Tag Archives: Educational change

The Role of Research, Advocacy, and the Law in Educational Equity: A conversation with Preston Green

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 broadly and 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

Belsha, K. (2022, July 19). Feds urge schools to reexamine discipline of students with disabilities, calling it ‘an urgent need.’ Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.chalkbeat.org/2022/7/19/23270102/school-discipline-guidance-students-with-disabilities.

Carson v. Makin, 142 U.S. 1987 (2022).

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, 142 U.S. 2228 (2022).

Green, P., Baker, B., & Oluwole, J. (2021). School finance, race, and reparations. Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 27, 484-558.

Green, P., & Connery, C. (2022). Beware of educational blackmail: How can we apply lessons from environmental justice to urban charter school growth? South Carolina Law Review, 73, 643-74.

Kennedy v. Bremerton Sch. Dist., 142 S.Ct. 2407 (2022).

Legal Defense Fund. (2022). A revealing experiment: Brown v. Board and the “Doll Test.” Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.naacpldf.org/brown-vs-board/significance-doll-test/.

Lukes, D., and Cleveland, C. (l2021). The lingering legacy of redlining on school funding, diversity, and performance (Annenberg Institute EdWorkingPaper: 21-363).

Lupu, I. & Tuttle, R. (2022, July 26). Response, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District – A Sledgehammer to the bedrock of nonestablishment. George Washington Law Review On the Docket, https://gwlr.org/kennedy-v-bremerton-school-district-a-sledgehammer-to-the-bedrock-of-nonestablishment/.

Legal Information Institute. (2020). Precedent. Retrieved August 29, 2022 from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/precedent.

Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).

San Antonio Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973).

Sheff v. O’Neill, 678 A.2d 1267 (Conn. 1996).

U.S. Department of Education. (2021, June 16). U.S. Department of Education confirms Title IX
protects students from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Retrieved September 1, 2022 from https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-confirms-title-ix-protects-students-discrimination-based-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identity.

Going back to school in 2022 (Part 3): Scanning the headlines from around the world

In recognition of the UN-sponsored Transforming Education Summit, Part 3 of our roundup of back-to-school headlines draws together links to the stories we’re seeing in some of the major sources of education news outside the US. Part 1 revealed some of the back-school issues highlighted in US (Hope and trepidation:  Scanning the back-to-school headlines in the US) and Part 2 looked specifically at the impact on schools of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic 2 (“Over it” but enable to escape it: Going back to school with COVID in 2022). A future post will survey some of the many stories we are seeing about the discussions, questions and challenges of the “teacher shortage.”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

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

Afghanistan

For most teenage girls in Afghanistan, it’s been a year since they set foot in a classroom, AP

Bangladesh

Frequent blackouts, school and office hours cut: Is Bangladesh going way of Sri Lanka?, Firstpost

Seven classes a day during new school year in Bangladeshi high schools, bdnews24

“The government says it has changed the routines so that the students do not fall behind in lessons due to the two-day weekends”, bdnews24

France

French schools are back today: what changes for the year ahead?, The Connexion

Kenya 

Kenya postpones schools reopening a second time over vote tallying, The East African

India 

Parents in India choosing homeschooling for the new school year, The Indian Express

Italy

Italy reopens schools without masks, Wanted in Rome

Norway

At the same time that the students are going back to school, a major strike is simmering, Norway Posts English

Pakistan

Over 2 million students could give up education due to floods in Sindh, Pakistan, Pro Pakistani

No back-to-school for thousands of children as nearly 19,000 schools damaged, destroyed by floods in Pakistan, Save the Children

Philippines

Philippine kids back in school after 2 years lost to virus, AP News

Sri Lanka

Education Ministry in Sri Lanka announces change in conducting schools, Sri Lanka Internet Newspaper

Switzerland

Swiss apprenticeships bounce back after Covid-19 pandemic, Swissinfo

“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.”

Thailand

Thai schools, unis fully reopen after 5 months of lockdown, The Nation Thailand

Uganda

Teenagers in Uganda offer insight into their return to school after enduring the world’s longest COVID school closure, NPR

Ukraine

The race is on across Ukraine to build new bunkers. Not for soldiers on the front lines, but students in schools, CNN

“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

Pencil, chalk and first-aid kits: Ukrainian children return to school in the midst of war, New York Times

Traumatized and displaced but determined, kids in Ukraine head back to school, NPR

Ukrainian Refugees Head Back To School In Poland, Forbes

‘We are in this together’: the Ukrainians starting a new German school year, The Guardian

 “Ukrainian teachers vital for providing ‘welcome classes’ to 150,000 children who fled to Germany after Russian invasion”, The Guardian

Back to school for Ukranian Refugees, Expats means Fresh Start with Old Fears, The74

Yemen

Children in war-torn Yemen skip class to survive ‘misery’, France 24

Venezuela

““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

 Teachers in Venezuela march, threaten to strike over low pay, few resources, NBC News

“Over it” but unable to escape it: Going back to school with COVID in 2022

Part 2 of this year’s back-to-school scan pulls together some of the headlines that highlight issues related to the continuing impact of the  COVID-19. Part 1 revealed some of the issues, fears, and (a few) hopes expressed in some of the major sources of US education news over the past few weeks and Part 3 will provide a roundup of the back-to-school headlines we are seeing from around the world. We will also follow-up with a post surveying some of the many discussions and debates about the realities and challenges of the “teacher shortage”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

“Over it” but also unable to escape it seems to capture the sentiment of many of the back-to-school stories that address the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools. A series of articles from the74 in particular highlight that although many schools and educators are making decisions to end closures, remote options, and masking, there also appears to be a recognition that those decisions could lead to more surges requiring schools to respond again. Education Week also highlighted how, in the US, those decisions have been supported with new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and the White House to help schools deal with the “new abnormal.”

