In this two-part series, Dulce Rivera Osorio explores what’s changing in schools by scanning news articles that report on “micro-innovations” that teachers, schools and educational organizations are making to improve their educational structures and practices. In Part 1, Thomas Hatch introduces micro-innovations and then Rivera shares a number of examples of micro-innovations being made in instruction or school/district operations that have been described in media articles from the US. Part 2 will describe the micro-innovations at the state level; those being made by companies and nonprofits; and some examples from outside the US. To read more on the numerous proposals to change schools and “reimagine education” post-COVID, read IEN’s previous post: Is anything changing in US schools post-pandemic? Possibilities for rethinking time, place and supports for well-being.
Schools are changing, but those changes are often more subtle and more context-specific than many ambitious reform efforts hope. These smaller changes can be considered micro-innovations: adaptations and inventions new to the contexts in which they are developed. Micro-innovations include those aimed to help specific groups of students learn key concepts for particular disciplines (like a card game and app from Singapore that helps high school students learn key terms for introductory chemistry); an “activity-based pedagogy” from Second Chance that helps out-of-school students in Ethiopia and Liberia catch up to their peers in elementary schools; and the development of a system of vans to provide safe transportation to support the all-female staff central to the success of the schools created by the Citizen’s Foundation in Pakistan. Rather than hoping for some “disruptive innovation” or general approach to educational reform that will magically sweep across schools and education systems, a focus on micro-innovations highlights specific, concrete improvements that can be made right now to develop an infrastructure for more equitable and more powerful learning (for more examples, see “What can change in schools after the pandemic?”.
“Rather than hoping for some “disruptive innovation” or general approach to educational reform that will magically sweep across schools and education systems, a focus on micro-innovations highlights specific, concrete improvements that can be made right now to develop an infrastructure for more equitable and more powerful learning”
What counts as a micro-innovation? Micro-innovations include concrete and visible changes in the structures, practices, and resources of schools and other educational organizations that have the potential to increase the efficiency, effectiveness and equity of educational opportunities in particular contexts. As they are designed to respond to the constraints and opportunities in specific situations and settings, they should not be expected to be replicated across all contexts. However, they may be adapted in some related contexts, and they can help educators envision what might work in their own settings to address critical problems they may be facing.
– Thomas Hatch
Educational micro-innovations in the news
Along with the cascade of news about “learning loss” and the challenges of education today, over the past year, news and research in the US have also described a variety of examples of micro-innovations that have been developed at the classroom, school and district levels in the US. At the classroom level, articles have highlighted how teachers set a positive tone for the day by developing innovative ways of greeting students at their classroom doors (Positive Greetings at the Door: Evaluation of a Low-Cost, High-Yield Proactive Classroom Management Strategy) and how teachers craft questions to help students develop their vocabulary, particularly of scientific terms and concepts (How to Support Vocabulary Building in Science Classes). Research has also pointed to specific ways teachers can design and organize their classrooms including ways that even “symbolic features” of classrooms such as wall décor can influence student learning and sense of belonging in the classroom, “with far-reaching consequences for students’ educational choices and achievement” (Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement).
Schools are also showing their inventiveness in tackling the challenges that their students and families are facing. In Massachusetts, staff members in one school created ways to support the transition from hospital to classroom for students struggling with mental health (School mental health program eases transition from hospital to classroom). In California, staff members at a school took on a critical need for housing in their community by creating a homeless shelter to support some of their students and their families (A school created a homeless shelter in the gym and it paid off in the classroom). According to Maribel Chávez, a first grade teacher at the school, quoted in the Hechinger Report, “If the child is not stable, that’s a barrier to their education, so that’s why we felt like as an educational institution, we had a mandate.”
The Oakland school district invested about $40,000 to use the TalkingPoints translation app to communicate with parents who do not speak English (Translating a quarter of a million text messages for families). As a district English language coordinator described it, “Teachers love it and the families absolutely love it. They tell me it’s made a huge difference. Before, they felt hopeless at times because they couldn’t communicate with teachers or administration.”
This week’s post shares highlights from the HundrED Global Collection for 2023. This year’s collection includes innovations that emphasize teacher professional development, the development of skills for the 21st century, student mental health and wellbeing, as well as student agency and educational equity. The report was announced at the HundrED Innovation Summit 2022 where guest speakers also highlighted resilience, the role of creativity in educational futures, and innovations to bridge gaps through education.
What kinds of educational innovations are taking off? Where can they be found? These are two of the questions that HundrED seeks to answer with their yearly collection of education innovations from all around the world. Since 2016, HundrED has been curating the annual collection in order to increase the recognition and visibility of educators working to spread child-centered, personalized, and passion-based educational initiatives that complement traditional forms of schooling. This year’s innovations address a variety of different goals to support teacher professional development and skills acquisition, recognizing the role of teachers in creating classroom environments, introducing new technology, and adapting methodological approaches; developing “soft skills” in social emotional learning, entrepreneurship, and global citizenship education to address the gap between traditional schooling and the demands of a rapidly changing world; fostering student agency while addressing mental health and wellbeing in a post-pandemic education landscape; and addressing equity in education, with a focus on gender, special needs, Indigenous education, and education for marginalized communities.
The innovations came from 54 countries around the world; 67.5% were from the Global South, while 34.3% were from the Global North.
HundrED’s team of 188 leaders, educators, academics, and funders evaluated 3,488 programs for their final selection. Programs that were highlighted in this year’s report were selected on the basis of scalability, impact, ability to create systems change, and measurability. The 100 innovations included Tec.la, acSELerate, Cybersmart Africa, Girl Rising, In their shoes, Masahati Children’s Club, opEPA, and Kidogo.
