, in the hope that I can inspire others to investigate how interpersonal, as well as organizational, theory and practice can be helpful:

  1. Collaboration and support in transformation requires psychological safety. Without it, leaders will simply not be granted access to information they need in order to improve their strategy, and subordinates will carry the impression that their leaders are more interested in hearing good news than in providing support. Psychological safety means seeing failure as data and not lack of commitment; it means not judging the quality of decisions by their results; it means not reacting to good news as much as not reacting to bad. Amy Edmondson’s (2018) The Fearless Organization is essential reading, as is Meghan Tschannen-Moran’s (2014) Trust Matters.
  2. I often work with educational leaders who know what they ought to do, but don’t do it. When pressed, they tend to use explanations that indicate that they don’t think that the required action (let’s say, a challenging conversation) will actually make a difference; but I suspect that even though they are expressing their doubts as what Bandura (1977) would call an outcome expectation, they actually don’t have confidence in their ability to perform the action. Leaders of educational change need skills, and developing them requires guidance, coaching, and practice.
  3. A universal complaint of educators is that they don’t get enough feedback; this is particularly true of leaders in challenging situations. There are two parts to this. First, educational leaders need conceptual frameworks to formulate feedback (see, for example, Hattie & Timperley, 2007), and practice in developing the skill of engaging in feedback conversations. Let’s say that’s the formal version of feedback. But second, they need to understand how to harvest feedback from the environment, because it is actually all around them, and how to solicit feedback that is useful to them. Let’s call that the informal type of feedback. And educators need practice in receiving feedback, which they almost never get.

“Collaboration and support in transformation requires psychological safety.”

There’s a line in Execution (Bossidy, Charan & Burck, 2011) about how the conversation is the smallest unit of change, and I think there is an essential truth in that. Educational leaders tend to think of coaching as a soft skill separate from the hard skills of developing strategy and decision making, but I think that’s a mistake. A lot of the methodology of strategic planning is exactly parallel to the scaffolding of strategic thinking that is the essence of coaching.  I think that educational leaders would benefit enormously from formal training in coaching; it would improve their support for individuals and groups, help them benefit from coaching and supervision, as well as giving them the skills to have strategic conversations.

It’s not just about coaching, of course. In our book, The Strategy Playbook for Educational Leaders, we talk about principals and superintendents being clear on their role in putting equity first while supporting teachers, and about building capacity, which is also a form of support. We also talk about coherence–which is all about clarity and shared understanding–which is a much-underestimated form of support; there are so many educators who would feel much less stressed and much more supported if they only felt that they were on the same page as senior leaders regarding what the focus was and who was supposed to be doing what. That’s a big part of our book.

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

IS: This is a watershed moment. The pandemic has been a disaster for millions of children, but it has also shone a light on inequity in a way that nothing else has come close to doing since Kozol’s Savage Inequalities (1991) was published. My unscientific reading of social media tells me that there is a deep divide between educators who want nothing so badly as going back to what they had before the schools shut down in March, and those who want to reinvent schools based on what the pandemic has made apparent: that schools are not meeting the needs of all students. My greatest hope is that this conversation does not become a head-to-head competition, but rather a strategic conversation: a process for agreeing on a shared vision based on equity for all students and generating a strategic plan to reach that vision that isn’t a performative exercise, but makes sense, is realistic, and devotes adequate resources to the mission. I am optimistic.

References

Andersen, E. (2009). Being Strategic: Plan for Success; Out-think Your Competitors; Stay Ahead of Change. St. Martin’s Press.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological review, 84(2), 191.

Benson, T. A., & Fiarman, S. E. (2020). Unconscious bias in schools: A developmental approach to exploring race and racism. Harvard Education Press.

Bossidy, L., Charan, R., & Burck, C. (2011). Execution: The discipline of getting things done. Random House.

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press

.Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The fearless organization: Creating psychological safety in the workplace for learning, innovation, and growth. John Wiley & Sons.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One world.

Kozol, J. (1991) Savage inequalities. Crown.

Tschannen-Moran, M. (2014). Trust matters: Leadership for successful schools. John Wiley & Sons.

Skrla, L., Scheurich, K.J., Garcia, J., & Nolly, G. (2004). Equity audits: A practical leadership tool for developing equitable and excellent schools. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40 (1), 133-161.

Stevenson, I., & Weiner, J. M. (2020). The Strategy Playbook for Educational Leaders: Principles and Processes. Routledge.

ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.  Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung KimGraduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.

What Will the Biden Administration Do in Education? Looking Ahead at Education Policy in the US in 2021 (Updated)

1/24/21

This past Wednesday, IEN shared a roundup of articles (below) that looked at what many anticipated the new Biden administration might do in education. It didn’t take long to find out:

In inaugural address, Biden says it is possible to teach children ‘in safe schools’, Louis Freedberg, EdSurge

On His First Day in White House, Biden Dissolves Trump’s 1776 Commission on U.S. History, Kevin Mahnken, The74

Biden Revokes Trump’s ‘Patriotic Education’ Order, Will Shield DACA, Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

Biden Launches New Strategy to Combat COVID-19, Reopen Schools, Evie Blad, Education Week

Biden promises guidance, vaccines to get schools open, though familiar challenges loom, Matt Barnum & Kaylan Belsha

Linda Darling-Hammond and Ted Mitchell on what President Biden will do for education, Podcast, EdSurge

https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/biden-to-revoke-trumps-patriotic-education-order-shield-daca-on-first-day-as-president/2021/01?utm_source=nl&utm_medium=eml&utm_campaign=eu&M=59842604&U=2704344&UUID=29b05a6a00f3b0bfb76e975de146a39e

1/20/21

Last week, IEN focused on stories describing how educators were responding to the insurrection at the US Capitol. This week, with the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, we’ve collected headlines and links for a number of stories that center on what many expect to be a dramatic shift in US education policy. Some of the stories look back, assessing the tenure of Betsy Devos; many look ahead to examine what Miguel Cardona and the new administration might do; and a few look at the roles that Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and others have played and may play in education policy moving forward.  