‘Over It’: Most Educators Say They Won’t Mask This Fall, Education Week

Many Remote Learning Options Shutting Down as School Reopens for Fall 2022, The74

“According to a new review by the Center on Reinventing Public Education, the “approaches of America’s 100 largest districts suggest that most are jettisoning remote learning entirely, or reverting back to programs that existed before the pandemic forced them to swiftly provide all families with some sort of online option.”

‘Treat This as You Would Any Illness’ — Schools Downgrading COVID Rules, The74

“As students return from summer vacation, school systems nationwide are scaling back COVID masking and quarantine requirements — in some cases, eliminating them altogether. Many are simply telling students to stay home if they have symptoms, much as they did before the pandemic.”

School Mask, Vaccine Mandates Are Mostly Gone. But What if the Virus Comes Back? , The74

Student Absences May Spike Due to Low Vaccination Rates, Weaker Immunity Education Week

Thousands without childhood vaccinations unable to return to school, EdSource

CDC’s Latest COVID Guidance for Schools Ends ‘Test-to-Stay,’ Quarantine Recommendations, Education Week

“The White House followed the CDC’s lead, de-emphasizing the importance of masking and quarantining and instead focusing on vaccinations, testing, and air quality as major prevention strategies.”Education Week

White House Outlines Key COVID-Prevention Strategies for This School Year, Education Week

FACT SHEET: BACK TO SCHOOL 2022: Giving Every School the Tools to Prevent COVID-⁠19 Spread and Stay Safely Open All Year Long, The White House

Back to School: 10 Steps Schools and Districts Can Take to Address New and Ongoing COVID-19 Challenges, Learning Policy Institute

“My biggest concern is that we’ve seen a ton of viral infections just over the summer,” says Magna Dias, MD, a Yale Medicine pediatrician. “So, when we get back to indoor settings with kids being together again, it could mean that we will see more infections happening—both with COVID-19 and with other viral infections.”Yale Medicine

Respiratory Viruses, Colds, Fever, COVID: This Year’s Back-to-School Guide for Parents, Yale Medicine

Hope and trepidation:  Scanning the back-to-school headlines in the US

This year’s scan of the back-to-school headlines begins with a focus on the issues, fears, and (a few) hopes expressed in some of the major sources of US education news over the past few weeks. A future post will look specifically at how schools will be dealing with the continuing COVID-19 pandemic; one will provide a roundup of back-to-school headlines we are seeing from around the world; and one will survey the many discussions and debates about the realities and challenges of the “teacher shortage”  For back-to school headlines from fall 2021 see Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 1): Pandemic Effects in the US; Going Back to School Has Never Been Quite Like This (Part 2): Quarantines, Shortages, Wildfires & Hurricanes; For fall 2020 see What does it look like to go back to school? It’s different all around the world…; for 2019 see Headlines Around the World: Back to School 2019 Edition.

“It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better,” Lydia McNeiley, a college and career coordinator from Hammond Indiana, summed up the sentiments reflected in many US back-to-school stories this year. Quoted in an Education Week story on “Student Wellness Issues for Schools to Watch This Year”, McNeiley captured the mixed feelings expressed in many of the headlines.

“It’s not going to be pretty, but it’s going to be better,” Lydia McNeiley quoted in Education Week

Despite occasional optimism, for the most part, the talk of “re-imagining” schools has been replaced with stories about the realities of dealing with concerns about missing students, money, socio-emotional development, health, safety, and, particularly with the recent release of the latest results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, learning.

Reports of some positive changes and offerings of hopeful advice are also pprinkled among the headlines For his part, US Education Secretary Cardona noted the importance of addressing issues like how to provide more support for teachers, but he also looks forward to a “return to normal:” “I’m really thrilled that students are feeling that back-to-school excitement the way it was before. It’s not back to school with a caveat.” (U.S. Secretary Cardona: how to fix teachers shortages, create safer schools, EdWeek).

Back-to-school headlines from around the US:

Bracing for the worst, hoping for the best: A country holds its breath as children return to school, U.S. News

As a new year starts, schools prepare for fewer masks, more learning and joy, NPR

Hope, relief and lessons learned: Teachers anticipate a smoother school year , EdSource

COVID-19 ‘shocked’ education with steepest declines in half-century, K-12 Dive

The pandemic erased two decades of progress in reading and math scores, New York Times

Some Students Are Routinely Denied Challenging Work. The Pandemic Made That Worse, Education Week

Cities face crisis as fewer kids enroll and schools shrink, AP 

School is back in session in LA. Where are the students?, NPR

Public School Enrollment Continues to Stagnate, Education Week

49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools in fall 2021…well below the 50.8 million students who were in public pre-K-12 before the pandemic began. Where are the other 1.3 million kids?” – Education Week

Fearing ‘Fiscal Cliff,’ District Leaders Reluctant to Hire Full-Time Teachers, The74 

As pandemic aid runs out, America is set to return to a broken school funding system, Chalkbeat

