Tag Archives: Educational Leadership

Collaboration, Coherence and Learning in Educational Improvement: A Conversation with Elizabeth Leisy Stosich

In this month’s Lead the Change Interview, Elizabeth Leisy Stosich talks about her work focusing on understanding how district, school, and teacher leaders can work together to strengthen the quality and equity of students’ learning opportunities and outcomes. Stosich is Assistant Professor and Associate Chair of the Division of Educational Leadership, Administration, and Policy at Fordham University. 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 (Ltc): The 2023 AERA theme is Interrogating Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth and charges researchers and practitioners with creating and using education research to disrupt institutionalized forms of discrimination. The call urges scholars to challenge traditional methods of inquiry in order to create increasingly useful, responsive, and equity-oriented research that can be used by schools to develop informed policies and practices to better support students. What specific responsibility do educational change scholars have in this space? What steps are you taking to heed this call?

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich (ELS): I appreciate how AERA’s theme this year urges us as scholars to take responsibility for critically considering not simply what we research but how we approach our research and the consequences of these decisions. As educational scholars, we are (hopefully) deeply invested in understanding and supporting meaningful improvements in schools and systems. Yet, as educators and scholars, one challenge we face is that we each bring our own biases to understanding problems in education and, correspondingly, the change that is needed. These biases can lead us to define problems and identify solutions in particular ways, ways that may not reflect the actual problem as experienced by those closest it. For example, as a scholar focused primarily on instructional improvement, I can be quick to identify problems as student learning challenges that require new professional learning for teachers and school leaders. When you’re a hammer, every problem requires a nail. For me and many of the educational leaders I work with, we can be quick to see each problem as simply requiring new or different teacher PD. We can also be slow to give up on ideas that we’ve deeply invested in even when they either are a poor fit for the problem or we see little evidence of authentic improvement.

As educational change scholars, I think a central aspect of centering equity and pursuing truth is to engage as partners with the stakeholders closest to the “change.” In improvement science this is often described as being “user” centered. When we partner with practitioners, we need to take time to carefully understand and define the problems we seek to address with our change efforts. These initial decisions have important implications for the change work we take up. I think we are much more likely to be successful in supporting meaningful change when we engage in shared problem diagnosis and solution identification as partners with educators and the students and communities they serve. Through this collaborative process, we can bring more diverse perspectives to defining the problems we center in our change efforts.

Ltc: In your work, you examine relationships between school leaders on decision-making teams and during policy implementation. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?  

ELS: In my own research (Stosich, 2020, 2021) as well as a number of large survey studies one thing stands out: principals think they are involving teachers in decision-making and teachers do not agree. Looking closely at decision-making in instructional leadership teams (ILTs), I found one explanation for this gap; principals typically involve teachers in decision-making only superficially. For example, principals may ask teachers to decide whether or not to move forward with a proposed initiative (e.g., Should we do lesson study?) rather than engaging them more fully as partners in problem diagnosis and solution identification (e.g., How could we work together to strengthen our instruction?).

This is a big problem for two reasons. First, truly engaging teachers as partners in decision-making is a powerful leadership practice because it allows for teachers to draw on their instructional expertise and knowledge of students and colleagues to inform the decision. Second, when principals and teachers make decisions together, principals gain teachers’ commitment for implementation as part of the decision-making process. When principals only engage teachers superficially in decision-making, they don’t benefit from teachers’ knowledge in shaping the decision and are unlikely to gain their commitment for implementing the proposed solution.

“Through this collaborative process, we can bring more diverse perspectives to defining the problems we center in our change efforts.”

Ltc: In your recent work investigating how educators experience policy shifts in high-accountability contexts, you find that policy alignment, thoughtful sequencing, slower pace, and extensive support can be helpful in creating successful change. How might your findings help scholars and practitioners imagine and implement policy changes more effectively? 