Tec.la trains teachers from diverse backgrounds and locations in Latin America to empower students with digital skills to meet the demands and opportunities of the 21st century. Since its founding in 2018, Tec.la has spread to 5 countries and reached over 2000 trainers through more than 100 workshops.
AcSELerate was founded in 2016 to create lasting change in social and emotional learning (SEL) processes to supplement traditional education practices. AcSELerate approaches SEL holistically by engaging parents, teachers, and students in its programs to improve school and home environments. The organization currently serves over 175,000 students, teachers, and parents within India.
CyberSmart Africa creates innovative ways of engaging students who attend school without electricity in Sub-Saharan Africa. It works to ensure content and instruction are up to date by supporting learners online and developing the professional networks of teachers. Established in 2008, the platform has over 1.25 million users throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
Girl Rising creates videos to expose the barriers that girls face around the world due to poverty, gender violence, child marriage, and trafficking. The organization aims to illuminate what can happen when these barriers are dismantled and young people realize their capacities to create change. Founded in 2013, Girl Rising reaches 500,000 children in 144 countries across the world.
Since its founding in 2017, In Their Shoes had worked to prevent violence and instill emotional literacy in students through theater programs. These programs aim to make students aware of their own emotions and the emotions of others as well with the hope of promoting coexistence and ending bullying. In Their Shoes currently operates in Spain and Morocco, reaching 20,000 students.
Masahati Student Club is an after-school program that aims to foster well being in humanitarian contexts and build cohesive societies through education. The programs use sports, arts, and civils to foster inclusive and protective practices that support community development and quality education. Established in 2016, Masahati Children’s Club reaches 23,300 students in Jordan.
OpEPA uses a nature-based approach to activate holistic learning in students. The programs combine academic, social, emotional, and experiential learning through an approach that allows students to see the interconnected nature of their relationship to the earth. OpEPA has reached over 130,000 users since its founding in 2018. It operates in Colombia, the United States, and Chile.
Kidogo supports female entrepreneurs in Africa’s low-income communities to create innovative approaches to affordable early childhood education programs. Through Kidogo’s support, women are able to create micro-businesses to solve problems that directly impact early childhood education their communities. Established in 2015, Kidogo reaches 15,000 users in Kenya.
What does democratic student leadership look like in a Kenyan school? What does support for active citizenship look in an Italian school? And how are they related? These are just some of the questions raised by virtual visits to the Lukenya Academy British Curriculum School in Kenya and the Istituto Comprensivo Boville Ernica in Italy.
Lukenya Academy British Curriculum School, Kenya
Situated in Machakos County, Kenya, Lukenya Academy British Curriculum School is an international-system school that offers the IGCSE qualification. In their presentation, Lukenya schools takes pride in its deliberate ‘Uniquenesses’ in relation to other Kenyan schools:
They are a mixed-gender boarding school, which is quite rare in the country, and particularly notable in a clearly patriarchal society.
They explicitly seek to admit mixed ability students, unlike many private schools in Kenya, which are highly selective. Nonetheless, they have won several national prizes including in a Great places to School Competition, a competition for all private secondary schools. They note they won because of their academic performance and “value added” (the difference in performance between a pupil’s arrival and their graduation from Lukenya) but also point out they are “deliberately mixed ability and concentrate on helping every child, regardless of intake grades.”
They take an entirely democratic approach to student governance – pupils vote for their leaders who, through consultation, work to shape all aspects of school life from co-curriculars to academics.
The video created by Lukenya schools illustrates several of the school’s characteristics, including highlighting student voices and the roles of students in leadership and organization.
“It’s been challenging to run and coordinate a school of mixed students, both boys and girls, which is pretty rare in Kenya. However, leadership has been very fun. We believe in democracy; we believe in listening to people’s opinions. We don’t believe in making rules that other ones follow” – Shawn Omondi, student council leader
The engagement of students in arranging activities at Lukenya provides another striking example of student leadership. These activities include a wide range of sports and other co-curricular (e.g. extracurricular) activities like football for both boys and girls, basketball, swimming, cooking club, drama club, and environmental club.
After watching the video, the Italian professionals asked their Kenyan colleagues an interesting question: how do you reconcile the British curriculum with your traditional culture? Board member Mutheu Kasanga replied:
“The law does require that all the schools, from any curriculum, teach Civics and Local History. In addition, the British curriculum allows us to use what is available locally. For instance, when we are teaching a subject like business studies, all the key studies are local. So, in Lukenya we are using the local business around the school, to teach the students who come from these communities how to apply these international concepts into the local business.
Kenya is an English-speaking country, so we don’t have particular problems with English language, even though as an international school we do receive students from other countries, especially in the East African region, so we get French speakers as well and other languages.
In our school we are able to even go an extra mile and bring in aspects of our culture. Culture in Kenya is difficult, we have many small cultures within the country. Everybody speaks at least three languages in Kenya, along with English and Swahili there is another language. So, bringing “Kenyanness” into that, is made easier by the fact that the curriculum allows us to bring these elements within the curriculum: local history and using the local areas to bring all the projects that we require to bolster the curriculum.”
Istituto Comprensivo Boville Ernica, Italy
Boville Ernica is a small town in the centre of Italy, about 90 km from Rome. The Istituto Comprensivothere includes three school levels: preschool, primary and secondary school. Some of the keywords selected by the school to introduce itself are taking care of each other and promoting active citizenship. As principal Giacomo La Montagna and teacher Flavia Passi described it: “Taking Care means for us investing in time and space to achieve quality in social relationships in order to increase wellbeing and social exchanges and to improve learning. Teaching how to take care of each other and of our home planet is our challenge to build a better future. The strategical identity criterion of the Institute is the promotion of Active Citizenship.”
