Tag Archives: Covid-19

Praxis, teacher education and symmetry: The Lead the Change interview with Sarah Fine

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features a conversation with Dr. Sarah Fine, an educator and scholar working at the intersection of practice and research. Fine currently directs the San Diego Teacher Residency, hosted at the High Tech High Graduate School of Education, and also teaches courses in educational leadership at the University of California San Diego and at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her recent book, coauthored with Jal Mehta, is In Search of Deeper learning: The Quest to Transform the American High School.

Lead The Change: The 2022 AERA theme is Cultivating Equitable Education Systems for the 21st Century and charges researchers and practitioners with dismantling oppressive education systems and replacing them with antiracist, equity, and justice-oriented systems. To achieve these goals, researchers must engage in new methodologies, cross-disciplinary thinking, global perspectives, and community partnerships to respond to the challenges of the 21st century including the COVID-19 Pandemic and systemic racism among other persistent inequities. Given the dire need for all of us to do more to dismantle oppressive systems and reimagine new ways of thinking and doing 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?

Sarah Fine: Paulo Freire offered us the notion of praxis: cycles of inquiry which involve thinking critically about how sociopolitical systems work, taking action to create positive change, and reflecting on the process (Freire, 1970). A number of brilliant folks have written about how educators can take up Freire’s ideas in K-12 classrooms (Duncan-Andrade & Morrell, 2008; hooks, 1994). To this work I would add my own conviction that scholars of educational change, too, need to engage in praxis — and I believe that this praxis must involve more than simply galvanizing our students to do good work once they are “in the field.” This enlarged vision is no small commitment. The academy tends to reward thought over action, description over transformation, and theorizing about rather than theorizing with those who lead and work in schools. Plus, postulating on paper or in a lecture hall is comfortable; the world of K-12 public schools — “the field” — is a muddy, messy, imperfect place where elegant theories are inevitably complicated by the human-ness of human systems. Talking about implications for action is vanishingly simple by comparison to the actual work of making change in schools. I would argue, however, that it is imperative for us to do both: to read and write and observe and theorize, and also to enter into long-term action-focused partnerships which become a “text” that informs our scholarship. One without the other is insufficient.

This desire to engage in praxis has been a guide for my own career choice. After nearly a decade spent exploring the notion of deeper learning through qualitative research, I chose to depart academia in order to road-test my ideas by designing and directing a teacher residency program run out of an alternative institution of higher education. I admit that this project sometimes runs the risk of straying from Freire’s vision; my days “in the field” are sometimes so breathless that they leave little room for reflection. But that, too, tells a story about what it will take to accelerate efforts at transformation. We must reimagine what it means to be in practice as an educator, providing support and incentives for those who spend their time in and around K-12 schools to contribute their wisdom and experiences to the field’s knowledge-base. It is these kinds of shifts that can help us all to move beyond patterns of siloing and exploitation and to make good on a collaborative commitment to positive change.

LtC: Through your work as the Director of the San Diego Teacher Residency at High Tech High Graduate School of Education, you support future teachers in creating justice-oriented classrooms rooted in deeper learning and strengthen the pipeline for teachers of color. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

SF: In our recent book, Jal Mehta and I explored the idea of symmetry, e.g. the presence of guiding principles and practices which anchor the experiences of both adults and children in schools (Mehta & Fine, 2019). We argued that schools can make headway toward ambitious goals by cultivating symmetry — for example, by seeking to embed opportunities for extended inquiry or apprenticeship into adult learning as well as into classrooms. Based on my experiences designing and running the San Diego Teacher Residency, it turns out that symmetry is equally important in the context of teacher preparation. This is to say that novice teachers need the same things younger learners do in order to thrive and learn deeply: psychological safety, authentic purposes, culturally affirming pedagogy, tasks which lie within their zone of proximal development, modeling and support from expert mentors, opportunities to engage in productive struggle, and pauses to reflect on and celebrate their growth. On top of this, learning to teach for justice requires unlearning many of the normative beliefs and practices that dominate the field. This is true for white teachers and also for teachers of color, who may more easily recognize the myriad forms of oppression and marginalization that dominate traditional classrooms but still need to experience and learn new repertoires of practice by which to resist the pull of doing things as they have always been done. For example, we have found that with carefully designed coursework and expert facilitation, our teacher residents (white and BIPOC alike) are fairly quick to grasp why punitive and exclusionary classroom disciplinary policies are so inequitable. However, understanding what not to do does not automatically come along with the knowledge of what to do instead — and without viable alternatives, even teachers who recognize harmful practice will revert to the status quo. Thus, helping novices learn to “see” the problems of shallow, teacher-centered, eurocentric, one-size-fits- all pedagogy is the tip of the iceberg; the most important work lies in exploring and rehearsing new forms of instructional design and facilitation. This is where deliberate symmetry comes in, because every moment that our residents spend in our care is a moment to “walk our talk” by providing them with learning experiences that assist in the process of disruption and replacement.

“Learning to teach for justice requires unlearning many of the normative beliefs and practices that dominate the field.”

LtC: In your recent book, In Search of Deeper Learning, you argue for American high schools to create opportunities for deeper learning, teachers, administrators, parents, and educational communities need to unlearn ideas about schooling and set up organizational structures that value authentic problem solving and depth over breadth (among many other things!). In the past two years, how has remote learning and other school disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic changed this important work?