ELS: I think we would benefit from paying greater attention to the larger environmental conditions we are creating for policy change. What are the conditions we are creating and what do they feel like for the educators responsible for policy implementation?

In a strategy activity in my book with Michelle Forman and Candice Bocala, The Internal Coherence Framework: Creating the Conditions for Continuous Improvement for Schools, we ask educators to reflect on the question: What does it feel like to be a teacher in this school? I think this question is essential in policy change. Do teachers feel like they are focused and engaged in sustained learning in an effort to implement a change that will result in meaningful benefits for students? Or are they overwhelmed by multiple initiatives with little time to really understand and apply new learning about these ideas in their classroom? We typically pair ambitious policy goals with pretty limited support for learning what changes are necessary to meet these goals. Changing practice is difficult and time-consuming work!

My research looking specifically at principals suggests that when principals acknowledge the challenge presented by new instructional policies and frame this challenge as one that requires learning to work with students and content in new ways, they are more likely to close the gap between current practice and policy goals than when they frame the challenge as one of simply executing new approaches (Stosich, 2017). As research from Amy Edmondson and others suggests, when we frame policy change as a “learning” rather than an “execution” challenge, we acknowledge that we don’t know everything we need to know to meet our goals for policy change and, thus, open ourselves to new learning and change. An execution challenge is more appropriate for routine changes, which are rarely the focus of policy change.

In my research with Emily Hodge on the Common Core (Hodge & Stosich, 2022), we found that when policies are introduced in rapid succession even those that are connected and reinforcing can be experienced by teachers and leaders as overwhelming and incoherent. This is particularly true when you introduce high-stakes accountability. We need a supportive environment for learning and change during policy implementation, one that provides the time and support necessary for learning and change before introducing accountability. This should include sustained, job-embedded opportunities for professional learning about the policy change and systems that reinforce and support this learning, such as aligned curriculum and assessment materials and ongoing, developmental feedback for teachers and school leaders.

“Learning is challenging but also rewarding—something we need to acknowledge and celebrate.”

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?

ELS: Be part of the change yourself! As scholars, we learn and change our thinking all the time (hopefully!) based on new understanding we gain from those with whom we study and work.

We need to share openly with our partners about how we are shifting our beliefs and practice and why. I think this modeling is important for reinforcing the idea that learning and change is an opportunity for growth and not simply an admission of weakness. Just this past fall I really shifted how I think about how people connect and develop relationships through improvement work after a comment from a member of our doctoral program led me to question some of my assumptions. I always assumed that we build the relationships that support our collaborative learning and improvement through working together towards shared goals. A student remarked with some surprise that we seemed to just “get right down to business” working on identifying and addressing problems of practice before really getting to know each other on a more personal level. This comment really struck a chord with me and led me to think more deeply about the very personal nature of change and what relationships could best support our collective change efforts. I tried to reflect openly about this change and how her thinking had changed my own during the course in hopes that this would encourage others to be open to change. I also thanked her—learning is challenging but also rewarding—something we need to acknowledge and celebrate.

Still, change can be personally challenging. Something I read in James Spillane’s (2004) book about standards implementation has stuck with me for a long time: when we ask people to learn new ways of doing familiar things, we risk damaging their self-concept. Essentially, when we ask people to change what they are already doing, we ask them to admit that what they have been doing wasn’t good enough and needs to change. This can feel a lot like telling me that I’m not good enough. I think the change process becomes less daunting when we share openly and model how we are changing our own beliefs and practices. This is important for people in all roles but particularly for leaders—are you asking others to be open to change without being open to change yourself? This creates an inhospitable environment for authentic learning and change, which requires acknowledging the limitations of our current knowledge and being open to new ideas and approaches.