The wreckage Betsy DeVos leaves behind, Editorial Board, New York Times

Delay, dismantle, resist: DeVos leaves a legacy like no other Education Secretary, Nicole Gaudiano & Caitlin Emma, Politico

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is download.jpeg
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos observes a classroom setting at the Phoenix International Academy in Phoenix. | AP Photo/Matt York

Little Legacy on Higher Ed for Betsy Devos — Except Controversy, Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed

As Betsy DeVos steps down, critics hope it is time to put the public back in public education, Liz Willen, Hechinger Report

As DeVos exits, where does education go next?, Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor

The Biden administration must commit in the first 100 days to building education policies with community, not for it, Khalilah Harris, the74

How Biden’s Education Department will tackle pandemic and Trump-era policies, Candice Norwood, PBS NewsHour

New year’s resolutions for those moving into the U.S. Department of Ed., Rick Hess, Education Week

Rebuilding America’s schools: The new Secretary of Education will need to prioritize both access and breadth of skills, Elias Blinkoff & Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Brookings Institution

In 2008, the NEA demanded a limited federal role in education. Its policy wish list for 2021 is very different, Mike Antonucci, the74

Who Is Miguel Cardona? Education Secretary Pick Has Roots in Classroom, Evie Blad & Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-01-19-at-9.04.27-pm.png
https://www.edweek.org/policy-politics/who-is-miguel-cardona-education-secretary-pick-has-roots-in-classroom-principals-office/2021/01

What to know about Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, Emily Tate, Jeffrey R. Young, Rebecca Koenig, Stephen Noonoo & Tony Wan, EdSurge

Cardona a deft pick for Ed Secretary at a time when political fights should be secondary to the disaster facing millions of students, Andy Rotherham, the74

How Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona works with Teachers, Rachel M. Cohen, The American Prospect

What Biden’s Pick for Ed. Secretary Discussed with Disability Rights Advocates, Evie Blad, Education Week

Cardona’s Role in Connecticut’s Complex School Desegregation Efforts Becomes Focus: Will He Give Integration a National Platform as Ed Secretary?, Mark Keierleber, the74

For the Second Time In Less Than Two Years, Miguel Cardona is Set to Prove Himself on a Much Larger Stage. Is He Ready for the ‘Political Headwinds’ He’d Face as U.S. Education Secretary?, Linda Jacobson, The74

Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, stares down a long to-do list, Lauren Camera, US News & World Report

5 big questions facing Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat

How Cardona could uplift immigrant students and English language learners as Education Secretary, Mark Keierleber, The74

San Diego superintendent will bring years of teaching to deputy education secretary post, Louis Freedberg, EdSource

With Alexander’s Exit, Divided Senate Loses Quiet Champion of Bipartisan Approach to Ed Policy, Linda Jacobson, the74

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is screen-shot-2021-01-19-at-9.10.44-pm.png

Patty Murray Set to Lead Senate Education Committee After Democratic Wins in Georgia, Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

With Senate in Democrats’ Hands, Attention Turns to Ed Committee Leadership, Cardona Confirmation, Linda Jacobson, the74

  • Thomas Hatch

Looking Ahead at Education Policy in the US in 2021

Last week, IEN focused on stories describing how educators were responding to the insurrection at the US Capitol. This week, with the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, we’ve collected headlines and links for a number of stories that center on what many expect to be a dramatic shift in US education policy. Some of the stories look back, assessing the tenure of Betsy Devos; many look ahead to examine what Miguel Cardona and the new administration might do; and a few look at the roles that Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and others have played and may play in education policy moving forward.  

The wreckage Betsy DeVos leaves behind, Editorial Board, New York Times

Delay, dismantle, resist: DeVos leaves a legacy like no other Education Secretary, Nicole Gaudiano & Caitlin Emma, Politico

Little Legacy on Higher Ed for Betsy Devos — Except Controversy, Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed

As Betsy DeVos steps down, critics hope it is time to put the public back in public education, Liz Willen, Hechinger Report

As DeVos exits, where does education go next?, Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor

The Biden administration must commit in the first 100 days to building education policies with community, not for it, Khalilah Harris, the74

How Biden’s Education Department will tackle pandemic and Trump-era policies, Candice Norwood, PBS NewsHour

New year’s resolutions for those moving into the U.S. Department of Ed., Rick Hess, Education Week

Rebuilding America’s schools: The new Secretary of Education will need to prioritize both access and breadth of skills, Elias Blinkoff & Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Brookings Institution

In 2008, the NEA demanded a limited federal role in education. Its policy wish list for 2021 is very different, Mike Antonucci, the74

Who Is Miguel Cardona? Education Secretary Pick Has Roots in Classroom, Evie Blad & Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

What to know about Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, Emily Tate, Jeffrey R. Young, Rebecca Koenig, Stephen Noonoo & Tony Wan, EdSurge

Cardona a deft pick for Ed Secretary at a time when political fights should be secondary to the disaster facing millions of students, Andy Rotherham, the74

How Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona works with Teachers, Rachel M. Cohen, The American Prospect

What Biden’s Pick for Ed. Secretary Discussed with Disability Rights Advocates, Evie Blad, Education Week

Cardona’s Role in Connecticut’s Complex School Desegregation Efforts Becomes Focus: Will He Give Integration a National Platform as Ed Secretary?, Mark Keierleber, the74

For the Second Time In Less Than Two Years, Miguel Cardona is Set to Prove Himself on a Much Larger Stage. Is He Ready for the ‘Political Headwinds’ He’d Face as U.S. Education Secretary?, Linda Jacobson, The74

Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, stares down a long to-do list, Lauren Camera, US News & World Report

5 big questions facing Miguel Cardona, Biden’s pick for Education Secretary, Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat

How Cardona could uplift immigrant students and English language learners as Education Secretary, Mark Keierleber, The74

San Diego superintendent will bring years of teaching to deputy education secretary post, Louis Freedberg, EdSource

With Alexander’s Exit, Divided Senate Loses Quiet Champion of Bipartisan Approach to Ed Policy, Linda Jacobson, the74

Patty Murray Set to Lead Senate Education Committee After Democratic Wins in Georgia, Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

With Senate in Democrats’ Hands, Attention Turns to Ed Committee Leadership, Cardona Confirmation, Linda Jacobson, the74

  • Thomas Hatch

How are educators responding to the insurrection at the US Capitol?