SF: During the long months of zoom school last year, those of us who spend our time thinking about teaching and learning looked on with mixture of apprehension and curiosity. Might the pandemic, for all of its awful-ness, finally open the door for the kinds of educational transformations that children so desperately need? Could this be the thing that would finally loosen the chokehold of the “grammar of schooling” that has persisted for more than a century? I wish I could say that the answer was yes — but in reality, the adjustments that I have seen schools and teachers make are subtle rather than dramatic. On the pessimistic side, at least from what I observed, much of what happened during remote schooling last year amounted to a doubling down on traditional practice. Elementary school teachers reverted to non-interactive read-alouds and assigned more than normal amounts of independent work; secondary teachers talked at their students even more than before; and everyone struggled to figure out how to get kids to interact meaningfully in breakout rooms. Things have gradually settled down with the return to in-person schooling this year, but I haven’t seen many examples of experiments or transformations. On a more positive note, however, remote schooling seemed to galvanize many teachers and leaders to make serious commitments to relationship-building, social- emotional learning, and trauma-informed practices. These things have always been essential, but until the pandemic forced the issue, they often took a backseat to academic content. I have been heartened to see this shift in priorities persist during this year, but I fear that all the talk of “learning loss” — not to mention the surge in staff shortages which are stretching all school staff extremely thin — could quickly return us to where we started. Still, I see the whole situation as being in-process. Perhaps there will continue to be opportunities for educators, parents, and policymakers to realize that the status quo isn’t something worth returning to after all. I’d like to believe that the pandemic has at very least increased everyone’s appetite for radical change, which could open the door for visionary educators (and scholars?) to try to do things differently.

“Productive change processes require disrupting traditional power dynamics.”

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?

SF: As a start, I would argue that those who are spearheading educational change should start by focusing on assets rather than deficits. Ask: Where are the bright spots? Who in our system is already galvanized around doing things differently? If students or educators are not succeeding in certain ways or in certain spaces, where and under what conditions are they thriving? How can we develop what already exists into visible proof-points that help everyone imagine why and how to do things differently? Don’t get me wrong — it’s still crucial to explore and map out the root causes of dysfunction — but asset-focused questions are far more energizing and efficacious than their inverse. On a separate note, I would argue that productive change processes require disrupting traditional power dynamics. Get folks from all parts of the system at the table together — not just district and school leaders, for example, but teachers and special educators and paraprofessionals and even students — and construct agreements and group culture that encourages them to listen deeply and speak from what they know. This decision honors the idea that the ones closest to the problem are closest to the solution, and it also positions the change process itself, not just the desired goals of the process, as an equity-focused intervention. Finally, I believe that it is critical that everyone involved in the change process needs to see themselves and be seen as a learner. School and district leaders often feel pressure to know “the answers” and to direct change from arm’s length, but the most powerful processes require new ways of being and doing. In turn, this demands opportunities for everyone involved to engage in productive struggle, to try out new practices without the certainty that they will work, and to experience the kinds of learning and/or culture that is sought for the entire system.

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

SF: I began my career as a teacher and (a bit later) my training as a scholar during the first decade of the 21st century: an era which was dominated by an obsession with top-down reforms and narrowly conceived indicators of educational quality. During those years, studying educational change in ways that the academy would validate involved doing research about or on schools and measuring impact using test-score-based metrics. The past decade, however, has seen the start of a long-overdue reckoning with the ways in which education research has too often been voyeuristic, exploitative, racially biased, and limited in its imagination of the possible. The growing visibility of paradigms such as Participatory Action Research and Design Based Implementation Research, along with the amplification of the voices of BIPOC scholars and practitioners and the expansion of Research-Practitioner Partnership opportunities, suggests that the world is gradually recognizing that educational change must involve working with and within communities of practice and defining educational “goods” more broadly. This excites me! As I wrote earlier, I believe that scholars of educational change have an obligation to engage in praxis, which requires forming long-term partnerships with practitioners and learning about the world by trying to change it. I’d like to believe that the structures of higher education eventually will shift to support this expansion of scholarly purposes and positioning. As it currently stands at many major schools of education, however, tenure-seeking scholars are still obligated to focus most of their efforts on producing first-authored publications in academic journals — which are stylistically inaccessible to lay readers and also usually live behind paywalls. Teaching and service to the institution come next, with community engagement and public scholarship treated as side-notes. On the other side of the “research/practice divide,” the work of educators and school/district leaders is mainly action-focused; there is rarely time or material support for doing much more than keeping the train on the tracks. I hope that the field as a whole will continue to elevate research-practice partnerships which can create positive change for educators and children and produce usable knowledge in the process.

Duncan-Andrade, J. M., & Morrell, E. (2008). The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving
from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools (New edition edition). New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Freire, P. (1970, rereleased 2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 30th Anniversary Edition. (M. B.
Ramos, Trans.) (30th Anniversary edition). New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

hooks, bell. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routledge.

Mehta, J, & Fine, S. (2019). In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

A view from Japan (part 2): Hiro Yokota on parenting, education and the new Digital Agency in Japan

This week’s post features a follow-up interview with Hirokazu Yokota, discussing his experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan, as a parent, education policymaker and now government officer at Japan’s newly established Digital Agency. Yokota was a principal architect of two recent policies: the Basic Act on the Formation of a Digital Society, which set basic principles to transform Japan by cross-ministerial policy making and passed the Japanese Diet on May 2021; and the Priority Policy Program for Realizing Digital Society, which include policy measures for the government to implement and got cabinet approval in December 2021. Recently, he published an article on school leadership in Japan in the International Journal of Leadership in Education. The post shares his own views and does not necessarily represent official views of DA and the Japanese government.