“Teaching how to take care of each other and of our home planet is our challenge to build a better future.” – Flavia Passi
The video presentation emphasizes these values, illustrating many “special events” organized during the school year such as the International day for the elimination of violence against women, the Global day for climate action, and the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Some of the issues that the school is fighting for are deeply felt problems in Italian society, such as mafia culture or gender-based violence.
After watching the video, many of the participants in the ICSEI session wondered how the school manages to combine so many extracurricular activities with the curricular programs of the different subjects. Flavia Passi explained that a new curricular reform In Italy has introduced Civic Education as a subject that is taught by every teacher in their lessons:
“Each subject contributes to these important issues. For instance, environmental education and sustainability, some of the goals of the 2030 Agenda, are strictly connected to Science or Geography. Education to legality, the knowledge of political, social and economic organization, individual rights, are not only the principles on which our constitutional law is based, but they are related to historical and literary debates. Civic education is based on three main themes: the knowledge of the Italian Republican Constitution, Sustainable Development, and Digital Citizenship. These themes are transversely developed from different points of view, in order to create connections between disciplinary knowledge and real-life experiences.”
Passi concluded with a description of the key challenges at Istituto Comprensivo today that serve as a call to action to schools all around the world:
“Our challenge in relation to this matter is finding always new education methods to educate our children in having positive relationships with others, in respecting the rules of a democratic society, being aware of their rights, duties and responsibilities, knowing how to confront peacefully, and taking care of themselves, of their community, and their home planet.”
In this month’s Lead the Change interviewDavíd G. Martínez highlights challenges and opportunities for students and educators to work toward fostering systemic equity in schools. Martinez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policies at the College of Education of the University of South Carolina where he focuses on connecting policy knowledge and praxis through multi-method inquiry. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.
Lead the Change: The 2023 AERA theme is “Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth” and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. What specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?
Davíd G. Martínez: Educators, practitioners, and scholars often work together to ameliorate the challenges in education, (e.g, lack of sufficient school funding, educator and leadership burnout and churn, anti-Blackness, and lack of cultural context) (Baker et al., 2021; DeMatthews et al., 2022; Martínez & Vasquez-Heilig, 2022; Watson & Baxley, 2021). Change is occurring, and all stakeholders should be hopeful, but transformation is slow in public schools. At times, seemingly indifferent political regimes exacerbate pre-existing challenges (Tran et al., 2022). Schools are extremely intricate organizations teeming with energy and nuanced in so many ways, and hardworking partners in practice (i.e., students, teachers, administrators) work tirelessly to maintain schools despite these challenges.
The membership of AERA is a community of thought-provoking individuals who care deeply about education, kids, teachers, leaders, parents, and each other. AERA’s 2023 theme focused on systemic inequity continues to guide this focus through an intellectual and spiritual community of Educational Change scholars. The 2023 AERA theme reminds scholars that to support education is an act of daring and an act of strength. To realize this power, scholars must act in solidarity with practitioners. AERA urges its members to critically consider the potential for supporting equitable educational praxis through research that directly informs policy and practice. The 2023 AERA theme is meaningful because it asks scholars as individuals in unique positions of power to acutely recognize our unfinished-ness, recognize our partners in practice, and recognize how we can best support their work.
So, what can the AERA community do? Many of AERA’s members are already engaged in positive practices that build community. Many scholars collaborate with partners in practice to understand the intricacies of education. From my purview, many of AERA’s members listen to practitioners and do so intently. We seek partners in practice who can support our working knowledge of students, classrooms, schools, and districts, and the daily challenges they face. Many of us seek this knowledge to understand how we can best situate our work so it is practical and useful. The 2023 AERA theme is a positive way to acknowledge that our work is not done and to challenge our academic community to continue cultivating the solidarity we require to create positive change in schools.
LtC: In your work, you use legal, policy, and finance frameworks to examine funding inequity and its dire consequences for minoritized school districts, arguing that poverty and racism are systemic issues to be addressed as such. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?
DM: In my research, I seek to provoke and create purposeful, critical tension. From my perspective, I want to make explicit that historical policy and law which persecuted people of color, or sanctioned our murder, lead to modern socio-economic constraints (Bell, 2004; Martínez & Vasquez-Heilig, 2022; O’Connell, 2012). To understand modern socio-economic constraints, we must acknowledge the oppression of minoritized peoples, and the advent of laws entrenched in white supremacy that prevented minoritized people from accumulating wealth (Osworth, 2022; Rothstein, 2017). This system of oppression still exists and a cursory, even anecdotal, assessment of schools as a microcosm of this reality requires our consideration.
For instance, one of the major sources of funding for districts/schools are local property tax levies (Green, 2021; Martínez, 2021). Those districts with higher community wealth, and greater commerce, then leverage this community wealth through levies to fund their schools (Kelly, 2020; Knight, 2017). Often the districts with the most severe school funding and resource disparity are districts serving higher proportions of Indigenous, Black, and LatinX students (Baker et al., 2020; Kelly & Maselli, 2022). This then envelopes how I engage in my own research.
In my research, it is important to center the historical context of modern policy. How does policy extend from history and impact communities here and now? For instance, in Martínez et al. (2019) we wanted to understand school finance disparity in the current policy landscape of Arizona and the historical treatment of Indigenous Peoples. This includes the abject degradation of Indigenous sovereignty and policies that have historically, and continue to, impede sovereignty. From my purview, it is important to think about the history of the phenomena we are studying, and how this can help us illuminate the disparities in school funding we found in real time.
“Historical policy and law which persecuted people of color, or sanctioned our murder, lead to modern socio-economic constraints.”