Last week, IEN rounded up headlines from articles trying to make sense of what happened in education in 2020. This week, we had planned to look ahead at predictions for what might happen in education in 2021. Instead, we found numerous articles discussing how educators have been and could be talking with their students about the insurrection at the US Capitol incited by Donald Trump.  A few of these articles also explicitly discuss the racism made visible both by the insurrection and the responses to it, and we encountered several other articles that talked more broadly about the teaching of controversial topics in the wake of the insurrection.

https://www.historians.org/news-and-advocacy/everything-has-a-history/the-assault-on-the-capitol-in-historical-perspective-resources-for-educators

Insurgency at the U.S. Capitol: A dreaded, real-life lesson facing teachers, Madeline Will & Stephen Sawchuck, Education Week

‘You have to address it.’ How San Diego educators are teaching about the Capitol mob, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Vermont’s educators grapple with insurrection at the Capitol, Lola Dufort, VTdigger

Teachers Shift Lessons to Focus on US Capitol Attack, Suevon Lee, Honolulu Civil Beat

Lessons from an insurrection: A day after D.C. rampage, how 15 educators from across U.S. helped students make sense of the chaos, The74

Ways to teach about today’s insurrection, Larry Ferlazzo, Education Week

Responding to the insurrection at the US Capitol, Facing History and Ourselves

Resources for educators in response to the insurrection in Washington, Generation Citizen

Preparing yourself for tomorrow…, Tamisha Williams & Lori Cohen, Tamisha Williams Consulting Newsletter

Resources for teachers on the days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Alyssa Hadley Dunn, Beyond the Stoplight

The Assault on the Capitol in Historical Perspective: Resources for Educators, American Historical Association

Three ways to teach the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PBS NewsHour

How to talk to children about the Capitol riots: An age by age guide, Meghan Holohan, Today

How to talk to kids about the riots at the U.S. Capitol, Anya Kamentz, NPR

Don’t talk about the Capitol siege without mentioning white privilege, Ellen McGirt & Aric Jenkins, Fortune

The lies we tell ourselves about race, Sam Sanders, NPR

Mobs of white citizens rioting have been commonplace in the United States for centuries, Joshua D. Rothman, Hechinger Report

Confused and angry, young teachers seek guidance on discussing current events with students, Jennifer Rich, The Hechinger Report

Teachers of color more likely than white peers to tackle ‘controversial’ civics topics, Sarah Schwartz, Education Week

Looking Back to Look Ahead – Rounding up Key Education Stories From 2020

Annually, in January, IEN scans the headlines from our regular sources for reviews of the previous year and predictions for the future (see Rounding up the issues of 2019 and the 2010’s – Part 1 & Part 2 and New year, new predictions?). But, after an incredibly unpredictable 2020, many of the stories we encountered focused on trying to make sense of what happened last year. Below, we’ve rounded up the reviews of 2020 we’ve come across so far. Next week, we will share a collection of articles looking at what policy changes the Biden administration and the nominee for Secretary of Education might bring to schools in the US in 2021.

Global education

2020: A year of turmoil but also hope in education, Emiliana Vegas & Rebecca Winthrop, Brookings

The Education Year in Review: Five Big *Non-COVID* Stories of 2020, Maryam Akmal, Shelby Carvalho, Susannah Hares and Alexis Le Nestour, Center for Global Development.

Education in the US

What Education Looked Like in 2020, Jaclyn Borowski, Education Week 

10 of the most popular stories about education research in 2020, Jill Barshay Hechinger Report

The 11 Most Popular Classroom Q&A Posts of the Year, Larry Ferlazzo Education Week

Best Education Articles of 2020: Our 20 Most Popular Stories About Students, Remote Schooling & COVID Learning Loss This Year, Steve Snyder the74

2020 Vision: Reflections on Hope and Learning in a Most Challenging Year, EdSurge

16 Charts that Changed the Way We Thought About America’s Schools This Year,  Kevin Mahnken, the74

Research from Opportunity Insights (https://tracktherecovery.org/) showed that higher income students slightly increased their participation in Zearn Math, while lower- and middle-income children’s participation level decreased
https://www.the74million.org/article/16-charts-that-changed-the-way-we-looked-at-americas-schools-in-a-year-unlike-any-other/

The Teaching Profession in 2020 (in Charts) , Madeline Will, Education Week

2020 Vision: Reflections on Hope and Learning in a Most Challenging Year, Edsurge

2020 LookBook Remake Learning (a network in the Greater Pittsburgh area that supports coordination, collective impact and innovation in education)

Edtech, Edbusiness, & “Innovation”

Education Technology in 2020: 8 Takeaways From a Chaotic Year, Mark Lieberman, Education Week

10 Stories That Mattered in the K-12 Market in 2020, Sean Cavanagh, Education Week,

Crises and Capital: The Top Edtech Business Stories of 2020, Tony Wan, EdSurge

2020: The Year Of the Edtech Paradox,Isabelle Hau, EdSurge

From Blue Light Glasses & Noise-Canceling Earphones to Tablets & Masks for Kids, a New World of Student Technology in the Age of COVID, Tim Newcomb, the74

The Second Year of The MOOC: A Review of MOOC Stats and Trends in 2020, Dhawal Shah, Class Central

“Of all the learners that ever registered on a MOOC platform, one third did so in 2020, making 2020 MOOCs’ most consequential year since the ‘Year of the MOOC’.”
https://www.classcentral.com/report/the-second-year-of-the-mooc/

2020 Roundup: What We Learned From #Innovators Creating Prosperity, Efosa Ojomo, Christensen Institute

Education Journalism

The 14 most memorable pieces of education journalism of 2020, Alexander Russo, Kappan

EdSurge Reflects On a Year of Pandemic-Era Education Journalism, Jeffrey R. Young, Rebecca Koenig & Tony Wan, EdSurge

Philanthropy

Philanthropy Awards 2020, Inside Philanthropy

  • Thomas Hatch

IEN will be taking a break over the holidays. Wishing everyone a safe and healthy New Year!