IEN: What has been happening with you and your family this year? How does this compare to what you told us in your previous post at the beginning of the pandemic (A view from Japan: Hirokazu Yokota on school closures and the pandemic)?

Hirokazu Yokota: Too many changes to remember, I would say… the positive thing is that I and my family are still doing well and safe, which is the most important. My working style has changed a lot. I still work from home two to three days a week, which means I have more time to spare with my kids. Almost every meeting, including the ones with the Minister, happens online, which was almost inconceivable pre-pandemic to me. The society now has more tolerance for that flexible style, as it found paper-based and face-to-face working style infeasible in the presence of this lasting pandemic.

The other side? My six-year-old daughter suddenly said she wanted to wear a mask on top of another and cried (she always wears one when going outside). She, by watching TV news etc., was kind of afraid of getting Omicron. I couldn’t just say getting it isn’t a big deal. Kids absorb and think much more from what they see in the world than we imagine. As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting, and to be honest, I have not found any solid answer here.

“As a parent, I have to balance two seemingly-conflicting demands – providing my kids with real-life, authentic opportunities to interact with a variety of people, and preventing the infection of Covid-19 at the same time. This is a very challenging act of parenting”

IEN: It’s interesting to see that you’re now working at a new governmental agency. What is the Digital Agency and what does it have to do with this pandemic?

HY: The Covid-19 pandemic was a wake-up call for Japan’s digital transformation. Management of the health crises was hampered by outdated and cumbersome administrative systems. Additionally, in the past, each ministry, agency, and local government has been promoting digitalization separately, which resulted in 1,700 local governments with 1,700 systems: procured and managed separately with dispersed responsibility. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the ineffectiveness of this practice.

As a response, in September 2020, then Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide made the digitalization of Japan one of his top priorities. Accordingly, the Digital Agency (DA) was established at an incredible speed and launched in September 2021. DA has strong powers of comprehensive coordination, such as the power to make recommendations to other ministries and agencies.

What is particularly interesting is that of the about 600 DA officers, a third (some 200) are coming from the private sector, which creates a mixed organizational culture of thorough coordination of stakeholder interests in the public sector and agile/flexible decision making in the private sector. New challenges every day, but a very inspiring working environment. Given that I’ve mainly worked within the education sector it really helps to broaden my perspective.

IEN: In the field of education specifically, you previously mentioned that the Japanese government planned to implement “one device per student” initiative. What has worked, and what has been problematic?

HY: The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has started the GIGA (Global and Innovative Gateway for All) School Program to make certain equitable and individually optimized learning by providing one computer per student and high-speed Internet for schools, which originally aimed at one device per student by the end of FY 2023. In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, it was accelerated and strengthened, with the distribution of one device per student almost completed by July 2021. About 461 billion yen (some 4 billion US dollars) in total was allocated for that purpose, which obviously was a huge investment.

However, when I collected voices from 217,000 students and 42,000 educators through an online questionnaire on this GIGA School Initiative in July 2021, it turned out that there were many problematic issues on the ground – including slow networks, slow digitalization of school affairs, school staff that never got devices, equipment that was too old or insufficient for use inside and outside of the classroom as well as insufficient support by experts. In terms of policy implementation, just distributing a subsidy does not necessarily guarantee that ICT devices are actually used, and there are many steps to be taken before these are put into daily use like pencils and notebooks.

In order to fill in this gap between policy and practice, the Digital Agency, with the ministries concerned, released a joint message to students and educators, and presented their responses in the form of future directions of relevant policies. Some of them actually led to subsequent supplementary budget items approved in December 2021.

Additionally, we took the comments from students and educators very seriously, and based on the “Open/Transparency” principle of DA, we explained our stance in as much detail as possible, including cases in which measures are difficult to take. This, I believe, is very meaningful as a new trial of policy refinement based on voices from the ground, where digital plays a significant role in reaching out to people/users.

IEN: This initiative is still in progress, but what’s next?

HY: Yes, when we think of three phases of digital transformation – (1) digitization, (2) digitalization, and (3) digital transformation, the current movement is mostly in phase (1) (digitization). However, the potential of digital technology goes far beyond taking paper and face-to-face processes and putting them online; it also lies in promoting student-centered learning as well as providing wraparound and push-type services to children by connecting a variety of data. Therefore, recently (in January 2022), DA and the ministries concerned published “Roadmap on the Utilization of Data in Education.” First, we set the mission of digitalization in education as “a society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way,” and established “three core goals” – enriching the (1) scope, (2) quality, and (3) combination of data – for realizing that mission. Issues and necessary measures, such as standardizing data in education, the way the creation of the platform in the field of education ought to be, determining rules/policies for the utilization of data in education, are clarified with a timeline.

Although most of the policy measures are supposed to be taken by MEXT, DA recently started a pilot project for realizing support for children in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) through data connection across departments and organizations. As for now, when it comes to data in such fields as education, childcare, child welfare, medical care, etc., they are handled at different departments within the local government. Additionally, there are a variety of institutions concerned such as child consultation centers and schools, each of which, based on their respective role, engage in support for children by utilizing the information that they have. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in each organization/department working in silos without having a clear understanding of which children/families need priority support. For example, the “Child Development Monitoring System” in Minoh City, Osaka Prefecture, classifies children through (1) economic situation, (2) child rearing ability, (3) academic achievement, and (4) non-cognitive abilities, etc.; they then utilize the results for support and monitoring through case meetings, etc.. Building on such practices, we will support local governments by establishing a system for connecting data in education, child welfare, health etc. as needed, utilizing that data to discover children truly in need (e.g. poverty, child abuse) and providing push-type support to them.