Another lesson I have learned is to understand the phenomena I am interested in from the purview of practice. Before I engage in research, I go out and seek knowledge and guidance from partners in practice. There are many great ideas for research, but our partners in practice who operate our schools are inundated with challenges they must address. Before putting code to program, I’ll often take a little time to ask questions to understand my phenomena of interest from this practitioner perspective. I’ll then sit and think about why school finance disparity persists and whom the disparity targets. Grounding myself in this knowledge helps me a great deal to understand the phenomena I’m studying.
LtC: In your recent work you argue that persistent school finance disparity matters for BIPOC communities, is an equity issue, and must be ameliorated as civil right. How might your findings help scholars and practitioners imagine and implement changes to school finance policy and practice more effectively?
DM: Nationally, schools are about much more than learning. For example, public schools/districts across this country are often one of the largest employers in the geographical area (Jenkins, 2007; Tieken & Williams, 2021). Many public schools/districts across this country offer students public transportation services to and from school, especially in areas with no other public transportation (Buehler, 2009; Phillips et al., 2007; Zhang & Du, 2022). Every public school/district across this country provides full-service meals twice a day, not including mid-day or after school snacks. Many public schools/districts offer healthcare services, and at the very least every school/district offers in-house medical personnel (i.e., nurse).
“Society does not need another Theranos, we do need schools, and to applaud one, and denigrate the other, is a national failure.”
Many, but unfortunately not all, provide temperature-controlled workspaces, working plumbing, and fresh clean drinkable water. Public schools/districts provide entertainment and cultural enrichment (i.e., recitals, theater, arts, live music; cultural celebrations). Public schools/districts provide large scale organized athletic events. Public schools/districts provide mental-health counseling. Public schools/districts provide skills training as part of the curriculum and often as a secondary duty (e.g., photography club, car club, coding club, game club, math club). Many public schools/districts across the country provide post-graduation counseling including test-preparation to support students’ long term educational goals. Most of all, every public school/district across the country provides content, curriculum, and pedagogical experts who have trained to support our kids’ learning. Oh, and we can’t forget the Chief Executive management that keeps the entire organization working as smoothly as possible every day, helping our communities flourish.
Schools/districts provide a high level of service and forcing them to operate with sparse funding for all the services they provide is a tragedy. Billions of dollars flow to start-ups annually, yet school leaders are forced to operate their schools with meager funding increases. I’ll be clear, society does not need another Theranos, we do need schools, and to applaud one, and denigrate the other, is a national failure. To open the faucet of funding to one, while starving the other is a failure of national and state policy. Hopefully, my work in some small way supports discourse about the complications of funding, how we direct funding to schools, which students are served at the highest level, and which are not.
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?
DM: Work directly with practitioners and grass roots advocates/activists! I cannot overstate this enough. We must, as a research community, from a certain position of power, value our partners in practice and our educational community to make certain we are supporting schools in meaningful, practical ways. We must think of how we can go beyond publication, or partnerships to obtain grant funding that supports our career. What practical things are we doing, and what can we do every day?
I admire those scholars who’ve run for school board, or get involved in their children’s schools, or engage in areas outside of their research agenda. I admire those scholars who build pipeline programs for students to access higher education, or support services. I admire those scholars who build coalitions to ameliorate oppressive policy agendas. I think these are practical ways many of us can help support our schools. Many of us are engaged, and it is inspiring to see my peers so committed.
LtC: Where do you perceive the field of Educational Change is going? What excites you about Educational Change now and in the future?
DM: I think the field of school finance continuing to focus on disparities in funding and resources as a function of racism, white supremacy, and segregation is exciting. Thus far, I have exclusively focused on this area. I recently published a paper (Martínez & Spikes, 2021) that examined school finance disparity through a critical policy lens. We sought to understand how Arizona funded its English Learners and found that, by and large, the higher the proportion of English Learners in a district, the less English Learner targeted funding. Baker et al. (2020) recently published a paper examining the disparities between high proportion LatinX districts, and low proportion LatinX districts. The authors found that as the share of LatinX students increases, per pupil spending and revenue decrease. This type of research focuses on much more than socio-economic status and elicits dialogue about the historical nuances of racism that impede economic mobility, and thus educational opportunities. Expounding this type of research can inform policy, and practical solutions, to equitably fund schools that educate our Indigenous, Black, and LatinX students.
I am excited to read work that focuses on policy coalitions and the strength of communities to inform the political and educational landscape for all students. Coalitions cultivate political resistance to ameliorate the status-quo (Tran et al., 2022; Weiss & McGuinn, 2017). There is so much potential then to continuing supporting grassroots organizations engaged in coalition with educational advocates/activists to inform policy agendas.
I am excited about the possibilities of expanding our ontology of education and schools. What phenomena will scholars study? What policy or practice decisions will scholars support through research? How will scholars ensure that partners in practice are practically supported through scholarship? How will scholars use research to resist educational oppression and persecution? Is there space for visceral resistance? I am excited to see how we continue to confront white supremacy and fight the encouragement of fascism through research and scholarship in the United States of America.
“My excitement for the future is grounded in Educators’ power to resist oppressive policy through praxis and scholarship.”
MacLean’s (2017) book Democracy in Chains, describes an historical assault on democratic participation by the “Radical Right” that includes controlling the policy landscape, the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Senate, the economic stability of the country, and dismantling public education. MacLean’s depiction is quickly becoming the reality, the United States Supreme Court is under a conservative majority that overturned Roe v. Wade, and conservative state legislators across the country passed or proposed legislation that threatened public schools with economic sanctions if Critical Race Theory was taught in public schools (Epps & Sitaraman, 2022; South Carolina House Bill 4325, 2021). My excitement for the future is grounded in educators’ power to resist oppressive policy through praxis and scholarship. Finally, freedom and democracy are rooted in collective action to seek justice and transformation. Transformation of a country that is intimately comfortable with violence against people of color, violence against the LGBTQIA+ community, violence against women, violence against prisoners, violence against the unhoused, and certainly violence against educators. Through collective action with partners in practice, scholars can support justice for those communities who do not know the luxury of higher education, academia, or the safety of academic spaces.