TIMSS 2019 Around the World: Headlines announcing the latest results in Math and Science

This week, IEN has collected headlines focusing on the results from the latest release of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study of 2019. The press release reported that “science and mathematics achievement is on the rise,” with progress in the percentage of students reaching minimum proficiency as 92% of fourth grade students and 87% of eighth grade students reached  TIMSS 2019 Low International Benchmark.  At the same time, there is a growing gender gap in 4th grade in math, as boys had higher average scores in almost half of all countries.

In an effort to make the release more useful, IEA (International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement) and UNESCO also produced “Measuring global education goals: how TIMSS helps; monitoring progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 using TIMSS,” and, in an interview, the head of the global study declared “Rankings are the least informative part.”

As in IEN’s report on the TIMSS results in 2015 (Headlines Around the World TIMSS 2015 Edition), Asian countries like Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong continue to dominate the top of the rankings with Singapore students “best in the world.”  Russian students followed just behind in math and ranked in the top five in science.

In the US, the release of results barely registered, with Forbes the only US publication who had an article appear in any of our searches. They reported “East Asia Aces Global Math, Science Tests As West Struggles To Keep Up.”  The National Center for Education Studies summed up the US performance by pointing out that the US “had higher average scores than most participating countries” but “only 1 of the 45 other education systems (Turkey) had a larger score gap between the top-performing (90th percentile) and bottom-performing (10th percentile) students than the United States.” Checker Finn, former Assistant Secretary for Research and Improvement at the US Department of Education, lamented “U.S. students continue to fall short of too many international peers.”

TIMSS results in headlines:

Australia

Australian students rise in maths, science, Canberra Times

Belgium

Flemish students score worse and worse on mathematics and sciences: , VRT.be

Bosnia and Herzegovina

TIMSS Results demonstrate that Schools in BiH are not prepared for the knowledge Society of the 21st Century, Sarajevo Times

Cyprus

Minister welcomes improved maths, science scores, Cyprus Mail

France

Maths: The fall of the Frenchhouse, Café Pedagogique 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s declining pupil performance in global maths and science study triggers Education Bureau review, South China Morning Post

Israel

Israel’s Math, Science Rankings Modestly Improve, but Arab Students Left Behind, Haaretz

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland primary schools rank among the best in the world in maths, The Irish News

Morocco

Moroccan students struggle with mathematics and science, Yabiladi

Philippines

Philipines last in math, science among 58 countries, The Manila Times

Singapore

Singapore students best in world for maths, science, New Straits Times

South Korea

S. Korean students have high scores in math and science, but confidence levels are lower than global average, Hankyoreh

South Africa

The shocking state of maths and science education in South Africa, BusinessTech

Turkey

Reformed approach key to Turkish students’ rising success in math, science, Daily Sabah

United Arab Emirates

Dubai private school pupils now rank among world’s best in Maths and Science, Gulf News

— Thomas Hatch

A Driving Force Behind Educational Change: Cecilia Azorín on Networks, Distributed Leadership & Inclusion

This week, IEN features the November Lead the Change (LTC) interview with Dr. Cecilia Azorín (@CeciliaAzorin), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education, University of Murcia, Spain. Dr. Azorín is one of the leaders of an Erasmus+ KA2 Project comparing all age schools in Wales, Spain, and Iceland.  She received the Michael Fullan Emerging Scholar Award in Professional Capital and Community (2019).

Lead the Change: The 2021 AERA theme is Accepting Educational Responsibility and invites those of us who teach in schools of education to accept greater responsibility for the inadequate preparation of educators for work in racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse P–12 schools and postsecondary institutions. For example, when educators discipline African American students at disproportionately higher rates, misdiagnose them for special education, identify too few of them for advanced placement and international baccalaureate programs, deliver to them a culturally irrelevant curriculum, teach them in culturally disdaining ways, and stereotype their families as careless and hopeless, the schools of education that produced these professionals are just as responsible as the professionals themselves. Furthermore, if scholars who study and document these trends do too little to make our findings actionable, then we, too, are contributors to the cyclical reproduction of these educational inequities.   

Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems in our own institutions and education more broadly, what specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call??

Cecilia Azorín: Accepting educational responsibility implies conceiving education as something that can help individuals overcome inequalities, a mechanism capable of transforming lives and positively impacting people’s progress. This statement leads one to think about the social mobility that can be produced as a result of education. Harris and Jones (2020b) have recently stated that “social and educational mobility are important because they reflect the equality of opportunity in society” (p. 18). Put simply, Hargreaves (2020) defines social mobility as the chance to achieve greater success through education compared to one’s parents.

When your background is humble, for example, when your father is a farmer and your mother a homemaker, becoming the first PhD of your family, and eventually, a university professor, is no easy task. I have experienced social mobility firsthand, and it has not been a bed of roses. And yet, I can say that my own social mobility was the consequence of education and the experiences I received. Creating effective educational experiences for all children is the first step to dismantle oppressive systems. This is linked to an approach that essentially recognizes the power that education has in terms of social justice.

When I think about dismantling oppressive systems in education, a song springs to mind – “Another Brick in the Wall” released by the British group Pink Floyd in 1979. I invariably use this song as a university welcome for my students, future teachers, with whom I work on concepts such as, what is, and what is not, an effective pedagogical approach, how to capitalize on their passion for teaching, how to engage in divergent thinking and what it means to educate in an environment that responds effectively to student diversity. Another Brick in the Wall is a protest against the strict norms and rules of traditional conceptualizations of teaching and learning – a system more concerned with maintaining discipline and restricting creativity than with motivating and transmitting knowledge.

On the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Declaration of Children’s Rights, the United Nations declared 1979 the International Year of the Child, thus recalling our collective commitment to protect children. From that moment on, authoritarian approaches to education began to be questioned. Undoubtedly, the message this song projected not only in British society, but in the rest of the world, allowed people to dream that the change in education was possible. In reality, the argument was clear and called for a new teaching, an improvement of the school based on less control and more freedom.

In 1980, one year after its release, this song was adopted as a protest anthem among black students in South Africa who were suffering from apartheid, a system of racial segregation that divided schools and communities in a discriminatory manner and unjustly perpetuated inequalities.

Today, there are new layers of exclusion that leave childhood and youth unprotected. According to the Global Monitoring Report (UNESCO, 2020, 4): All over the world, discrimination is based on gender, remoteness, wealth, disability, ethnicity, language, migration, displacement, incarceration, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, religion and other beliefs and attitudes; the Covid-19 pandemic has added new layers of exclusion.