IEN: Knowing that fundamentally changing education is such hard work – just like “Tinkering Toward Utopia” – what do you imagine for education in the future?

HY: We have to admit the possibility that the fundamental framework of learning instruction in which “in school” “teachers” “at the same time” teach “to students in the same grade” “at the same pace” “the same content” cannot work anymore. This is not because teachers are incapable of doing their jobs. This is because there are so many different needs that children have – from absenteeism, special needs, Japanese-language learners, poverty, to so-called gifted.

With that in mind, we set the goal of digital transformation in education as realizing learner-centered education by enriching the combination of a variety of “places”, “people” and “contents” relating to learning (”A society where anybody, at any time and place, can learn with anybody in his/her own way”). For example, teachers are also expected to serve as coordinators who utilize resources such as human resources for learning that should be provided to a group of students (“Can learn ‘with anybody’”). Additionally, assessment will move from measurement of student learning at the entry point (how much students learn) to that based on a hybrid of the entry and exit points (what attributes and abilities they acquire) (“Can learn “at any time””). Furthermore, what students learn and in what order will differ based on respective needs and understanding of each student, which can be helped with big data analysis (“Can learn “in his/her own way””). This is easier said than done, but MEXT recently set up a new special council composed of stakeholders to discuss concrete policy measures to realize this vision. I’m hopeful that Japanese education will be able to shift from an equality-oriented, lecture-style system to the one that embraces diversity (individually optimized learning and collaborative learning) without undermining our focus on equity.

What’s Changing Post-COVID in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa?

This week, IEN’s Correne Reyes takes a look at how education policies and initiatives have evolved post-COVID in two relatively “high-performing” education systems — Finland and New Zealand — and in a developing education system — South Africa.

Around the world, COVID school closures led to enrollment drops and concerns about health and safety that education systems like South Africa continue to confront. Meanwhile, systems like Finland and New Zealand appear to have dealt with those initial issues and are now tackling challenges like the emotional toll resulting from the pandemic.

According to The Conversation, in South Africa “Although improving, the achievement outcomes are still low, fragile and susceptible to shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt the education system a major blow, especially for poor and vulnerable learners.” As one example, South Africa reported a 30,000 student enrollment deficit in Grades R and Grade 1 due to the lockdown. With extended school shutdowns in July 2020 and January 2021, 9 million students faced hunger and malnutrition since they rely on school meals for their daily nutrition. Furthermore, only 22% of households have a computer and 10% have an internet connection, limiting remote options. Inequitable internet access means that is primarily students from wealthier communities with better resourced schools who have been able to continue their learning during the school closures. Despite these challenges, the South African government announced a plan to reduce the education budget over the next three years with a cut of over 4% for this financial year, which is likely to lead to further inequity.

“Although improving, the achievement outcomes are still low, fragile and susceptible to shocks. The COVID-19 pandemic has dealth the education system a major blow, especially for poor and vulnerable learners.”

Although Finland and New Zealand continued to experience some school closures, they have been able to turn their focus in policymaking to the health and wellbeing of their students and to rebuilding their foreign student numbers.

In terms of health and emotional support, New Zealand announced an investment of $75.8 million in their newest education wellbeing package to tackle the mental health that have arisen due to COVID-19. For the first time, primary and secondary schools will have “greater access to guidance counselors and counseling support services.” Additionally, Finland’s recent government proposal requested that “both comprehensive and upper secondary schools must have at least one social worker per 670 pupils / students and one school psychologist per 780 pupils / students.” This ratio would ensure more equal access and quality of health services in different parts of Finland. Finland suggests this would “promote the extension of compulsory education, improve opportunities to tackle bullying and also help to fill learning and well-being gaps caused by the corona.”

“New Zealand announced an investment of $75.8 million in their newest education wellbeing package to tackle the mental health and wellbeing issues that have arisen due to COVID-19.”

In both New Zealand and Finland, pandemic-related concerns have also shifted to address the loss of international students. Before the pandemic, international education in New Zealand was the fifth largest export industry, amounting to about $5 billion dollars a year. However, with the pandemic, and a 62% drop in related income from the decline in international students, experts predict it may take 10 years for the industry to recover. Education New Zealand chair, Steve Maharey, recognized that New Zealand was too dependent on China and India for students and the industry needed to diversify. To address the same issue, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs has prepared the D visa, a bill that would allow third-country researchers, students and their family members the possibility to obtain a Finnish long-term visa, in hopes to promote education and work based migration.

Leading new, deeper forms of collaborative cultures: Commentary from Cecilia Azorín and Michael Fullan

“How can schools be transformed into collaborative learning cultures? What are the first steps to be taken to initiate the shift towards collaboration? How can collaboration within and across schools be developed and extended?” Those are some of the questions that Cecilia Azorín and Michael Fullan ask in the fourth commentary in a series launched by Corrie Stone-Johnson and the Journal of Educational Change. In a 2021 editorial, Stone-Johnson introduced the series called Back to School in which she invited authors to “explore how and in what ways Covid-19 has shaped—and is shaping—schools and schooling around the world. This week’s post provides an excerpt from the commentary that brings together the ideas and insights of Azorín and Fullan from their work on collaboration and networking. Previous commentaries in this series include: Yong Zhao and Jim Watterston’s “The changes we need post-Covid,” “What can change in schools after the pandemic?”from Thomas Hatch; and “Owning educational change in Korean schools” by  Taeyeon KimMinseok Yang, and Sunbin Lim.