Baker, B. D., Weber, M., & Srikanth, A. (2021). Informing federal school finance policy with empirical evidence. Journal of Education Finance, 47(1), 1-25.
Baker, B. D., Srikanth, A., Cotto Jr, R., & Green III, P. C. (2020). School funding disparities and the plight of Latinx children. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 28(135), n135.
Bell, D. (2004). Silent covenants: Brown v. Board of Education and the unfulfilled hopes for racial reform. Oxford University Press.
Buehler, R. (2009). Promoting public transportation: Comparison of passengers and policies in Germany and the United States. Transportation Research Record, 2110(1), 60-68.
DeMatthews, D. E., Knight, D. S., & Shin, J. (2022). The principal-teacher churn: Understanding the relationship between leadership turnover and teacher attrition. Educational Administration Quarterly, 58(1), 76-109.
Epps, D., & Sitaraman, G. (2019). How to save the Supreme Court. Yale Law Journal, 129(1), 148-206.
Green III, P. C., Baker, B. D., & Oluwole, J. O. (2020). School finance, race, and reparations. Washington & Lee Journal of Civil Rights & Social Justice, 27(2), 483-558.
Kelly, M. G. (2020). The curious case of the missing tail: Trends among the top 1% of school districts in the United States, 2000–2015. Educational Researcher, 49(5), 312-320.
Gardner Kelly, M., & Maselli, A. (2022). School finance policies, racial disparities, and the exploding educational debt: Egregious evidence from Pennsylvania. Journal of Education Human Resources, e20220003.
Jenkins, C. (2007). Considering the community: How one rural superintendent perceives community values and their effect on decision-making. Rural Educator, 28(3), 28-32.
Knight, D. S. (2017). Are high-poverty school districts disproportionately impacted by state funding cuts? School finance equity following the Great Recession. Journal of Education Finance, 169-194.
MacLean, N. (2017). Democracy in chains: The deep history of the radical right’s stealth plan for America. New York, NY: Penguin.
O’Connell, H. A. (2012). The impact of slavery on racial inequality in poverty in the contemporary U.S. South. Social Forces, 90(3), 713-734.
Osworth, D. (2022). Looking toward the field: A systematic review to inform current and future school takeover policy. Research in Educational Policy and Management, 4(1), 1-21. https://doi.org/10.46303/repam.2022.1
Phillips, R., Harper, S., & Gamble, S. (2007). Summer programming in rural communities: Unique challenges. New Directions for Youth Development, 2007(114), 65-73.
Rothstein, R. (2017). The color of law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing.
South Carolina House Bill 4325, 124th Session (2021).
Tieken, M., & Williams, S. (2021). Commentary: Times article on rural school misses half the story—Educational success. The Rural Educator, 42(3), 72-73. DOI: https://doi.org/10.35608/ ruraled.v42i3.1289
Tran, H., Martínez, D. G., Aziz, M., Frakes Reinhardt, S., & Harrison, T. (2022). Of coalition and resistance in Abbeville v. South Carolina: A policy regimes analysis. Educational Studies, 1-21.
Watson, T. N., & Baxley, G. S. (2021). Centering “Grace”: Challenging anti-Blackness in schooling through motherwork. Journal of School Leadership, 31(1-2), 142-157.
Weiss, J., & McGuinn, P. (2017). The evolving role of the state education agency in the era of ESSA and Trump: Past, present, and uncertain future. Philadelphia, PA: Consortium for Policy Research in Education.Zhang, Y., & Xu, D. (2022). The bus is arriving: Population growth and public transportation ridership in rural America. Journal of Rural Studies, 95, 467-474.
The unparalleled growth in tertiary education was the focal point of this year’s Education at a Glance report. The OECD notes women now make up the majority of young adults with a tertiary degree, at 57% compared to 43% for males. Across all 25-34 year olds, tertiary education has become the most common educational attainment level, which the OECD attributes to the labor-market advantages tertiary degrees provide. The indicators in the report included student participation, progress, and outcomes, as well as the resources countries invested in tertiary education. Additionally, the report explored educational outcomes from the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, described by OECD as “a return to normalcy.” Correspondingly, many of the headlines, both those discussing the report in general and highlighting results from particular countries, focused on the results related to tertiary education. As in the past, a number of headlines emphasized problems that the report revealed (Australia; Finland; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan) with only a few highlighting more positive findings (Portugal; Spain).
“We must grow multiple pathways to success through an array of post-secondary options, including, of course, the rich array of some baccalaureate options and apprenticeships. ” – Amy Loyd, President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education
“The share of young adults with advanced qualifications across the OECD, driven by the growing need for advanced skills in labor markets, reached a record 48% of 25-34 year-olds in 2021, compared to just 27% in 2000. Shares of tertiary educated 25-34 year olds are highest in Korea (69.3%) and Canada (66.4%), according to a new OECD report.”
“We have large shares of young people choosing degrees that actually may not exist when they graduate.” – Andreas Schleicher, OECD director for Education and Skills
“Only three countries reported mainstreaming all four aspects of the SDG 4.7.1 on Global Citizenship Education and Education for Sustainable Development which includes policies, curricula, teacher education, and assessment, (Brazil, France, and Spain).”
“In 2000, the proportion of highly educated younger adults in Finland was among the highest in the OECD countries, in the same league as the United States and South Korea. In 2021, instead, Finland’s position had dropped well below the OECD average, ranking at the level of Chile and Turkey.”
“The proportion of young people in Italy who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) has increased significantly since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic… the proportion of 25-to-29-year-olds who are NEETS climbed to 31.7% in 2020 and then rose further to 34.6% in 2021.”