Unfortunately, the continued exclusion of many merely confirms that oppressive systems are embedded in the very fabric of our societies, and are traditionally characterized by discriminating forms of oppression that directly attack the most vulnerable groups. For example, in Spain (my home country) and in many other places around the world, discrimination, stigmatization continue as does the fight to make schools more inclusive. Thus, a system of parallel schooling is currently maintained, with students attending so-called “ordinary” schools and others being relegated to “special education” schools. 

Inclusion is a major driving force for educational reform and a central goal of the international agenda. In a recent article, we analyzed how we can help schools to review progress on their journey to becoming more inclusive and show that fostering reflection amongst teachers about the contexts, resources and processes that underpin their work can make a difference (Azorín & Ainscow, 2020). But, how does one ensure that no one’s dream is denied and keep young people on the track to a brighter and equitable future without equal education opportunities for all children? The school cannot and must not leave anyone behind; on the contrary, it must set itself up as a guarantor of the right to a truly inclusive, equitable and quality education, without exceptions. This is probably one of the main challenges and responsibilities facing educational change scholars in these complex times.

“The school cannot and must not leave anyone behind; on the contrary, it must set itself up as a guarantor of the right to a truly inclusive, equitable and quality education, without exceptions.”

LtC: Given your focus on school networks as a strategy to enhance educators’ knowledge and practice, what would be some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience? 

CA: Nowadays, scholars are turning their attention to collaborative networking and all it entails. The inference is that educational networking as a policy mechanism is here to stay, and that networks represent a school improvement strategy with high expectations placed upon them (Azorín & Muijs, 2017). Networking is becoming ever necessary to tackle problems and establish the adjustments demanded by contemporary education. Some interconnected lessons derived from the penetration of networks in education are explained below (Azorín, 2017):

  • An opportunity for crossing boundaries. Networks enable the creation of a whole new scenario in which connectivity is prioritized over isolation; collectiveness over individualism; and collaboration over competitiveness.
  • A strategy for building bridges. When collaboration extends beyond schools and professionals, resources are effectively mobilized and there is an exchange of knowledge and experiences that make it possible to “learn from others”.
  • A driving force behind educational change. Networks are formed by interactive and horizontal structures that act as levers for change, leaving behind the hierarchies of the past to allow progress to gain momentum.

This way of understanding education embraces winds of change that go beyond school gates in the quest for greater collaboration. A few years ago, a couple of research stays in the United Kingdom afforded me the opportunity to see emerging networks and partnership alliances in action (Azorín & Muijs, 2018). In an attempt to promote reflection on why professional learning networks are social, political, and cultural, as well as educational (Azorín, 2019), my research in the British context offers other views of networks that focuses not only on education but also on social welfare issues and aims to target networking from a broader perspective. This results in opening up schools to the community, a topic which is not yet covered widely in educational research.

“Networking is becoming ever necessary to tackle problems and establish the adjustments demanded by contemporary education”

To position school networks at the forefront of research, in 2018 I co-edited a special issue based on new forms of participation and social transformation through networking in education (Azorín & Arnaiz, 2018) in the Spanish journal Profesorado. Revista de currículum y formación del profesorado (see Volume 22, Number 2). This edition put the focus on the expected role of collaborative networks in education, the new forms of participation and social transformation that appear under these modes of organization, and the need to disseminate ideas that contribute to the creation of knowledge within this fruitful line of current and future research.

Recently I edited another issue on leading networks in the School Leadership & Management journal (see Volume 40, Number 2-3), which boasts an excellent line-up of international authors. This edition explores leadership actions that support effective networking and promotes reflection about whether networks can impact positively on students or are merely used as an organizational structure that benefits teachers in terms of professional learning and support (Azorín, 2020b). Together the diverse set of articles in this compendium conclude that empirical evidence in this direction remains thin and requires further attention.        

The central lesson of school networks as a strategy to enhance educator’s knowledge and practice is probably that networking affords a powerful way of organizing and operating; they offer viable solutions for the future of the network society and represent a reality that is advancing towards other forms of social participation and transformation. Networks are, in essence, the constellations illuminating the next routes of educational change.

LtC: In your recent work, you argue that distributed leadership offers new opportunities to understand professional collaboration generally and in the context of professional networks specifically. What do you see as the most needed changes to policy/practice in response to this argument?

CA: While COVID-19 continues, millions of people are caught in a traumatic experience. The pandemic is causing a chronic state of uncertainty and highlighting the weaknesses of education systems to adapt to change.

At the education level, leading schools during a pandemic is a challenge of vast dimensions. Once the initial shock is over, educational leaders need to recover the helm of their schools that this unexpected virus has taken from them. In this respect, networking is becoming a good ally in the fight against COVID-19.

Prior to this period of crisis, educational research and practice had already focused on the prevalence of an important current of thought that advocates distributed leadership as a key condition for effective networking and coherent professional collaboration (Azorín, Harris & Jones, 2020; Harris & Jones, 2017). COVID-19 has accelerated networking to an unprecedented level and distributed leadership is now being used as a mechanism of coherent response to the current situation. 

In education, there is a call for collaboration and leaders are being required to network. According to Harris and Jones (2020a), “most leaders will be running on empty given the myriad of challenges that COVID-19 has created for them, so distributed leadership is a necessity to survive” (p. 246).

We have argued that the adoption of a lens of distributed leadership practice within networks will afford a better understanding of how networks operate (Azorín, Harris, & Jones, 2020). In our work, from the point of view of distributed leadership and networking we provide a three-fold classification that aims to make sense of the complexities involved in changing education policies and practices:

  • Network leadership: based on leadership through organizational connections across organizations, where the type of network dictates membership, there are no implicit barriers to entry and knowledge transfer is central to effective networking.
  • Lateral leadership: characterized by collective agency, interdependent decision making, collaborative action, formal and informal leadership patterns, collective ownership, fluid, interchangeable membership and releasing potential.
  • Distributed leadership: related to leadership by expertise within, between and across organizations, inter-changeable membership according to needs, a focus on leadership practice more than leadership position, and extending or ‘stretching’ leadership capacity as a key purpose.