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

ELS: I am excited about the more critical lenses educational leaders and scholars are bringing to their work in educational change. In doing so, there has been greater attention to not only issues of achievement and access but also issues of identity and power as part the focus of change. For instance, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some very exciting work happening in a Bronx Community School District that involves networks of principals working together to address three equity-focused issues: reducing racial disproportionality in chronic absenteeism, strengthening culturally responsive-sustaining education (CRSE), and creating more affirming and inclusive school environments. In my view, chronic absenteeism is an access issue, while the district’s work on strengthening CRSE addresses issues of identity—including ensuring students’ identity is reflected in the curriculum—and power, as they teach students to understand and address systems of oppression. I am energized by the focus on more holistic, student-centered, and culturally responsive discussions of learning and change taking place in so many districts and schools.

My favorite recent book is Decoteau Irby’s Stuck improving: Racial equity and school leadership. One important lesson I took from his research on racial equity improvement is that centering Black and Brown people’s perspectives, what he describes as “Black and Brown people’s influential presence,” is essential for understanding problems and monitoring progress (and setbacks) with attention to the influence of race and racism. This involves much more than simply seeking out the perspectives of Black and Brown youth, educators, and community members on the change work at one point in time. Instead, it involves building the organization—the school or district—in ways that will ensure Black and Brown people are not only present but actively influencing our change work at every step—including the problems we identify, the decisions we make about how to work on them, and all our learning along the way.


Forman, M. L., Stosich, E. L., & Bocala, C. (2017). The internal coherence framework: Creating the conditions for continuous improvement in schools. Harvard Education Press.

Hodge, E. & Stosich, E. L. (2022). Accountability, alignment, and coherence: How educators made sense of complex policy environments in the Common Core era. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737221079650

Irby, D. J. (2021). Stuck improving: Racial equity and school leadership. Harvard Education Press.

Spillane, J. P. (2004). Standards deviation: How schools misunderstand educational policy. Harvard University Press.

Stosich, E. L. (2017). Leading in a time of ambitious reform: Principals in high-poverty urban elementary schools frame the challenge of the Common Core State Standards. Elementary School Journal, 117(4), 539-565. https://doi.org/10.1086/691585

Stosich, E. L. (2020). Central office leadership for instructional improvement: Developing collaborative leadership among principals and instructional leadership team members. Teachers College Record, 122(9). https://www.tcrecord.org/Content.asp?ContentId=23383
Stosich, E. L. (2021). “Are we an advisory board or a decision making entity?”: Teachers’ involvement in decision making in instructional leadership teams. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 1-19. https://doi.org/10.1080/15700763.2021.1995879

What role do professional organizations play in helping educators navigate these tumultuous and dangerous times? Lead the Change responds to the US Supreme Court

In place of this month’s Lead the Change (LtC) Interview, Alex Lamb, LtC Editor posed this key question to leaders of several professional organizations in education. Below, we share Lamb’s introduction, her question, and the responses she received. Lamb is a postdoctoral researcher in the Learning, Leadership, and Education Policy program at the Neag School at the University of Connecticut.

Note from Alex Lamb, LtC Editor: This month, we decided to pause our regular format to better respond to the wave of recent Supreme Court rulings deeply impacting the daily lives of millions of educators and school children specifically. These rulings have shaken many of those in our community and ushered in sweeping changes to the systems we rely on for care and learning.

As I read the news, I felt scared, rageful, demoralized, and dehumanized. I thought about
how we might use this platform and this community to build coalitions that move us to a better future. In these desperate times, how can we lean on our communities to find solace and energy for the path ahead?

In this issue, we hear from the leaders of professional organizations, AERA (American Educational Research Association), AEFP (Association for Education Finance and Policy), UCEA (University Council for Educational Administration), and our Educational Change SIG chair. In hearing from these leaders, we hope to provide guidance, solidarity, hope, and community. I asked them to respond to the following question:

Recently, there have been a rash of Supreme Court decisions that have fundamentally reshaped American society and schools including women’s rights to bodily autonomy, the use of public funds for religious schooling, and shifting rules regarding prayer in schools. What role do you see professional
organizations of education scholarship playing in helping scholars and practitioners navigate these tumultuous and dangerous times?