As Azorín and Fullan summarize their argument: 

“From its origin as teaching as a lonely profession (‘behind the classroom door’), collaboration since the 1960s has made halting progress. Some strong collaborative school cultures were established over the decades, but they were limited in three ways: they were in the minority; were mostly intra-school with a smattering of school districts; and they did not become an established part of a new culture. Over the past decade we have begun to see examples of networks of schools, but these too did not represent system change. Recently (mostly in the past two or three years) there is a new and powerful surge in collaboration arising from the combination two forces: first, the growing evidence that traditional school systems have been seen as ineffective for the majority of students having lost their sense of purpose (see Fullan, 2021), and second, that the pandemic has exposed the weakness of the school system, and serendipitously increased the interest in innovation and system reform as we enter thepost-pandemic period (Fullan & Edwards, 2022).

Prior to COVID-19, there was consensus on the need to prepare future generations in environments of collaboration (Azorín, 2022), but it did not materialize in practice. The pandemic has accelerated networking in education as a powerful tool for innovation. Collaboration is needed and the pandemic made this need greater. “Teaching today is a collaborative and social profession” which implies “moving ideas, knowledge, and teaching practices around in professional communities and networks of shared professional learning” (Hargreaves, 2021, p. 142). We see these developments emerging (and, indeed are part of networks ourselves working on this very agenda). We predict that this recent trend will take off in the coming years.”

In response, they describe what they call the “pulsar model of educational change:” 

Azorín (2020a) used the term ‘supernova’ to describe the impact that COVID-19 has had on education and argued that “like the lifecycle of a star, the educational journey of the previous decades has come to an end” (p. 381)

The ‘supernova effect’  has brought with it the potential for an unprecedented pedagogical  renewal and  change that could give rise to the real-time rapid development of new approaches to education.

The initial supernova drive has given way to what we call the pulsar model, where the change forces connect and interact thereby fostering processes of experimentation and innovation in education. Figure 1 shows the Pulsar Model of Educational Change, represented by a lighthouse (light beam) that illuminates the new educational pathways. In short, the Copernican axis represent the centrality of students; the light beam places collaboration at the center of action, and the innovation field concerns the pedagogical and collaborative developments essential for success.”

To learn more, the full commentary, “Leading new, deeper forms of collaborative cultures: Questions and pathways” can be found in the February 2022 issue of the Journal of Educational Change.

Children 5-11 can now get a COVID-19 Vaccine: Headlines from across the US

Last week, the FDA authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine among children ages 5-11. Additionally, the CDC also voiced its support. Consequently, around 28 million children in the US can now obtain the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although many parents and educators have embraced the news, others remain concerned. According to The74’s summary of the October KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report

  • Nearly 3 in 10 parents of 5-11 year-olds (27%) are eager to get a vaccine for their younger child while a third say they will wait to see how the vaccine is working. 
  • 3 in 10 parents say they will definitely not get the vaccine for their 5-11 year-old (30%). 
  • Parents are now 5-11 percentage points more likely to say they will “definitely not” get their children vaccinated.
  • 53% of parents are worried their child may be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 even if they don’t want them to.

To respond to the concerns, many states, counties and school districts have begun incentivizing parents to vaccinate their children, utilizing many approaches. Here’s a quick scan headlines that give a sense of the resources and responses to the vaccine rollout across the US:

Covid Vaccine for Kids Ages 5 to 11: Top Questions Answered, WebMD.

What pediatricians want parents to know about the Covid vaccine for kids, NBC news.

Some parents want to wait to vaccinate their kids. Here’s why doctors say do it now, NPR.

Answering kids’ (and parents’) questions about the Covid-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11, CCN Health.


School officials in Phoenix are giving $100 gift cards to vaccinated students, Time.


Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and Oakland school districts mandate vaccination against Covid-19 for their students or opt for remote learning, Politico

“Nearly 350,000 California students face an imminent choice: Get vaccinated for Covid-19 or stay home.”


Tallahassee-Leon county is hosting a family fun day that offers free breakfast, lunch and Covid-19 booster shots, Tallahassee Democrat


Chicago will suspend school for a day on Nov. 12 to host “Vaccination Awareness Day”, Chalkbeat, Chicago


Minnesota is encouraging students to obtain the vaccine but has refrained from an official mandate, StarTribune.

New York

New York City is encouraging children to receive the vaccine by offering $100 incentives, NBC

“Children who get their shots at schools or at other city clinics across the five boroughs will be eligible for the $100 incentive that the city has offered since late-July to new vaccine recipients getting their shots at city-run sites.”

NYC schools start vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds to cheers, relief, and some frustration, Chalkbeat.

COVID-19 Vaccines Roll Out for Young Children in NYC, Early-Bird Families All Smiles, The 74.

Photo Essay – Inside a Vaccine Site for Kids: A Brooklyn Pharmacy Becomes A Comforting Spot for COVID Shots, The 74.



Hundreds of kids-size vaccine doses administered at Oaks Amusement Park, KGW8.

South Carolina

In Anderson, high school students can obtain $100 for getting the Covid-19 vaccine, Time


Travis County will use a school based approach to roll out vaccines for children., Kxan

Dallas will maintain mask mandates despite vaccines being available for young children now, Dallas News


Given the increased demand for vaccines, Washington state urged parents to be patient, Seattle Times

School districts increase their efforts to vaccinate their students by utilizing their buildings during school hours, evenings and weekends, Seattle Times.