In terms of policy and practice, Harris (2012) argues that “despite decades of research on school improvement, school effectiveness and system reform, some policymakers are still selecting and implementing policies that have little, if any, independent empirical evidence supporting them” (p.5). Distributed leadership perspective would shift the knowledge base on networks “away from largely normative descriptions, self-report and over assertion to more sophisticated research designs and analytical processes that would generate more rigorous and reliable evidence” (Azorín, Harris, & Jones, 2020, p. 121). If we look at the educational research, there is empirical evidence that supports the following set of propositions about the types of leadership practices that are most prevalent and effective within networks (Azorín, Harris & Jones, in press):

  1. Middle leadership supports effective networking.
  2. Distributed leadership within networks enhances innovation.
  3. Teacher leadership is an essential component of effective networking.
  4. Collaborative practices need to be learned and practiced.
  5. Formal leadership drives distributed leadership.
  6. Distributed leadership patterns matter in networking activity.
  7. Effective networks are communities of practice.
  8. Distributed leadership provides support in networked organizations.
  9. Leadership in networks is not fixed but interchangeable.
  10. Effective network leaders build and sustain professional capacity.

These findings clearly demonstrate that distributed leadership is a successful approach that can support, stimulate, and enhance networking. Within this change of outlook, a good recommendation is to take note of what evidence tells us and bring in policies that include what is functioning in practice to promote reforms that go in the right direction. It is important to facilitate links that allow distributed leadership to flourish in networks at the systemic level. To make this happen, educational leaders’ actions have to go beyond school limits and move towards a process of democratization and openness.

“Distributed leadership is a successful approach that can support, stimulate, and enhance networking.”

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?

CA: One of my priorities as an educational change scholar is opening up schools to their communities and elevate these communities’ importance in decision-making and policy. In education, as in many other aspects of life, it is important to recognize that context matters (Harris and Jones, 2018). Schools have to reflect on the context in which they are immersed, be prepared to work in collaboration networks with neighboring allies, and to take firm steps to open up to the world (Azorín, 2019).

Schools are no longer expected to merely provide an educational function or service, but to safeguard the well-being of their students and, despite the pandemic, ensure continuity of learning. They are asked to take a step forward, to foster rapprochement with their local community, neighborhood, various educational and social agents, volunteer networks, and associations (Azorín & Muijs, 2018). In the 21st century, it does not make sense to live disconnected from what is happening around us. It is vital to open up and remove the barriers that still make it difficult for millions of people to benefit from the improvement provided by the different connections they have in educational and social spheres.

Similarly, the construction of a “school without walls” could be supported, both physically and pedagogically; a renewed institution capable of transcending its own rules and questioning its own practices and relations with its surroundings. Against the backdrop of the pandemic, reimagining schooling in that sense is a reminder that the call for collaboration and networking should not be delayed any longer.

Below are 7 important factors that educational change scholars could bear in mind to support the transformation of education when they engaged in and with different school settings:

  1. Communicate to share and exchange information.
  2. Connect to learn from others.
  3. Collaborate together for a common purpose.
  4. Create new knowledge.
  5. Co-lead for distributed leadership to flourish.
  6. Circulate ideas that allow the dissemination of innovations.
  7. Catalyze the change of cultures, policies and practices.

Educational change scholars act as links that bring the value of ideas and are able to initiate social movements that enable the transformation of educational systems for the improvement of their countries. This is often done through the use of evidence-supported knowledge and advice about practices that work. Their work is to connect theory, policy, and practice, clarifying the meaning of what they do so that others can replicate it.

“Educational change scholars’ work is to connect theory, policy, and practice, clarifying the meaning of what they do so that others can replicate it.”

In short, I have published numerous results of research projects and experiences of educational innovation carried out in schools with which I had the opportunity to collaborate very closely. Often, when I share the trends in scientific literature and the proposals of some schools with others, the professionals working in them say they were unaware this knowledge was available. I have learned from these experiences how relevant it is that ideas travel from one school to another. When we know that something has worked in one school it is easier for another to want to put something similar into practice, while adapting it to its own reality. The educational change scholar has the capacity to make this possible. In summary, the interconnection between the different educational and social agents involved in the school, as well as the dissemination of their practices, is part of the formula for educational change.

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

CA: Unquestionably, 2020 has been a turning point, a before and after in people’s lives. The pandemic has marked the end of the educational journey of the previous decades. Hargreaves and Fullan (2020) recently stated that “educational reform in the postpandemic age must be transformational and not seek to return to normal” (p. 327). Beyond the COVID-19 supernova (Azorín (2020a) “we need to come out of this crisis as a stronger society, with a fairer and more supportive educational system that really can change lives. Otherwise, we will have missed out on an opportunity” (p. 388).  In the coming years, educational change is going to take huge strides in terms of networking, leadership and innovation.

First, the monitoring of collaborative networks that have sprung up in education and society, especially in these uncertain times, needs to be researched. Since the beginning of the pandemic “the chains of favors have multiplied with initiatives of support and help towards the most vulnerable” (Azorín, 2020a, p. 383).  If networks are at the front-line of the crisis, where formal and informal groups connected by social ties have emerged in force. 

Second, Harris and Jones (2020a) state that “a new chapter is being written about school leadership in disruptive times that will possibly overtake and overshadow all that was written before on the topic” (p. 246). At the school level, there is no single person able to respond to all the demands and challenges deriving from COVID-19. In contrast, many actors are playing crucial roles at this moment and distributed leadership is positioning itself as a viable strategy for the present and future of education (Azorín, Harris, &Jones, in press). 

Third, within this uncertain atmosphere, it is worth asking if COVID-19 can act as a channel for innovation and change in education. I agree with Fullan and Quinn (2020), who conclude, “Our sense is that there are many people (students, teachers, parents and others) who see a dire need for improvement in learning systems and are willing to work toward that end. With the right combination of action positive system change could occur at a more rapid rate than at any time in the past century” (p. 22).

In any case, surely the above ideas can serve as beacons to illuminate the change in education that is so needed and will mark the new coordinates on which we will continue to teach, write and research.