These leaders all generously offered ideas about how to best move forward in these trying times. I
hope you find something in this issue to support and sustain you. These responses helped me to
feel less alone, and I hope they can do the same for you. Take care of yourselves.


The Work of Consequential Education Research in Pursuit of Truth

H. Richard Milner IV, President, AERA,

Felice J. Levine, Executive Director, AERA

The questions posed to us by the editor of the Lead to Change Series are very timely and
complex. There is no single function or role that defines what we do. The American Research Association (AERA) as a scientific member association has multiple tools and approaches at our command consonant with our mission.

On matters of public policy and position taking, AERA has been enabled by a statement on Position Taking and Policy Processes Guidelines adopted by AERA Council in January 2005.1 That document overviews the range of ways that AERA as a professional research association can address significant social policy issues through research. The value of featured symposia, teach-ins, and professional workshops at the AERA Annual Meeting; research briefings to governmental agencies and holding public fora that bring together researchers, policy makers, and practitioners; special issues of journals elevating research and research directions; and professional development workshops to build capacity in the research community are just some of those ways.

When the issues are societally significant and the research is compelling, AERA with Council’s approval has prepared and led research amicus briefs or joined sign-on letters to communicate the scientific studies and scholarly bodies of work that need to be considered by courts or policy bodies. AERA has done so over two decades in a series of “affirmative action” education cases before the Supreme Court. The decision to do so is consonant with AERA’s mission to serve the public good and make accessible research when the education research is compelling, when the issues are of high social significance, and when distortion of research for advocacy ends may also be evident.2

As we at AERA see it, professional research organizations have an essential role in supporting and facilitating the advancement of knowledge, in building the capacity to do so and in fostering wide awareness of that knowledge to peoples around the globe. Especially in these deeply polarizing and political moments in the United States, our attention to salient issues of public significance needs to be more rather than less elevated, and we need to press for evidence-based decisions. Where there is germane education research, we also have an organizational responsibility to be sure that work is visible and accessible in policy and practice settings and that researchers in our field are encouraged to do so.

“Education research must be designed intentionally to bring to light when policy or practice formulations harm certain groups or the collective good.”

The work of professional organizations in response to Supreme Court decisions such as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the decisions on religion and schooling bring to the fore all these issues. To be sure, members of AERA embody an enormous range of diversities and have various belief systems. Members also reflect a spectrum of political views ranging from ultra-liberal to highly conservative. They also approach their research and the problem spaces they probe from different epistemological orientations. They draw from divergent conceptual and theoretical tools. They construct different conjectures and support or are active in different forms of advocacy or mission organizations that reflect those interests and views. What binds us together, however, is our members’ commitment to our research mission—to advance knowledge in ways that embrace discussion and debate, that allow for and consider divergent questions and issues, and that arrive at research implications or applications based on the best of our knowledge at any point in time.

“The lives of many women will never be the same under this ruling, and our organizations must be responsive to these shifting times.”

In our view, this means that AERA must be steadfast in our emphasis on research—in naming, speaking out against, and building systems to dismantle injustice and inequity based on robust and sustained study.3 To be consequential – it should lead to evidence about education in relation to the potential deleterious effects of rulings and policies that have a real bearing on physical, psychological, and emotional health and wellbeing of our members as well as the communities in which we study. In this way, education research must be designed intentionally to bring to light when policy or practice formulations harm certain groups or the collective good. Moreover, education research must be consequential in making recommendations based on science— for what these moments of societal shifts might mean for the lives that education helps to shape.