Inflation weighs on back-to-school buying for many families, AP

Edtech Funding Falls Sharply in 2022Crunchbase

As Free School Meals End, School Nutrition Directors Brace for Challenges, Education Week

As students go back to school, many face a school lunch bill for the first time in two years, NPR

Inflation means teachers who buy their own supplies have to spend more or ask for help, Marketplace

For the first time in 20 years, teachers can deduct more for school supplies, NPR

Teachers Take to Twitter to Crowdfund Classroom Supplies, Education Week

Youth mental health is in crisis. Are schools doing enough?, AP

Kids are back in the classroom, and laptops are still spying on them, Wired

5 Big Technology Challenges Teachers and Administrators Will Face This School Year, Education Week

Eighty-three percent of school district technology leaders report that they will expand their cybersecurity initiatives, with a majority (62 percent) also increasing their cybersecurity budgets…By contrast: in 2020, only 31 percent said they were increasing their cybersecurity budgets. Education Week

‘Heat day’ school closures on the rise because the climate crisis is already here, Daily Kos

First day of school? Nationwide heat waves say ‘not so fast’, District Administration

Another year, another reason to cancel classes: soaring school heat worsened by faulty or non-existent air-conditioning. School closures due to heat are not new but they have been increasing significantly, with numbers doubling in cities such as Baltimore, Cleveland, Denver and Philadelphia”, District Administration and Daily Kos.

Stress, Harassment, Censorship: What Educators Face as Politics Roils Schools, Education Week

“Sixty-one percent of principals and 37 percent of teachers surveyed by the RAND Corporation reported experiencing harassment about these politicized topics, which contributed to burnout, frequent job-related stress, and symptoms of depression…. And there are signs this contention has led to a chilling effect: 1 in 4 teachers have been told to stay away from conversations about political and social issues in class. Seventeen states have imposed bans and restrictions on how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, either through legislation or other avenues” Education Week

Back to school in DeSantis’ Florida, where teachers are looking over their shoulders, New York Times

How the Overturning of ‘Roe v. Wade’ Will Reverberate Through Classrooms, Education Week

For some students, back to school will mean better-ventilated classrooms, NBC news 

Let the kids sleep: California becomes first state to mandate later school starts, Today

The Best Advice for New Teachers, in 5 Words or Less: 2022 Edition, Education Week

5 Strategies for a Successful Start to the School Year, Getting Smart

– Thomas Hatch

Revisiting Innovative Educational Change in Africa, the US and India

IEN will be taking a break until the end of August, but in the meantime, please revisit some of our posts highlighting specific improvements that organizations like Fount for Nations, Van Ness Elementary School and Transcend, and the Central Square Foundation are making in schools and learning opportunities around the world. IEN returns in September with our annual scan of “back to school” headlines in the US and other parts of the world.

Is Schooling Around the World the Same? Classroom photos from France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Sweden and India

Do schools around the world show the same basic patterns of organization and instruction found in US schools and classrooms over the past 100 years? Larry Cuban explored this question in a series of speculative blog posts over the past few months. Cuban acknowledged the limitations of his unsystematic review of classroom photos he found on the internet, but Cuban’s reflections also serve as another opportunity to continue conversations about what has and hasn’t changed in schooling over time and across contexts. To that end, in this week’s post, Thomas Hatch pulls together some of Cuban’s observations and photos.

To what extent does the prevailing organization of the age-graded school and dominant teacher-centered way of instruction found in many U.S. public schools characterize schools and classrooms in other countries? Larry Cuban asked this question in a series of seven blog posts that began with Schooling in the U.S. and around the World (Part 1). He posed this question as one means of challenging his own observation of these patterns in the US, wondering, “perhaps I am incorrect because there are other ways to organize classrooms and teach elsewhere in the world of which I am ignorant. This latter possibility of my being unaware of other patterns in organizing schools and teaching approaches in other nations is one I want to explore. I may be incorrect in claiming these historic patterns of schooling and teaching in the U.S. are present in other nations.”

Subsequent posts then went on to describe the basic organization of education in France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Sweden, and India and a non-representative scan of online pictures of classrooms in each system. Cuban also shared responses from readers who had experience in schools in Russia, Japan, and France (Chemistry Lesson in Russian Secondary School (Mary Sue Burns); Japanese Classrooms: From Chaos to Complete Control (Mary DeVries); Teaching in a French School (Renee Z. Wang)

Cuban’s posts show photos with common images of students sitting in rows facing the front of a classroom:

Clockwise from top left: Sweden; Uttar Pradesh, India; Preschool in Japan (AP Photo/Yuri Kageyama); 1st grade in Russia; secondary school classroom in Germany; Second grade classroom in France

Some of those posts also show photos that feature both the same classroom organization that dominated US classrooms throughout the 20th Century and the display or use of new technologies invented at the beginning of the 21st Century:

Schoolchildren listen to a teacher showing how to use “GraphoLearn”, an application on a digital tablet, to learn to read, in a primary school in Marseille, France & classroom use of technology used in a pilot project in India

Along with the pictures of students in sitting in rows around the world, an occasional picture shows students and teachers seated in a circle:

Sweden; India; Japan; Germany (Gordon Welters for The New York Times)

While acknowledging the short-comings of his approach and inviting readers to challenge his generalizations, Cuban concluded “…similarities are obvious:

  • Every nation compels parents to send their sons and daughters to school up to a decade or more.
  • Every one pays the costs for schooling either directly or indirectly.
  • Every one is age-graded.
  • Every one publishes national (or state) curriculum standards for each elementary and secondary school subject.
  • Every one tests student performance in elementary and secondary school subjects.
  • Every one has at least one teacher for each classroom.