— Dulce Rivera Osorio

Owning educational change in Korean schools: Three driving forces behind sustainable change (Excerpt)

“Can the innovative educational changes imposed by the pandemic be sustained for the long-term?” That’s the question that Taeyeon Kim, Minseok Yang, and Sunbin Lim ask in the third commentary in a series launched by Corrie Stone-Johnson and the Journal of Educational Change. This question builds on the first commentary in that series by Yong Zhao and Jim Watterston – “The changes we need post-Covid” and the second “What can change in schools after the pandemic?” by Thomas Hatch. This week’s post provides an excerpt from the third commentary, highlighting they key lessons and implications from the pandemic experiences of educators in the Korean context. The full commentary can be found in the November issue of the Journal of Educational Change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered multiple aspects of everyday life, especially those requiring personal interactions and daily routines. As a result, the core practices of things like schooling and student learning have had to be fundamentally revised. Schools across the world have thus adopted policies and practices to facilitate virtual learning, which have forced educators to quickly learn how to design and enact online lessons with limited resources (United Nations, 2020). Schools have invented and established these routines as the “new normal,” all while navigating a persistent level of uncertainty. Although COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated the digital divide as well as social inequalities like economic and racial injustice (United Nations, 2020), scholars and educators have argued that this disruption also presents an opportunity for the equitable redesign of school systems (Zhao, 2020).
With massive vaccination efforts, schools are now preparing to go back to “normalcy” for post-COVID-19 education (see Durston et al., 2021; Meckler & George,2021). In reflecting on the many innovations schools have made during COVID-19 (e.g., online and blended learning, individualized support), it is important to consider Zhao and Watterston’s (2021) argument that the educational changes imposed by the pandemic may be unsustainable for the long-term.

While superficial changes in schooling made during the pandemic may not be sustainable, this essay offers a counter-narrative from the Korean context, in which educators re-constructed policies and teaching practices to fill the educational vacuum caused by COVID-19. The lessons we address here build on 23 Zoom interviews (including 17 individual interviews and six focus groups) conducted throughout the 2020 school year with Korean teachers, school and district leaders, and parents across the country. As education researchers residing in the US during the pandemic who previously worked as Korean school teachers, we wanted to present stories of how Korean schools implemented online and hybrid classes without largescale school closures and how educators made meaning of the changes forced by COVID-19.

“While superficial changes in schooling made during the pandemic may not be sustainable, this essay offers a counter-narrative from the Korean context, in which educators re-constructed policies and teaching practices to fill the educational vacuum caused by COVID-19”

What was most striking to us was the ownership of educational change reflected in the educators’ narratives. This sense of ownership can be understood as a “mental or psychological state of feeling owner of an innovation” that enables educators to understand how changes are applied and their specific roles in initiating these changes (Ketelaar et al., 2012, p. 5). In navigating and reflecting on the pandemic’s unexpected challenges, they placed themselves at the center of efforts to realize “future education.” Teachers and leaders thereby perceived educational innovations as both a short-term reaction to the pandemic and as sustainable transformations to lead in the long run. This sentiment was apparent in their responses to the sudden onset of COVID-19, as well as in their approach to schooling a year into the pandemic. For the Korean educators we interviewed, “back to school” does not mean back to pre-pandemic schooling of the past. Although we do not generalize their responses as “the Korean case,” our surveys of news articles, books, and online teacher communities in Korea indicate strong aspiration for changes stemming from critiques of pre-pandemic education.

Behind the ownership of sustainable changes: Three driving forces

Throughout the research process, we consistently asked what led the Korean educator participants to take ownership of school changes. As an irresistible force (Stone- Johnson, 2021), COVID-19 has imbued education communities with a sense of urgency and purpose to collectively revise school systems…Echoing the argument that COVID-19 catalyzed the realization of school reforms (Kim et al., in press), we identified three macro-level driving forces in participants’ stories that enabled transformations in Korean schools:

  • Policy discourse about “future education”
  • Professional teaching cultures
  • Using bureaucratic administration creatively

Lessons learned: Suggestions for back to school with COVID‑19

  • Offer a shared space for diverse policy actors
  • Adopt hybrid governance to coordinate resources
  • Balance commitments to others and self‑care

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the structure and practices of education systems around the world. It forced schools to change their core activities from the bottom up and create new ideas and systems to support student learning. Schooling during the pandemic has thus necessarily revealed challenges that must be addressed (e.g., widening achievement gaps), but it also surfaced opportunities for challenging the “old grammar of schooling” in how Korean educators took ownership of educational changes to collectively envision better ways of schooling during and after COVID-19.

“Schooling during the pandemic has thus necessarily revealed challenges that must be addressed (e.g., widening achievement gaps), but it also surfaced opportunities for challenging the “old grammar of schooling” in how Korean educators took ownership of educational changes to collectively envision better ways of schooling during and after COVID-19.”

Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 4): Scanning the headlines from around the world

In the final part of this “Back to School” series, Thomas Hatch scans some of the headlines that describe critical issues in the new school year in many parts of the world.  Part 1 links to articles with some lessons from last year and guidance for reopening schools this year.  Part
draws together headlines that focus on the many challenges causing problems for schools in the US this year. Part 3 highlights headlines from states and cities in the US. Take a look at IEN’s “Back to School” headlines from 2020, from 2019, and from 2018 to see how this year compares.