As an organization, we hope we will as a community work to do the following:

  1. Listen to, be sensitive and empathetic toward, and work in collaboration with the people most influenced by oppressive policy and practice shifts. This means that expectations for research, knowledge production, teaching, and service in institutions such as higher education, think tanks, and other organizations must shift expectations based on needs of women.4
  2. Learn about and make recommendations on ways to co-construct communities of health and wellness and not operate from a business-as-usual framework. The lives of many women will never be the same under this ruling, and our organizations must be responsive to these shifting times.
  3. Focus our research, teaching, and service on matters that address intersections of the Supreme Court rulings and education. In short, educational organizations have a responsibility to work with communities to design research agendas of education consequences in theory, practice, praxis, and policy.
  4. Share what we know widely and often. What we learn and come to know from education research must be shared as widely as possible with communities inside and outside of the academy. As politicians make decisions about education, they should be able to rely on the world’s largest education research association to find answers to problems. Because those outside of our communities may not read traditional outlets with education research such as full-length books or journal articles, our work can be informative and shared through blog posts, poetry, data-rich opinion essays, social media commentaries, music, short films, YouTube clips, and newspaper articles.

Consonant with steps 1-4 above, AERA’s 2005 guidelines also provide for AERA’s speaking out in opposition to or in support of public policies that centrally affect our field (see 2005 guidelines on “mission-oriented policy and position taking”), including related to the education research workforce. The Dobbs decision is likely to have an adverse impact on women graduate students and professionals in education research. The implications of this situation for further actions by AERA, including with other scientific associations, is under active consideration.

AERA has not heretofore been silent in unparalleled times. But we reaffirm that our responses must be guided by the best of what we know from sound empirical research in pursuit of truth and the Association’s commitment to diversity and equity for all.

Jason A. Grissom, President, AEFP

The Association for Education Finance and Policy (AEFP) is a professional organization for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners tackling the most important education finance and policy issues of the day across the spectrum from early childhood to postsecondary education. Our primary goal, stated in the AEFP mission statement, is to promote research and connections between researchers and policymakers/practitioners that can inform education policy and finance and, ultimately, improve educational outcomes.

The question of how professional organizations like ours can help scholars and practitioners navigate the current environment is one for which we have very incomplete answers right now. That’s why I start with our mission: when organizations face new questions, mission statements can provide direction. And ours highlights that two ideas sit at the center of AEFP’s work: research and connections. So, in thinking about how AEFP can help our members respond to the current moment, I start with those ideas.

Let’s start with research. An important way we can meet the current moment is by creating space and visibility for timely, high-quality research to inform the policies and practices that must respond to these big changes in our social environment, especially as they intersect with education. Our members care deeply about current issues and no doubt will be generating new evidence about these shifts and their impacts on students and educators. We can promote that evidence and help push it into public debate.

To this end, the last annual conference featured a special track for research on racial and other forms of educational equity and another for research on COVID-19. We organized “policy talks” (featuring researchers and practitioners in public conversation) that directly addressed these topics. We invited a keynote who spoke to the connection between research and advocacy around this “dual pandemic.” We plan for our next conference to similarly highlight research, policy, and practice around social and educational issues exemplified in Texas, given that Fort Worth is slated to host the event. This means directing attention toward research at the intersection between education and, for example, reproductive care or LGBTQI+ rights that are so salient in Texas and beyond.

The point is that AEFP members often shape their research in response to issues of the day, and we want the conference and our other events to be ready vehicles for sharing, discussing, and spreading that research. Professional organizations like ours are uniquely positioned to play this kind of elevating role.

“A more inclusive community is going to supply better answers to more complex problems of policy and practice.”

Finding new ways to build connections are just as important. A defining characteristic of AEFP has always been the sense of community among its members, and community feels more valuable now than ever. One of our major initiatives of the last year has been the creation of new “community groups” organized around different aspects of identity (e.g., scholars of color, LGBTQI+ members) to promote networking, reflection, and professional learning opportunities. In tumultuous times, a role of professional organizations is to build this kind of connective tissue, and indeed this year we are doubling down, investing new resources and starting new groups. Tighter connections to fellow travelers can be key sources of support and reinforcement.