Some are national (or federal) systems and some are state-operated with the federal government and states splitting funding and supervisory responsibilities. All of these nations and their states set curriculum standards for each subject and administer tests to determine if schools and students are meeting those standards.

Some nations have centralized systems (e.g., France, Russia, Italy, Japan) where ministry officials make decisions for schools and some are decentralized (e.g., Canada, U.S. Norway) with states and local districts having a moderate degree of discretion to alter what national authorities require. Whether centralized or decentralized, individual schools in every nation have some autonomy in adapting national or state curriculum when organizing for instruction. Need I add that once they close their classroom doors, teachers also exercise discretion in teaching the lesson they planned for the students in front of them that day.

What needs to be stressed that these commonalities among nations in establishing and operating systems of schooling over the past century exist side-by-side with inevitable within-nation variations between rural and urban and wealthy and poor schools that exist. Both commonalities and variations influence the schooling and teaching that occurs daily.”

For Cuban’s full posts see:

Schooling in the U.S. and around the World (Part 1)

Schooling around the World (Part 2)

Schooling around the World (Part 3)

Schooling around the World (Part 4)

Schooling around the World (Part 5)

Schooling around the World (Part 6)

Schooling around the World (Part 7)

Chemistry Lesson in Russian Secondary School (Mary Sue Burns)

Japanese Classrooms: From Chaos to Complete Control (Mary DeVries)

Teaching in a French School (Renee Z. Wang)

Educational Change Through a Multifocal Lens: The Lead the Change Interview with Elise Castillo

In this month’s Lead the Change Interview, Elise Castillo reflects on the possibilities and limitations of efforts to study, learn about and support educational change. Castillo, a former English teacher, is currently an Assistant Professor of Educational Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. Her work critically examines school choice and integration policies and their potential role in advancing racially equitable and democratic public education. 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 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 anti-racist, 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? 

Elise Castillo: I believe that one of the most important responsibilities we have as educational change scholars is to continuously examine the strengths and limitations of our conceptual frameworks, methodological approaches, and positionalities as researchers. What do our frameworks, methods, and positionalities enable us to see, and what may they obscure? How might critically examining these aspects of our research help to more strongly orient our work around equity?

During my graduate training, I read two articles that deeply impacted my thinking: Michelle Young’s 1999 article, “Multifocal Educational Policy Research: Toward a Method for Enhancing Traditional Educational Policy Studies,” and David Tyack’s 1976 article, “Ways of Seeing: An Essay on the History of Compulsory Schooling.” In their articles, Young and Tyack each examine a topic using multiple theoretical frameworks. Young investigates a school’s parent involvement policies through traditional and critical frameworks and methods, and Tyack examines the history of compulsory schooling through the lenses of political, organizational, and economic frameworks. Each of them highlights how different methodological and conceptual tools shape what we see and how we make sense of it. Young, in particular, argues that a multifocal approach, or combining multiple conceptual frames, can broaden our view and help us to see what only one framework may obscure.

As a researcher, I refer often to each of these pieces in considering the strengths and limitations of my methodological and conceptual approaches. In particular, I try to be intentional about designing projects using approaches that enable me to see how policies can advance, but also undermine, equity, particularly for communities of color and other historically underserved communities.

In my recent work, that has meant employing Critical Policy Analysis (Diem & Young, 2015), Critical Race Theory (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995), and theoretical and empirical literature from the politics of education (e.g., Ball, 2008; Lipman, 2011; Scott, 2011). These methodological tools enable me to examine the roles of race, politics, and power in shaping school choice and desegregation policy. And, as a qualitative researcher who often conducts interview-based research, I am continuously learning how best to engage with participants with empathy and integrity. One recent piece that has helped me think through these issues is Julissa Ventura and Stefanie Wong’s 2020 article, “Stepping Up and Stepping Back as Scholars of Color: Taking Care of Students and Ourselves in Troubling Times.” Here, Ventura and Wong discuss how they navigated their relationships with research participants, many of whom were from marginalized communities, around the time of the 2016 election, while also caring for their own well-being. I also love reading methodological appendices to books, and methods sections in papers, to learn about how other scholars, particularly women and scholars of color, navigate positionality and power.

LtC: Your recent work examines how progressive school choice efforts do and do not maintain their democratic and justice-oriented objectives in the larger neoliberal policy context. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

EC: One lesson I learned from my research is how important it is to situate policies and school reform efforts within their broader political and ideological contexts. Across my work, I specifically attend to the underlying context of market ideology, which privileges, among other things, individual advancement through competitive mechanisms, and has shaped education policy since at least the 1980s (Scott & Quinn, 2014).

For example, in studying New York City charter schools with racial and social justice missions, I found that even the most committed and mission-driven school leaders and educators, at times, compromise their equity and justice orientations to ensure their own organizational advancement and survival in a competitive market-based educational context (Castillo, 2020). Similarly, my research on school integration advocacy in New York City during Covid-19 with my collaborators Mira Debs and Molly Vollman Makris illustrates the challenge of advancing school integration within a political and policy context that has long privileged individualism and meritocracy. We found that, even amid the Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide racial justice demonstrations, which together prompted many public discussions about preserving the common good, ultimately, many stakeholders continue to view public schools as a mechanism for facilitating the private good, namely, individual advancement and mobility (Castillo et al., 2021; Labaree, 1997).