“Japan had the lowest share of female staff in tertiary education in 2020 among 32 comparable member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at 30%…Women represent 45% of academic professionals across OECD countries on average.”
“The number of young New Zealanders with tertiary qualifications had grown in the past 10 years, but not as much as in most other OECD nations… In New Zealand the percentage of 25 to 34-year-olds with tertiary qualifications rose 16 percentage points from 29 percent in 2000 to 45 percent in 2021.”
“The findings appear to show that graduates everywhere receive higher salaries in the workplace than colleagues without degrees – particularly in Portugal where they can end up earning double the salaries of less qualified counterparts. The report cites Information Technology and Communication as the sector in Portugal paying the highest salaries.”
“Scottish head teachers tend to be paid more than the average earned by their counterparts in countries such as Finland, New Zealand and France – but they lag behind heads in England, new figures show.”
“This was an increase of 8.4 points more than in 2011 and nearly 15 points or 34 percent compared to 2000. Moreover, the figure is above the average for the OECD countries, where the percentage is 46.9 percent, and also above the average for 22 EU countries (45.9 percent), Erudera.com reports.”
“The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service has granted approval for retired teachers and those who are on long-leave to fill areas of specialization where schools are not able to find adequate replacements.”
“Black-clad teachers in Budapest carried black umbrellas to protest stagnant wages and heavy workloads on the first day of school Thursday. Teachers’ union PSZ said young teachers earn a ‘humiliating’ monthly after-tax salary of just 500 euros (dollars) that has prompted many to walk away.”
Teacher shortages, at least the news about them, seems inescapable this year. For the next two weeks, we share many of the teacher shortage related stories that we encountered during our annual scan of back-to-school headlines. This week’s post focuses on articles from the US that discuss the shortage, describe the problems with the available data, and explore some of the efforts to deal with the challenges of hiring and retaining teachers; next week, Part 2 will draw together headlines about teacher shortages in other parts of the world.
As students headed back to school in the US in 2022, education news from many major education outlets raised concerns about shortages of teachers. Predictably, headlines describing a teacher shortage crisis were quickly followed by articles questioning whether there was a crisis at all. Matt Barnum, for example, noted both the reports describing a “catastrophic” teacher shortage as well as those expressing skepticism that there is sufficient evidence to support those claims (Is there a national teacher shortage? Here’s what we know and don’t know).
“The public narrative has gotten way ahead of the data and is even misleading in most cases,” Chad Alderman quoted in The Atlantic
There may be many reasons for teachers to quit. In particular, one survey showed that fifty-nine percent of teachers say they’re burned out, compared to 44 percent of other workers. But it’s not clear the extent to which the number of teachers leaving the profession is significantly greater than it has been previously. Richard Ingersoll and colleagues have long highlighted challenges of staffing schools, pointing to problems with retaining as well as hiring new teachers (NEPC Talks Education). Furthermore, the shortages of teachers are being reported at the same time there have been recent declines in student enrollment and an increase in hiring of teachers and other support staff that has come along with the influx of federal funding to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “[I]s it useful to use the term shortage,” Derek Thompson wondered in The Atlantic, “when, compared with staff numbers before the pandemic, more teachers might be employed in America’s public schools right now than in 2019?” (There Is No National Teacher Shortage).
This week, IEN provides a glimpse of the “virtual school visits” offered as part of the 2022 (virtual) Conference of the International Congress on School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI). This post is the first in a series that will be published once a month over the next few months. This post shares some of the insights from an ICSEI session discussing the virtual visits that participants made to Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas from Chile and Easton CE Academic from Bristol, UK. This post provides a brief description of each school, key takeaways of school members from a virtual panel discussion, and the reflections from the coordinators of the virtual school visit. This post was produced by Alvaro Gonzalez (Universidad Católica Silva Henríquez, Chile) and Romina Madrid Miranda (University of Glasgow, Scotland).
Liceo Bicentenario de Excelencia Polivalente San Nicolas (Chile)
The Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolás is a public school located in the rural town of San Nicolás, Ñuble region, in Chile. The school currently enrolls 2,505 students, from early childhood education to vocational and academic secondary education. Its educational project promotes an emancipatory, transformative, and innovative education, focused on the student, as a response to inequality and limited options for rural education. The interaction between professional autonomy, pedagogical innovation, and technology, has been key to improving school performance, school climate, self-efficacy and resilience, and the development of digital skills and competences of the 21st century, seeking to empower students to forge their own school trajectory and life project.
Easton CE Academy (UK)
Easton CE Academy is a primary school that currently enrolls 450 pupils, from age 3-11 and serves a very diverse population. The school is in one of the most deprived areas of the UK, even though it is in the middle of the prosperous city of Bristol. Almost all of the children are learning English as an additional language, and 37 different languages are spoken in the school. To address some of the language barriers the school places a high value on oracy. Each lesson is planned with talking in mind, where teachers model ‘sentence stems’ so that children have a structure that helps them to fully participate in discussions. They have been recognized by the oracy work, which complements other subject areas such as English and Maths.
Key takeaways from educators from Liceo San Nicolas and Easton CE Academy
Marcos Caro, History and Geography teacher, Liceo Bicentenario San Nicolas –
As an institution it was a pleasant experience to be invited and participate of the ICSEI 2022 virtual conference. In our panel session with the Easton CE Academy from Bristol, UK, we reflected about the importance of ethnic and cultural diversity. Among the topics discussed, we were struck by their way of approaching the development of oral language competences with students with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, producing spaces of dialogue, learning and mutual respect, irrespective of their background, making way for over 40 different languages in their school.