References

Azorín, C. (2017). Redes de colaboración entre escuelas inglesas para la mejora de la inclusión socioeducativa. Profesorado. Revista de currículum y formación del profesorado, Número Extraordinario, 29-48.

Azorín, C. (2019). The emergence of professional learning networks in Spain. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 4(1), 36-51.

Azorín, C. (2020a). Beyond COVID-19 supernova. Is another education coming? Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3-4), 381-390.

Azorín, C. (2020b). Leading networks. School Leadership & Management, 40(2-3), 105-110.

Azorín, C. and Ainscow, M. (2020). Guiding schools on their journey towards inclusion. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 24(1), 58-76.

Azorín, C. and Arnaiz, P. (2018). Redes de colaboración en educación. Nuevas formas de participación y transformación social. Profesorado. Revista de currículum y formación del profesorado, 22(2), 1-6.

Azorín, C. and Muijs, D. (2017). Networks and collaboration in Spanish education policy. Educational Research, 59(3), 273-296.

Azorín, C. and Muijs, D. (2018). Redes de colaboración en educación. Evidencias recogidas en escuelas de Southampton. Profesorado. Revista de currículum y formación del profesorado, 22(2), 7-27.

Azorín, C., Harris, A. and Jones, M. (2020). Taking a distributed perspective on leading professional learning networks. School Leadership & Management, 40(2-3), 111-127.

Azorín, C., Harris, A. and Jones, M. (in press). Future Leadership. Distributed Leadership and Networking: Exploring the Evidence Base. In D. Netolicky (Ed.), Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership. Routledge.

Fullan, M. and Quinn, J. (2020). Education Reimagined: The Future of Learning, available at: https://edudownloads.azureedge.net/msdownloads/Microsoft-EducationReimagined-Paper.pdf (accessed 27 November 2020).

Hargreaves, A. (2020). Moving: A Memoir of Education and Social Mobility. Bloomington, United States: Solution Tree Press.

Hargreaves, A. and Fullan, M. (2020). Professional capital after the pandemic: revisiting and revising classic understandings of teachers’ work. Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3-4), 327-336.

Harris, A. (2012). Lead the change series Q&A with Alma Harris. AERA Educational Change Special Interest Group, 20, 6.

Harris, A. and Jones, M. (2017). Professional learning communities: A strategy for school and system improvement? Wales Journal Education, 19(1), 331-333.

Harris, A. and Jones, M. (2018). Why context matters: A comparative perspective on education reform and policy implementation. Educational Research for Policy and Practice, 17, 195-207.

Harris, A. and Jones, M. (2020a). COVID 19 -school leadership in disruptive times. School Leadership & Management, 40(4), 243-247.

Harris, A. and Jones, M. (2020b). System Recall. Leading for Equity and Excellence in Education. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

UNESCO (2020). Global Education Monitoring Report 2020. Inclusion and education: all means all. Paris: UNESCO.

ABOUT THE LTC SERIES: The Lead the Change series, featuring renowned educational change experts from around the globe, serves to highlight promising research and practice, to offer expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change, and to spark collaboration within the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association.  Kristin Kew, Chair; Mireille Hubers; Program Chair; Na Mi Bang, Secretary/Treasurer; Min Jung KimGraduate Student Representative; Jennie Weiner, LtC Series Editor; Alexandra Lamb, Production Editor.

“WE AIM TO REMEMBER”: AFFIRMATION AND BELONGING IN THE LAKOTA OYATE HOMESCHOOL CO-OP

This week’s post comes from Jenee Henry Wood who leads learning at Transcend. The post was published originally as part of their “Roads to Reinventing” blog series focusing on the central question “What now feels possible for education that didn’t before this massive disruption?”

Mary Bowman describes her homeland with grace: “We, the Lakota, live in Ȟe Sápa, The Black Hills. This is an ancient and very spiritual place for us….beautiful pine trees, rugged mountains, and prairie land. We hold very important ceremonies on this land.” She goes on to describe the beauty of the Badlands and the indignity of Mt. Rushmore, “that abomination” that sits at the spiritual home of her people. 

There are about 100K remaining Lakota in the United States. COVID has hit Indigenous communities with ferocity. Indigenous families understandably worried that their children wouldn’t be safe returning to school in the fall. So they did something we associate with the most privileged communities – they started a learning pod. 

The Lakota Oyate Homeschool Co-op

After posting a message on Facebook, Mary  – a Lakota teacher – and a small group of parents, grandparents, and teachers received 140 messages from Indigenous families wishing to unenroll from their public district and re-enroll in the district on the neighboring reservation. During spring remote learning, high numbers of district students were disengaged – they just weren’t logging on. The district had no plans to reimagine the model for the fall. But the Oglala district would allow for pod-based remote learning embedded in the Lakota language and cultural curriculum. 

It strikes me that these Lakota families were motivated by two realities: first, the lack of deliberate national or state action to make schools safe; and second, the importance of cultural – not just physical – safety for Lakota youth as a prerequisite for learning. Marie High Bear, now a pod teacher and mother to a young son, recalls, “My son didn’t feel as though he belonged [in his district school]…he was teased by the other kids for his long hair. I’ve had to explain to him that his baby hair is sacred to us.” For these reasons, Mary, Marie, and others in the community got together to design a learning model that would keep children physically safe and rectify centuries of inequity. “I’ve been an educator for 16 years working with indigenous kids in the public school,” Mary reflects. “I’d always say, ‘Work hard and you can change your life.’ I never got the buy-in, they just didn’t believe it. Plus, they would walk with their hands behind their backs all day, single-file. That’s just not how we treat our children.” Mary knew that this homeschooling pod could signal a longer-range shift for Native families by serving as a template for a more permanent Indigenous alternative education. 

this homeschooling pod could signal a longer-range shift for Native families by serving as a template for a more permanent Indigenous alternative education. 