Finally, my work on middle-class, mostly second-generation Asian American families whose children attend magnet schools in metropolitan Hartford—schools that were created as a mechanism to advance desegregation—illustrates that most parents chose magnet schools not because they supported the political goal of desegregation, but rather, because they believed that diverse magnet schools would individually benefit their children, academically and socially (Castillo, 2022). In each of these examples, I see that efforts to advance racial equity, democracy, justice, and the public good are challenged by the ideology of the market, specifically its emphasis on individual advancement through competition.

“Many stakeholders continue to view public schools as a mechanism for facilitating the private good.”

LtC: In your study investigating desegregation in Hartford, Connecticut, you highlight the concerning invisibility of Asian American experiences and motivations in school choice conversations. How might your findings help scholars and practitioners think about and implement desegregation efforts in Hartford and beyond?

EC: The research on school choice, desegregation, and the intersection of the two issues, with some exceptions, often reinforces a binary between “students of color” and “white students,” and either makes no mention of Asian Americans, or, ambiguously groups them alongside white students. This pattern reflects the longstanding invisibility of Asian Americans broadly in education and social science research (Ocampo, 2018; Tseng, 2021). Additionally, the enduring model minority narrative, which positions Asian Americans as having overcome racism through hard work, implies that researchers and policymakers need not attend to the diverse experiences of Asian American students (Wu, 2015). I, too, have not explicitly attended to Asian American experiences in my own research until recently. Students, families, and other stakeholders who share my own racial and ethnic identity remained invisible as a topic worthy of inquiry to me as a researcher until late in my dissertation research, when, while observing a board meeting of a “diverse-by-design” charter school, I heard the principal casually remark on the challenge of recruiting Asian American students. This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me as a school choice researcher: What schools were diverse Asian American students choosing, how and why were they making such choices, and what can their choices tell us about the possibilities for, and limitations to, advancing integration through school choice? And why haven’t school choice researchers explored these questions?

Upon completing my PhD in 2018, I have oriented my research agenda toward addressing these, and related, questions, in the contexts of metropolitan Hartford, Connecticut, and New York City. My research builds on the work of Stacey Lee (2006, 2009), OiYan Poon et al. (2019), and others, in highlighting the heterogeneity of Asian American identities and experiences with schools. Broadly, I find that Asian American students have varying levels of privilege in the school choice process, with important implications for school choice as a tool for facilitating desegregation (Castillo, 2022; Castillo & Debs, 2022).

“Efforts to advance racial equity, democracy, justice, and the public good are challenged by the ideology of the market.”

For example, some Asian American students are English learners; some are undocumented or from mixed-status families; and many hail from poor or working-class families. Given their limited resources and English fluency, some such families face barriers to navigating the array of school choice options, including selective public schools that “screen” students based on test scores and other factors. Interestingly, other such families invest their limited resources in test preparation to selective public schools, due to a perception that their children’s admission to such schools promises to lift their family out of poverty. We find that this perception partly explains the overrepresentation of Asian American students in New York City’s selective, or “specialized,” high schools (Castillo & Debs, 2022).

At the same time, numerous other Asian American students are from affluent families, speak English fluently, have parents who speak English fluently, and are U.S. citizens. These students and families often have more access to the information networks and resources needed to navigate the complex school choice process—including the resources necessary to move to suburban neighborhoods where the public schools are more highly resourced, as well as disproportionately white and affluent (Castillo, 2022).

As these examples illustrate, the heterogeneity of Asian American identities and experiences with school choice complicates the question of how Asian American students may benefit from, or are harmed by, an increasingly segregated school system. Better understanding the diversity of Asian American identities and schooling experiences is important for education researchers and policymakers, for two key reasons. First, as the 2020 Census results demonstrate, Asian Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group in the U.S. (Budiman & Ruiz, 2021). Thus, they will likely form a growing share of the public school population and profoundly shape the racial politics of school choice and desegregation policies in complex ways, raising new questions about how such policies may benefit or harm different segments of the diverse Asian American community. Second, the rise of anti-Asian violence and hate highlights the urgent need for us all to disrupt the longstanding invisibility of Asian Americans, pay attention to how diverse Asian Americans experience racism, and attend to the role schools can play in reinforcing or remedying such patterns.

“The rise of anti-Asian violence and hate highlights the urgent need for us all to disrupt the longstanding invisibility of Asian Americans.”

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?    

EC: At Trinity College, I teach undergraduate classes on education policy and school reform, with a focus on issues of racial and socioeconomic inequity in urban contexts. This can sometimes be challenging because the majority of students at Trinity whom I teach did not personally attend urban public schools, and in fact, many attended private or suburban public schools in majority-white and affluent communities. Nevertheless, particularly among students whom I have had the good fortune of teaching over multiple semesters, I am proud to say that I have seen a deep transformation in their thinking. I believe that one of the most important things that has supported my students’ transformation was the opportunity to build relationships with public school students, educators, and other educational stakeholders in Hartford.