First day of school ‘indefinitely postponed’ for 140 million first-time students around the world, Unicef

‘Lost generation’: education in quarter of countries at risk of collapse, study warns, The Guardian

Repeated school closures due to COVID-19 leading to learning loss and widening inequities in South Asia, UNICEF research shows, Unicef

For Many Kids, Going Back to School Is BYOC (Bring Your Own Chair), Unicef USA



Parents in Beijing climb pillars and fences to catch a glimpse of their kids on the first day of school, Asia One

From vaccine mandates to a chatting ban: how schools in the Asia Pacific are managing Delta, The Guardian


Sydney schools to reopen a week earlier, classes to start October 18, The Sydney Morning Herald


Back to school Covid rules explained – testing, masks and what happens if virus surges, Mirror


Excitement meets worry as European kids head back to school, AP


Officials watch coronavirus developments closely as schools go back, Dutch News


Education Minister Reviews Status of Reopening of Schools Across Country, News 18

Schools in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore have set up vaccination camps on campus to ensure teachers and parents of students are vaccinated before schools reopen for classes 9-12, The Times of India

In Andhra Pradesh, primary schools reopen and students to get ‘Vidya Kanuka’ kits with three pairs of uniforms, an Oxford English to Telugu dictionary, one pair of shoes, two pairs of socks, bilingual textbooks, notebooks, a belt, and a school bag, India Today

The Tamil Nadu State Council for Education Research and Training (SCERT) has prepared a curriculum for refresher classes for students of classes 2 to 12 as schools reopen from September 1, The Times of India

In Kerala, a ‘happiness’ curriculum will be drafted to ease students into the learning environment once schools reopen on November 1, The Hindu


The influx of students in schools grows, after the COVID risk level was reduced to yellow, El Sol de San Luis


Peru, among the last countries in the world with no deadline for the return of schoolchildren to the classroom, Today in 24


Crisis in Philippines as millions of children face second year of remote schooling, The Guardian


Back to school: How are pupils being kept Covid-safe?, BBC

When do UK schools go back? How schools in Scotland, England, Wales and NI are reopening after summer holidays, iNews


Millions of pupils return to school amid Covid spike concern, BBC

Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 3): Scanning State & Local Headlines

In the third part of this “Back to School” series Thomas Hatch scans some of the headlines from states and cities around the US, most of which focus on concerns about COVID cases or related stories about vaccines, masks, and protests about them. Part 1 links to articles with some lessons from last year
and guidance for reopening schools this year. Part 2 draws together headlines that focus on the many challenges causing problems for schools this year. Later posts will include school reopening headlines from other parts of the world as well. Take a look at IEN’s “Back to School” headlines from 2020, from 2019, and from 2018 to see how this year compares.

State & Local Back-to-School Stories 


Absenteeism surging since schools reopened, EdSurge

1,893 L.A. students, staff tested positive for coronavirus during the first week of school, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Is Now The Largest School District To Require Vaccines For Students, NPR

San Francisco Schools Have Had No COVID-19 Outbreaks Since Classes Began Last Month, NPR

College student life is back with many COVID restrictions, Los Angeles Times


Dallas looking for 12,000 students who didn’t show up to school, The Dallas Morning News

Des Moines

Des Moines schools headquarters reopen, Polk County warns about bullying over masks and other back-to-school news, Des Moines Register


‘I’m happy that we’re back.’ Miami students return to school, fully masked and no complaints, Miami Herald

Florida’s On-Again, Off-Again Ban On School Mask Mandates Is Back In Force, NPR


‘All of us are learning to do school again’: Chicago students return to campus during COVID surge, Chalkbeat

Masks, nerves and trying to social distance: How the 1st day went in Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Tribune

Nearly 3,000 CPS students exposed to COVID-19 in 8 days, Chicago Sun Times

Kids In Illinois Will Soon Be Able To Take 5 Mental Health Days From School, NPR


With Classrooms Reopening, Baker Wants More In-School Vaccinations, GBH

Worcester Students Return To Classrooms For New School Year With Pandemic Precautions, WBUR

Attleboro sees little push-back on mask mandate during first day of school, The Sun Chronicle

A more normal year? Precautions in place as schools welcome back students, Daily Hampshire Gazette

New York City

NYC’s new school year begins with hope. fear, and uncertainty, New York Daily News

NYC expands vaccine mandate to students in high-risk extracurriculars, Chalkbeat

Municipal unions sue NYC over vaccine mandateNew York Daily News

COVID cases have already closed hundreds of NYC charter school classrooms, Chalkbeat

Some NYC parents plan to boycott first day of school, Chalkbeat

From shutdown to reopening: Here’s a look at N.Y.C. schools’ trek through the pandemic, The New York Times

North Carolina

Most NC students will start new year outside of school, Citizen Times


Seattle-area schools enter a new era of pandemic education as students return to in-person learning, The Seattle Times

Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes

In the second part of this “Back to School” series, Thomas Hatch scans some of the headlines that highlight the many challenges that are contributing to problems at the start of the school year in the US. Part 1 links to articles with some lessons from last year and guidance for reopening schools this year. Later posts will include school reopening headlines from other parts of the world as well. Take a look at IEN’s “Back to School” headlines from 2020, from 2019, and from 2018 to see how this year compares.