The Lakota Oyate Homeschool Co-op is grounded in the cultural knowledge and ways of being of the Lakota people. This shows up in everything from systems and procedures to core academics. The school day begins by smudging the school house, a ritual of burning sage and cedar, a practice that aims to “cleanse our minds, and make positive thoughts so that we can walk in a good way for our people, each other, and the Creator.” The pod has six children, ranging from 2nd-5th grades. They are taught together in this multi-aged group, which is supported by a whole community of family members. Marie serves as the “proctor” and Lakota Language and Culture teacher, working one-on-one when needed and leading the group during non-virtual learning portions of the day, such as nature exploration and hosting elders. Core academics like math and science are pursued in hands-on, practice-based ways. Students also spend time in nature during science learning, and math is grounded in culturally-relevant practical examples – a future lesson will be on how to erect tipis for maximum occupancy and egress. After the morning sage and cedar burning, the group then moves to a talking circle where the child with the feather or rock holds the floor. This is designed to be a reflective space for setting intentions grounded in Lakota values of respect, generosity, bravery, and courage. The children might reflect on the question, “What is a way that I can be generous today and share with others?” 

As Marie describes the pod’s typical day, she keeps referring to the ways in which their learning community centers Lakota knowledge instead of relegating it to the boundaries of the day, as it had been in the traditional system. In March 2018, after decades of Native pressure, South Dakota adopted the Oceti Sakowin, a set of essential understandings and standards aimed at addressing cultural diversity and raising consciousness to empower Native American students. Marie shares that the implementation of these standards was relegated to “specials,” once a week language classes, guest speakers, or other random experiences. This knowledge wasn’t embedded within the core DNA of school (e.g. daily rituals, curriculum) in ways that were relevant to Native and non-Native learners alike. This learning pod presents the opportunity to do what decades of advocacy couldn’t – center traditional knowledge on Lakota terms. As Mary Bowman says of the assimilative nature of American education so far, “The boarding schools tried to make us forget, but we aim to remember.” 

This learning pod presents the opportunity to do what decades of advocacy couldn’t – center traditional knowledge on Lakota terms.

I was also delighted by the presence of nature – dwelling in and learning from it – within this pod. Young people spend time outside studying plants and flora. They learn about the healing powers of natural remedies and the fundamental balance of all living things. They learn about geology and Lakota Star Knowledge, an ancestral tradition used for sacred events such as solstices and to observe the seasons in their sacred order. They eat lunch in a circle outdoors. They tell stories about the buffalo during story time, as Marie encourages them to illustrate what they hear. There is a wholeness to this learning environment that engages young people cognitively, sensorily, spiritually, and physically. In the age of COVID, with millions of children staring at screens, this is a rarity. For the Lakota, this vital aspect of their cultural and spiritual lives is left at the door in mainstream schooling. 

I was introduced to The Lakota Oyate Homeschool Co-op because they are recent recipients of an Enduring Ideas Award, a fund of Teach for America’s Reinvention Lab that I Co-Chair with Sunanna Chand. This co-op is such an intriguing example of reinventing because it adds a much-needed dimension to our discussion on learning pods, equity, and the path for public education in a post-COVID world. While it is too early to render a verdict on pods, the most popular narrative frames them as tools of privilege – yet another way for more affluent (and mostly White) families to hoard resources and opportunities for their kids. In some cases, that narrative is fair and true; in others, it’s incomplete. In this instance, the learning pod is almost an historical corrective. 

In this Lakota community, the road to “reinventing” is about reconnecting to knowledge and ways of being that have been long marginalized and undervalued by the traditional system. Mary Bowman, who is also a fellow with NACA Inspired Schools Network, which works to build Indigenous community schools, believes this pod is the way of the future. While her dream of establishing a Lakota community school predates COVID, she sees this as an unprecedented opportunity to prove what is possible in creating equitable, culturally affirming learning environments. I see this community making tremendous leaps towards Affirmation of Self & Others, Connection & Community, Relevance, and Whole-Child Focus through their deep commitment to culturally-responsive pedagogy. These leaps – while important in their own right – also enable better academic learning. Both Marie and Mary describe how a learning environment that fosters deep connection, sense of self, and pride creates the conditions for better academic progress and far fewer behavioral challenges. For Co-op students, a deep sense of belonging is the foundation for academic engagement and true learning. This community’s learnings could very well influence the public school district and create the demand for more Lakota-run community schools, grounded in Indigenous knowledge and facilitated by Indigenous teachers. 

When I stepped away from our conversation, the school day that Marie High Bear described somehow felt familiar to me, even though I’d never been to this classroom-in-the-living-room. I realize that many of the innovations communities are seeking – particularly the “whole child ones” – try to capture the sense of wholeness, mindfulness, and respect for other ways of knowing and being that are at the center of Lakota life. As we move forward in reinventing learning, we must continue to ask ourselves: what counts as valid evidence and knowledge, and from whom does it count? 

WHAT THE LAKOTA OYATE HOMESCHOOL CO-OP IS TEACHING US ABOUT ROADS TO REINVENTING:

  • The science of learning and development confirms that having a sense of belonging and eliminating identity threats is a prerequisite for learning; the Co-op brings this lesson to life by creating a safe environment, grounded in Lakota language, and culture where learners can thrive. 
  • Innovation isn’t always about inventing something new: this powerful example of applying Indigenous knowledge in new contexts suggests a road grounded in reconnection and remembering. 
  • Learning pods can support the traditional model of school and districts to evolve.  
  • Many “modern” school design innovations highlight practices that have long been part of Indigenous cultures; we must be mindful of which kinds and sources of evidence and knowledge are deemed valid.   

Giving Thanks for Work Around the World

With tomorrow’s Thanksgiving holiday in the US, we wanted to highlight opportunities to support some of the organizations that have been part of IEN posts this year.  They provide just a small sample of the many people and programs that are making a difference across the globe.

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter

Donate to Black Lives Matter here

Dignitas

Inequality, adaptability and survival: A view of the pandemic and school closures from Dignitas’ Deborah Kimathi in Kenya

Donate to Dignitas here

Educate!

Disruption and Rapid Response: A View of School Closures in Uganda From Educate!

Donate to Educate! here

Global School Leaders

Supporting school leadership around the world: A conversation with Sameer Sampat about the development of Global School Leaders

Donate to Global School Leaders here

Second Chance

A view from Liberia: Abba Karnga Jr. on School Closures and the Pandemic

 Donate to Second Chance here

The Citizens Foundation

A view from The Citizens Foundation in Pakistan: Neha Raheel on school closures and the pandemic

Donate to TCF here