Whereas Trinity is a predominantly white and privileged campus, Hartford, its urban locale, is home to communities that are predominantly poor, working-class, and of color. Like many urban colleges, Trinity has long had a complicated relationship with the city of Hartford and its residents (Baldwin, 2021). To address this ongoing issue, over the years, Trinity students and faculty, alongside Hartford community members, have worked to foster meaningful and mutually beneficial connections between the campus and the surrounding community. Inspired by my colleagues who have long been doing this work, I have endeavored to incorporate community-engaged learning components in my Educational Studies courses, where my students have the opportunity to learn from and with Hartford students and educators.

Although reading about and discussing issues of educational inequity and change are often productive experiences, these issues become much more tangible and urgent for my students when they can observe them playing out in the lives of our Hartford neighbors. Moreover, I believe that the process of building relationships with students and educators in Hartford is key to pushing my students to question the many deficit narratives that prevail about urban public schools and, in turn, develop greater empathy and understanding.

Therefore, across several of my classes, I incorporate small research projects and other assignments wherein students engage with students or educators in the community. I also endeavor to design such projects so that they are mutually beneficial for our community partners, such as by sharing the findings from students’ research projects and inviting their feedback. I have to shout-out my colleagues in Trinity’s Educational Studies Program and the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research for initiating and sustaining our partnerships with local public schools and other community stakeholders, and, in turn, making such relationship-building opportunities possible for our students.

“Educational change does not happen when our work lives only within academic spaces.”

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

EC: It is often easy to feel that the future looks bleak. These are incredibly tough times for teachers, students, and others who care about educational equity. State legislatures are imposing restrictions on teaching about race, gender identity, and sexuality; undermining the safety and well-being of gender-expansive students; and doing little to protect students and educators—especially the most vulnerable—from the persistence of Covid-19. 

Yet, in the face of these challenges, I am inspired by those who refuse to lose sight of the possibility for change. For example, in early May 2022, following many years of advocacy among students, educators, and other stakeholders, my current home state of Connecticut passed legislation requiring the incorporation of Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies in its state K–12 curriculum framework beginning in 2025–2026. This bill follows the passage of a similar bill requiring that public high schools in Connecticut offer courses in Black and Latinx Studies, which will be implemented beginning in Fall 2022. I believe that these bills signal growing recognition that a white-centric curriculum teaches an incomplete story, and that all students benefit from a curriculum that more strongly centers the experiences of people of color.

I am also excited about the many ways that Educational Change researchers are engaging and collaborating with those beyond the academy. I am inspired by scholars who are working alongside practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders to imagine what a more equitable and just school system looks like, and to enact such visions. For example, I am excited by the expansion of research-practice partnerships among university-based education researchers and public schools and districts. In addition, I see a growing effort among scholars to translate research findings to the broader public in an accessible and engaging manner. For instance, I am a member of the Connecticut chapter of the Scholars Strategy Network, which has recently partnered with a local news publication, The Connecticut Mirror, to feature op-ed essays authored by scholars on state-level policy issues. I know that AERA’s Division L and others have engaged in similar initiatives to train scholars in effective op-ed writing. Educational change does not happen when our work lives only within academic spaces, and I am excited about the growing numbers of ways scholars are sharing their work with stakeholders and partnering with communities to advance meaningful change.

References

Baldwin, D. L. (2021). In the shadow of the ivory tower: How universities are plundering our cities. Bold Type Books.

Ball, S. J. (2008). New philanthropy, new networks and new governance in education. Political Studies, 56(4), 747–765. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2008.00722.x

Budiman, A., & Ruiz, N. G. (2021, April 29). Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/04/29/key-facts-about-asian-americans/

Castillo, E. (2020). A neoliberal grammar of schooling? How a progressive charter school moved toward market values. American Journal of Education, 126(4), 519–547. https://doi.org/10.1086/709513

Castillo, E. (2022). ‘More of the diversity aspect and less of the desegregation aspect’: Asian Americans and desegregation in metropolitan Hartford. Race Ethnicity and Education, 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2022.2033196

Castillo, E., & Debs, M. (2022, April). Remedying invisibility: Asian American perspectives on school integration policy and advocacy in NYC. Paper accepted to Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA.

Castillo, E., Makris, M. V., & Debs, M. (2021). Integration versus meritocracy? Competing educational goals during the COVID-19 pandemic. AERA Open, 7, 233285842110657. https://doi.org/10.1177/23328584211065716

Diem, S., & Young, M. D. (2015). Considering critical turns in research on educational leadership and policy. International Journal of Educational Management, 29(7), 838–850. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEM-05-2015-0060

Labaree, D. F. (1997). Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals. American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 39–81. https://doi.org/10.2307/1163342

Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. F. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record, 97(1), 47–68. http://www.unco.edu/cebs/diversity/pdfs/towardacrteduca.pdf

Lee, S. J. (2006). Additional complexities: Social class, ethnicity, generation, and gender in Asian American student experiences. Race Ethnicity and Education, 9(1), 17–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613320500490630Lee, S. J. (2009). Unraveling the “model minority” stereotype: Listening to Asian American youth (2nd ed.). Teachers College Press.

Lipman, P. (2011). The new political economy of urban education: Neoliberalism, race, and the right to the city. Routledge.