Glimpses of How Pandemic America Went Back to School, New York Times

Returns to school, return to quarantine

At least 90,000 students have had to quarantine because of COVID-19 so far this school year, The Hill

Schools grapple with thousands in isolation or quarantine as delta variant rages, NBC News

Tens Of Thousands Of School Children Already In Covid Quarantine—20,000 In Mississippi Alone, Forbes

Over 10,000 students in Florida school district isolated or quarantined a week into school year, ABC News

Thousands of Students, Teachers Quarantined as School Year Starts — Many in States With Low Vaccination Rates, Anti-Mask Rules, The 74

Shortages of Teachers

Between COVID-19 and layoffs, schools may not have enough teachers to get through the year, USA Today

Not enough subs: California schools face severe teacher shortage, Cal Matters

Shortages of Nurses

Despite extra funding, Denver schools don’t have enough nurses, Chalkbeat

Shortages of Bus Drivers & Transportation Problems

Transportation problems complicate another start of the school year for Seattle Public Schools, The Seattle Times

Bus problems return as Worcester public students start new school year, Spectrum News 1

Boston city councilors, union members fuming over school bus ‘fiasco’ as first day of school arrives, Boston Herald

National Survey Finds Severe And Desperate School Bus Driver Shortage, NPR

Chicago School Bus Drivers Have Quit In Droves Over COVID Vaccine Mandate, NPR

Bus Driver Shortage Leaves Some Florida Students Waiting for Hours, Orlando Sentinel

Wildfires & Hurricanes

Wildfires delay beginning of school year for some rural California schools, some for the second year, EdSource

Quarter of a Million Students Face New Hurdles in Wake of Hurricane Ida, Education Week

Ida deals new blow to Louisiana schools struggling to reopen, Miami Herald

Internet for all (Part 2): What can be done now?

This article is one a series of articles by Thomas Hatch looking at what can and should change in education post-pandemic.

At the same time that we try to figure out how to reimagine post-pandemic schooling in the future, there are clear, concrete steps that can be taken right now to make educational opportunities more equitable. In particular, strategies are already available that can provide internet access for many students who remain disconnected. These strategies will not work everywhere yet, but, as the World Bank reports, in combination with strategies to reach students through television, radio, WhatsApp and other means, many more students can have access to online and remote educational opportunities than have had them ever before. But how long will it take? Will the energy and funding dry up before universal access is established?

Part 1 of this 2-part post shared articles that show that providing internet access to all is an enduring problem despite the evidence that many disconnected students and families could be connected using available approaches. Part 2 brings together here a few of the many articles that highlight some of the strategies that are already available to increase internet access in the US as well a few articles from India that illustrate what is possible in other parts of the world.

In the US

Several articles in the US this summer focus on the establishment of the Emergency Connectivity Fund – designed to reimburse schools and libraries for equipment and costs incurred to enable students, staff, and patrons who lack internet access to engage in remote learning.

“internet access has shifted from an amenity to a necessity. Nothing has illustrated that shift more clearly than the pandemic… But for the millions of students and families without internet access at home, adapting to the virtual classroom became extremely challenging, if not impossible.”

For Families Who Lack Reliable Internet Access, Help Is on the Way — $7B of It,

Acting FCC Chair Rosenworcel Unveils Proposed Rules for Emergency Connectivity Fund, FCC

What You Need to Know About the Emergency Connectivity Fund, THE Journal

The FCC’s $7 Billion Fund to Address the ‘Homework Gap’: 6 Key Issues to Watch, EdWeek Market Brief

Beyond funding, a number of articles over the past year have highlighted both overall strategies for increasing internet access and specific initiatives designed to connect students in urban as well as rural areas.

How to Expand Home Internet Connectivity for K-12 Students Over the Long Haul, Education Week

If you build it, they will learn: Why some schools are investing in cell towers, NBC News

Philadelphia widens free internet eligibility for families with children in school, Chalkbeat

Philadelphia expanding ‘PHLConnectED’ free student internet program, KYW Newsradio

Philadelphia School District Repairing Thousands Of Chromebooks For Free As Students Return To Classrooms Next Week, 3CBS

Connecticut Gives Every Student a Computer and Home Internet to Close the Digital Divide, EdSurge

Citing remote learning needs, Cuomo calls for $15-a-month internet cap for low-income NY families, Chalkbeat

Chicago helped 55,000 students get free internet. Much work remains, Chalkbeat

In Rural ‘Dead Zones’, School Comes on a Flash Drive, The New York Times

These Buses Bring School to Students, The New York Times

Sitting on the Roof at Night for Internet: Pandemic Learning in the Navajo Nation, EducationWeek

Lessons In Leadership: How a superintendent tapped SpaceX to help close homework gap, K-12 Dive

In India

Articles over the past year in India, highlight strategies that work to connect students to remote learning through the internet, television, radio, and other means.

“Remote learning during the pandemic has been painful, even for children with the best computers and broadband. Imagine trying to do it all on a cheap cellphone with a 2G connection”

Think Remote Learning Is Hard? Try Using a Phone in an Indian Village, Wall
Street Journal

Jharkhand to set up gadget bank to facilitate online classes for underprivileged kids, The New Indian Express

Learning Through Radio And Television In The Time Of COVID-19, India Education Diary

Karnataka to bridge online school learning gaps by installing TV sets at 5,766 gram panchayat libraries, The Indian Express

Now Odisha turns to radio for classes, The Hindu

Community radio-based blended learning model: A promising learning model in remote area during pandemic era, ScienceDirect

Telangana schools to have chatbot to assess students work, Times Now News

Bright spots in remote learning: lessons from India and Sierra Leone, Education Development Trust

Navigating Education in 2021: From Remote Learning to Blended Learning, Central Square Foundation