This is not so different to what goes on in our school in San Nicolás, where we welcome 2500 students every day, from diverse cultural, social, and economic backgrounds, offering them quality education through the teaching of foreign languages, dynamic and flexible groupings, open classrooms, where attention to diversity takes a central role in the academic development of our students. We observed Easton CE Academy places great value on language skills due to the diversity of cultures and nationalities of its students, which is very similar to the reality of schools in Chile.
“We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.”
– Marcos Caro
Participating in the virtual school visit was relevant for us to showcase how we have built an environment safe and ready for learning, with students with similar educational needs as those of Easton. We were both clearly inspired to promote deep learning, forming global citizens equipped for the 21st century in a culture for peace, promoting collaboration in a stimulating and healthy environment.
Clare Welbourne, Head of School, Easton CE Academy
It was amazing to be part of ICSEI 2022 virtual conference even as we were still experiencing the effects of lockdown. In the visit we were able to reflect how the COVID pandemic had sharpened our minds as to the importance of promoting language and social skills for our children.
Participating in the virtual session with Liceo San Nicolas made us feel that we had travelled across the world and broadened our horizons. We were particularly excited to hear about the work of the Liceo and promoting the use of technology in education. This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy. We have also begun to use ‘Widgit’ a symbol based assistive technology.
“This challenged us to go further in this respect, and we have now teamed up with a local secondary school to see how we can use collaborative documents to help our Key Stage Two children make progress in literacy.”
– Clare Welbourne
We were impressed with the range and depth of activities on offer at Liceo San Nicolas and participating in the ICSEI conference gave us confidence that we are also offering our younger pupils a range of experiences. Sometimes it is as you talk about your practice, you can value it and see the next steps.
Reflections: “A commitment to promote equity by removing barriers for students’ success”
The experiences of both schools, presented and discussed during the panel session, reflect on the importance of offering a high-quality learning experience and having high expectations for students from communities that experience conditions of disadvantage. Despite the differences between the schools, both had a clear focus on the development of language skills to empower students to become global citizens. This focus has become more important given the context of the pandemic.
Easton Academy’s families are ethnically and culturally diverse, which led them to focus on developing oral language skills to support students’ engagement with the UK culture in the best way possible way. For its part, Liceo San Nicolás sees language skills development as an equity opportunity, as only some social groups in Chile have access, get exposed to and learn more than one or two languages. It allows them to provide their students with the kind of exposure that wealthier students are used to receiving.
Note on ICSEI Virtual School Visits: The International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement (ICSEI) held its 35th annual congress online in January 2022 due to the pandemic. Over many years of face-to-face conferences, participants have had the unique opportunity to visit local schools to gain first-hand experience with the host country’s education system, share ideas and insights from one system to another, and act as a catalyst for discussion and debate between colleagues from different countries during and after the visits. The Virtual School Visits sought to keep that purpose, with the added advantage of not being restricted to one host country, increasing the richness and diversity of insight, discussion, and collaboration beyond what was possible at a face-to-face congress.
In this month’s Lead the Change interview Preston Green highlights issues, challenges and opportunities for scholars to use legal theories and tools to pursue educational equity. Green is the John and Maria Neag Professor of Urban Education at the University of Connecticut, where he is also a professor of educational leadership and law. The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website
Lead the Change: The 2023 AERA theme is “Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth” and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. Where does research focused on the legal principles and ramifications of particular policies fit in with the call? With educational change more broadly?
Preston Green: Scholars, through their research and advocacy, can help bring about the passage of laws that cause schools to adopt equitable policies and practices. School desegregation is an example. Indeed, the most famous instance of the power of research is the expert social science testimony co-authored by Dr. Kenneth Clark, which the Supreme Court cited in Brown v. Board of Education (Legal Defense Fund, 2022). To this day, scholars are conducting research that identifies the benefits of school desegregation and the policies that bring about desegregation, even though the judiciary is less supportive.
“Scholars, through their research and advocacy, can help bring about the passage of laws that cause schools to adopt equitable policies and practices.”
Additionally, educational research can encourage the passage of laws that cause schools to cease classroom practices that disproportionately harm minority groups. For example, scholars have documented the disparate suspension and expulsion rates experienced by Black students and students with disabilities. They have urged policymakers to use the legal tools at their disposal to guard against the educational practices that create these disparities. This effort helped lead to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issuing a Dear Colleague Letter in 2014 that provided guidance for implementing disciplinary policies that do not unduly impact Black students. Although the Trump administration subsequently rescinded this guidance, the Biden administration is considering its reinstatement (Belsha, 2022). The Biden administration also issued federal guidance advising school districts to protect the civil rights of students with disabilities (Belsha, 2022). Researchers can continue to provide support for the adoption of policies and laws at both the federal and state levels that cause schools to develop disciplinary practices that do not unduly impact Black students.
Similarly, scholars can conduct research and develop legal theories that will protect LGBTQ+ students from discriminatory treatment and harassment. Due in part to their research and advocacy, the OCR issued a notice of interpretation declaring that Title IX, the federal statute that forbids sex discrimination by schools, encompasses “discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity” (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). However, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Carson v. Makin (2022), which held that Maine could not prohibit parents from using tuition assistance funds for education at parochial schools, is very concerning for LGBTQ+ students, parents, and teachers. Scholars can continue to play a role in this ongoing fight against discrimination.
With respect to educational change more broadly, research based on legal principles can help policymakers adopt laws that protect students and communities. Educational privatization is illustrative. Supporters of privatization have asserted that educational reforms, such as school vouchers and charter schools, will help minority communities obtain educational outcomes that have proven elusive in the traditional public-school setting. However, in exchange for these educational benefits—which are not guaranteed—students and communities may forfeit constitutional rights and community resources (Green & Connery, 2022). This example shows that scholars must be sure to study the possible legal tradeoffs posed by any broad proposal for educational change.