Ocampo, A. C. (2018). Stop forgetting Asian Americans. Contexts, 17(4), 76–76. https://doi.org/10.1177/1536504218812877

Poon, O. A., Segoshi, M. S., Tang, L., Surla, K. L., Nguyen, C., & Squire, D. D. (2019). Asian Americans, affirmative action, and the political economy of racism: A multidimensional model of raceclass frames. Harvard Educational Review, 89(2), 201–226. https://doi.org/10.17763/1943-5045-89.2.201

Scott, J. (2011). Market-driven education reform and the racial politics of advocacy. Peabody Journal of Education, 86(5), 580–599. https://doi.org/10.1080/0161956X.2011.616445

Scott, J., & Quinn, R. (2014). The politics of education in the post-Brown era: Race, markets, and the struggle for equitable schooling. Educational Administration Quarterly, 50(5), 749–763. http://eaq.sagepub.com/content/50/5/749.short

Tseng, V. (2021, March 31). Meeting this moment (part II): Unpacking anti-Asian racism. William T. Grant Foundation. http://wtgrantfoundation.org/meeting-this-moment-part-ii-unpacking-anti-asian-racism

Tyack, D. (1976). Ways of seeing: An essay on the history of compulsory schooling. Harvard Educational Review, 46(3), 355–389. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.46.3.v73405527200106v

Ventura, J., & Wong, J.-H. S. (2020). Stepping up and stepping back as scholars of color: Taking care of students and ourselves in troubling times. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 33(2), 174–182. https://doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2019.1681541

Wu, E. D. (2015). The color of success: Asian Americans and the origins of the model minority. Princeton University Press.Young, M. D. (1999). Multifocal educational policy research: Toward a method for enhancing traditional educational policy studies. American Educational Research Journal, 36(4), 677–714. https://doi.org/10.3102/00028312036004677

Is anything changing in schools post-pandemic? Scanning the news from around the world

What will change in schools and education post-pandemic?” Correne Reyes takes up this question in the 2nd part of a two-part post scanning news reports describing the proposals for “reimagining” education and chronicling what’s actually changing in a variety of countries. Part 1, “Is anything changing in US schools post-pandemic? Possibilities for rethinking time, place and supports for well-being,” focused on some of the key trends in policy and practice in the US. Reyes also highlighted some of the changes in education policy and practice in an earlier post: What’s Changing Post-COVID in Finland, New Zealand, and South Africa?

Hope remains that, despite the tragic losses and disruptions of the pandemic there may be an opportunity to reimagine critical aspects of schooling. Correspondingly, over the past year, a variety of news and research outlets have shared a wide variety of hopes and proposals for change. At the same time, some long-time observers, like Larry Cuban, argue that the proposals and visions for change may not find their way into practice. As he put it, “I don’t see COVID producing a lot of reforms. If anything, it produces this huge public and professional need to resume schooling as it was. I think basically schooling has much more stability than change in it. And that’s the historian’s point of view.” Cuban continues, “I think COVID has reminded us that all parents want is a return to face-to-face teaching and to let the teachers teach the lessons that they had before school closures. Let them do what they do best.”  To continue the exploration of the proposals and possibilities for changing schools post-pandemic, we highlight some of the related news stories we’ve come across from around the world, many of which echo trends in the US, including concerns about enrollment, “learning loss,” and well-being among students and teachers, and possibilities for digital/remote learning.

“I don’t see COVID producing a lot of reforms. If anything, it produces this huge public and professional need to resume schooling as it was.”

Larry Cuban, How Will COVID-19 Impact School Reform Movements?

Argentina

Educational catastrophe: the pandemic generated a critical dropout rate in Argentina, La Nacion

Australia

GoKid partners to address school transportation crisis, Benzinga

SA schools drop non-essential activities as teachers face ‘exhaustion’ through COVID shortages, ABC News

Bangladesh 

Combatting the impact of COVID-19 school closures in Bangladesh, World Bank Blogs 

Bangladesh is making a serious attempt to improve its schools, The Economist

Brazil

Brazil: 40.8% of children are illiterate, according to research, The Rio Times

China

China Aims to Upgrade the Country’s Overall Digital Competitiveness via Education, OpenGov

China’s education reform is resulting in overworked teachers, SupChina

Colombia

Young Latin Americans see career dreams crushed in COVID’s wake, Reuters

Ecuador

Recovering lost learning in Ecuador after two years of the pandemic, UNICEF

A safe return to in-person classes in rural Ecuador, United Nations Sustainable Development Group

France

Strike in National Education: “We carry the school at arm’s length and the arms will let go”, Libération

Hong Kong

Lessons in caution at reopening of Hong Kong’s schools, South China Morning Post

India 

Changes in education system after Covid-19 pandemic, The Times of India 

How The Pandemic Changed The Face Of Education In India, Babaji Vidhyashram

Netherlands

The Dutch are still happy but slightly less so, and young adults are hardest hit, DutchNews

New Zealand

What’s in the new New Zealand history curriculum, The Spin Off

Lack of ‘basic’ skills in new entrants concerns teachers, stuff

Paris

Parental Burnout Is Real — And Taking Leave Is Not An Option, Worldcrunch

Peru

Covid-19: Peruvian students have a hard time returning to school after two-year hiatus, Le Monde

Philippines

5 ways the Philippines can prepare its schools for health crises in 2022, Rappler

Spain

Teachers before the return to school: doubts about the new protocol and fear of an avalanche of casualties, El País

South Africa

Schools show shortfalls amid Covid-19 pandemic, Mail & Guardian

A teacher retirement wave is about to hit SA: what it means for class size, Sunday Times

3 big changes coming to schools in South Africa, BusinessTech

Uganda

Schools reopen in Uganda after nearly-two-year COVID closure, Aljazeera

Is anything changing in US schools post-pandemic? Possibilities for rethinking time, place and supports for well-being

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, numerous proposals to “reimagine education” have been made.  At IEN, we have been tracking both the news about those proposals for changing education and the discussions of what has (and has not) been changing in schools post-pandemic (see for example “What can change in schools after the pandemic?”). This week, Correne Reyes shares our latest scan of that news in the US and finds some media reports highlighting flexibility around “seat time;” increased attention to teacher wellbeing, and discussions of the ways online learning may serve as a substitute for classroom-based learning. A second scan will focus on educational changes reported in other parts of the world.

Rethinking Time in Schools?

The switch to remote learning in so many schools and districts prompted numerous proposals to rethink “seat time” – the conventional requirements for awarding credit based on the number of hours and days spent in classrooms. As Jonathan Alfuth put it , “While we agree that states must return to policies that ensure districts maximize the amount of time students spend on high-quality learning experiences, we also believe states must seize this unique moment to rethink the way in which they define instruction and credential learning.” These proposals argue for broadening definitions of what counts as “hours” of instruction, where instruction can take place, and how it can be measure (e.g. “How states are rethinking instructional time and attendance policies in the covid-19 era”; “Unlocking innovation in schools: Policies that create space for schools to better support their students”). Some states have begun reshaping their policies to adjust the barriers of seat time. For example, Minnesota proposed legislation that emphasizes personalized, competency-based education, which focuses on “outcomes—mapping to the pace of students’ mastery of knowledge and skills—instead of moving lockstep through time-based lessons and grades.” Arizona established an Instructional Time Model allowing school districts to adopt their own instructional hour requirements for attendance. Meanwhile, Washington created the mastery-based (or competency-based) credit as an option for high school students to earn credit for demonstration of learning on assessments that are tied to state learning standards.

Along those same lines, discussions of how time is used and organized have led some schools to add minutes and days to the school year but often without more substantial rethinking of the school calendar itself (see “Why schools see extra time as the solution to making up for lost instruction” and “Longer school days and years remain rare as schools fight learning loss with optional time” “Schools that switched to a four-day week saw learning reductions. what does that mean for the pandemic’s lost instructional time?”).

Going Beyond Classroom-based Learning?

Although the move to remote learning caused considerable distress for many students and families, it simultaneously allowed them to experience a variety of options for both digital schooling and other schooling arrangements such as pods and homeschooling. Moving forward, there are some signs that there may be a new desire to expand or at least preserve these options and arrangements moving forward. A 2021 Education Next poll, for example, reported that 48% of parents said elementary students should have remote learning options; 64% said the same for high school students. In addition, According to the Aurora Institute, nearly 3 in 5 families and 3 in 4 instructors preferred their “pod” over their child’s pre-pandemic schools (e.g. “Is there a future in the “learning pod” education model?”;Crisis Breeds Innovation: Pandemic Pods and the Future of Education”; “For Learning Pod Teachers, a Pandemic Paradigm Shift: Why So Many Now Say They Don’t Want to Return to Traditional Classrooms”).

At the same time, despite the calls to maintain some remote learning options, a report from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (Virtual Learning, Now and Beyond) concludes that recent research on the relationship between learning mode and student achievement during COVID indicates that the shift to online education had negative effects on learning outcomes.  That report argues that “we have failed to build intentional on-ramps to virtual education” and “we remain unprepared to implement online learning when the need arises.” Another CRPE report (Crisis Breeds Innovation: Pandemic Pods and the Future of Education) noted that learning pods changed how some families viewed their children’s education, but points out most families sent their children back to their prior schools as a result of the costs of podding and the challenges of operating off-grid.

Building support for Teacher & Student Well-Being?

Teachers have always served a pivotal role in responding to students’ wellbeing, but the pandemic is contributing to low morale and high burnout, and, as one study described it, “a critical need to allocate more attention and resources to support teacher psychological health by strengthening emotional support, autonomy, and teaching efficacy” “Elementary School Teacher Well-Being and Supportive Measures Amid COVID-19: An Exploratory Study”).

Don’t Forget the Adults: How Schools and Districts Can Support Educator Mental Health, EducationWeek

As a consequence, educators are requesting more training and resources to support their own as well as their students’ mental health.  These concerns have fueled a variety of proposals for prioritizing well-being in schools moving forward (“The Mental Health Crisis Causing Teachers to Quit”; “How Schools Can Build a Culture of Support for Educator Mental Health“; With Teacher Morale in the Tank, What’s the Right Formula to Turn It Around?). Ronn Nozoe, the chief executive officer of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, has also advocated for districts and schools to use some of their federal COVID-19 relief funds to set up targeted support programs for school leaders’ mental health. However, the huge demand for mental health care professionals nationally has created a challenge for school districts. “It’s not for lack of want, it’s not for lack of ideas,” Nozoe continues. “It’s really a lack of available professionals who are willing and qualified to provide these kinds of services to help kids and families and ultimately educators.”

“It’s not for lack of want, it’s not for lack of ideas…It’s really a lack of available professionals who are willing and qualified to provide these kinds of services to help kids and families and ultimately educators.” Ronn Nozoe

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.

References
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.