LtC: Recently, there have been a rash of Supreme Court decisions that have fundamentally reshaped American society and schools including, but not limited to, women’s rights to bodily autonomy, guns, the use of public funds for religious schooling, and shifting rules regarding prayer in schools. Your work examines how law shapes education broadlyand specifically. How might educational change scholars understand the impact of some of these rulings on the U.S. education system?
PG: Educational scholars should understand that the recent outbreak of Supreme Court decisions signals the Court’s willingness to reject decades of legal precedent. Legal precedent refers to the concept that court decisions serve as legal authority for deciding future cases with similar facts and issues (Legal Information Institute, 2020). Individuals and institutions come to rely on the protections and rights created by these decisions. Because of this reliance on precedent, many supporters of abortion were shocked by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision (2022), which overturned Roe v. Wade (1973). Justice Clarence’s Thomas’s concurrence, which declared that protections for birth control, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage were also in danger, was even more stunning.
Similarly, the Court’s religion decisions this past term indicate that long-standing legal precedents in education are no longer safe. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (2022), the Court ruled that a school district violated the Free Exercise Clause by disciplining a public-school coach for praying after games in view of his players. Lupu and Tuttle (2022) explain that the Court’s decision ignored sixty years of precedent under the Establishment Clause, which gave schools the authority to police the “communication between a coach or teacher and those under their charge.” Instead, the Court implemented a rule requiring the Establishment Clause to be interpreted based on the historical understanding of the Founding Fathers. One can infer from this language that the Court might soon permit teachers to lead students in prayer (Lupu & Tuttle, 2022).
In addition to the concerns about LGBTQ+ discrimination discussed above, Carson v. Makin (2022) has major implications for charter schools. Charter schools are often defined as public schools that must operate in a secular manner. However, charter schools have many private characteristics, which could cause the Supreme Court to categorize them as a private school option. If the Court ruled this way, then states would have to provide funding for religious charter schools. Indeed, Justice Breyer raised this possibility in his dissenting opinion in the Carson case. States that disagree with this situation might respond either by capping the number of charter schools or dismantling this choice option altogether.
LtC: How can those educational scholars and practitioners who wish to take civic action against discriminatory legal precedent engage in such efforts effectively?
PG: Because of the solid conservative majority in the Supreme Court, it will be difficult for scholars and practitioners to challenge discriminatory practices in the federal courts. Therefore, they should also look to state law for protections. School finance litigation provides an example of this approach. After the Supreme Court ruled in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez in 1973 that the Equal Protection Clause permits school funding disparities created by local property taxation, plaintiffs then challenged school finance formulas through state courts. School finance scholars, educational historians, and legal theorists have provided the research that have helped attorneys push for increased resources for disadvantaged communities.
A school desegregation case, Sheff v. O’Neill (1996) also demonstrates how educational researchers can help litigators challenge discriminatory practices in state courts. After the Supreme Court ruled that de facto segregation – racial separation that is not caused by intentional governmental policies – did not violate the Constitution, the federal courts became a much less effective venue for combatting school segregation. Lead attorney John Brittain and his colleagues responded to this obstacle by convincing the Connecticut Supreme Court that de facto segregation violated the state constitution. Brittain supported this claim using expert testimony from educational scholars who showed the negative impact that school segregation had on Hartford’s urban schools.
LtC: What issues of law, education, policy, and change do you see as ripe for research in the coming months and years?
PG: One topic that is ripe for research is the relationship between race and school funding. Despite decades of school desegregation and school finance litigation, a report by the non-profit group EdBuild found that school districts serving predominantly nonwhite students received $23 billion less than white districts during the 2015–16 school year. According to the report, the average nonwhite district received $2,226 less than a white school district per student. Racial disparities remained even after controlling for wealth: Poor-white school districts still received around $1,500 more per student than their poor-nonwhite counterparts (cited by Green, Baker, and Oluwole 2021).
“Scholars and practitioners should also look to state laws for protections.”
Scholars have begun to explore the reasons for these disparities. Culprits include an array of local, state, and federal housing discrimination policies and practices over the course of more than a century (Baker, DiCarlo, & Green, 2022; Lukes & Cleveland, 2021). I sincerely hope that scholars help litigators develop legal strategies and policy solutions to tackle these disparities in the courts and through legislation.
References Baker, B., DiCarlo, M., & Green, P. (2022). Segregation and school funding: How housing discrimination reproduces unequal opportunity. Retrieved August 8, 2022 from https://www.shankerinstitute.org/segfunding
A return to school after the COVID closures and hopes for a “bounce back” characterize some of the back-to-school headlines; but in Ukraine and some parts of the developing world, many of the headlines focus on critical challenges including violence, war, floods and famine that are continuing to keep some students, particularly girls, out of school.
“[F]or many students here and around the world, especially girls, there is no excitement around supply shopping or reuniting with their friends again — because none of that will happen at all. Between schools staying closed over fears of a new COVID-19 wave and other barriers to getting an education, back-to-school doesn’t look quite as bright.” – Back to school? Think again, Plan International
“Every August a new cohort of students begin their apprenticeships across Switzerland. The appetite for vocational training remains strong despite the impact of Covid-19, with experts pointing to a return to pre-pandemic levels.”
“The new school year is a day of celebration in Ukraine, where children dress up and give bouquets of flowers to their teachers. But Russia’s invasion has cast a shadow on the happy day. Now educational facilities across the country are racing to build bunkers and bomb shelters for returning students,” CNN
““Right now, I don’t even have a pencil for my children to start classes in September,” said Florena Delgado, who teaches first and fifth grades at two schools in one of the lowest-income neighborhoods of the capital, Caracas”- NBC News