They can also present new opportunities for collaboration around the research the field needs to address the challenges a rapidly shifting policy environment poses. That’s why it’s so important now that we strengthen connections not just among the kinds of researchers and policymakers who traditionally have made up AEFP’s membership but among a more diverse set of voices. A more inclusive community is going to supply better answers to more complex problems of policy and practice. The current moment should be (and in our case, at least, is) intensifying efforts of professional associations to become more welcoming and deliberately inclusive of a diverse membership.

David DeMatthews, President, UCEA

Education research societies, such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the University Council for Educational Administration (UCEA), play a critical role in encouraging and supporting education research and preparing the next generation of researchers and practitioners. Education research societies provide important opportunities for training future researchers and practitioners, disseminating research findings, and incubating and testing innovations and new ideas. Over the past few years, the importance of these research societies has become even more critical.

“Over the past few years, the importance of these research societies has become even more critical.”

Perhaps more than ever before, education researchers and practitioners are working in a highly politically-divisive environment. Climate change continues to disrupt life on our planet and the work of education systems while many elected officials deny its existence. The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted communities, families, students, and educators. The murder of George Floyd and ongoing calls for racial and social justice led many state legislatures to make it illegal to teach about racism or a true accounting of U.S. history. The Trump administration’s separation of children from families at the U.S.-Mexico border, the January 6 th attack on the U.S. Capitol, and a wave of recent Supreme Court decisions undermine American values, civil rights victories, and the separation of
church and state (e.g. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization; Carson v. Makin).

The current divisive political context is a serious challenge for education research societies and its members, but also serves as an important opportunity to reflect, build and strengthen relationships, and further advance knowledge for the public good. At this moment, education research societies are extremely important because they serve as powerful, formalized social networks able to speak to broad social challenges and offer the public evidence-based insights into complex issues. However, education research societies must be even more intentional about how they mentor aspiring and current researchers and practitioners, how they sponsor and disseminate research, and their approaches and opportunities for incubating new ideas.

Moving forward, education research societies can be more responsive and further their missions by:

  • Investing in preparation pipelines that attract more diverse researchers and practitioners capable of drawing from different disciplines and experiences;
  • Partnering and participating within other research societies and practitioner organizations to champion research, practitioner knowledge, and justice;
  • Safeguarding academic freedom so researchers and practitioners can raise questions and new ideas without fear of retribution;
  • Strategically investing into areas of research that can serve the public good and address pressing problems of practice;
  • Mentoring researchers and practitioners to be more effective at communicating research findings and relevant information in nation, state, and local policy arenas.

These actions are not comprehensive but can bolster the impact of education research societies and their members as they seek to advance the public good. Many education research societies are already engaged in these efforts, so it is also important that researcher and practitioner members remain engaged, volunteer, participate in governance and oversight activities, and offer ongoing support within their respective societies.

Jennie Weiner, Chair, Educational Change SIG

As someone who considers herself an intersectional feminist and spends quite a bit of my professional life thinking about how to make educational systems more equitable and better places for adults and students to grow and learn, it is perhaps not a surprise I have recently been in conversation with a number of people, including some of my students, colleagues, friends, and family members trying to make sense of these court decisions and seeking advice of how to respond. Never have I felt so unable to provide comfort or really answers of any kind to myself or others. I feel gutted, I am despairing, and honestly, I don’t know what to do.

My paralysis is not due to a lack of affiliation or a failure of those in positions of power or leadership in our field to try to give comfort or purpose to our work. Rather, I am at a point where I think, just as our foremothers argued, that using the very systems that enabled these things to happen will not work to change them. I don’t think these are problems that can be solved with better research or doing more of the work we have always done (or even some of what we haven’t). The tools that I have as an educational researcher are insufficient to make the laws of this country treat me and other women, girls, and any other pregnant person as human beings with bodily autonomy and the right to live. No matter how good I am making my work accessible via social media or through op-eds, I do not believe I can make those in power reinstitute the separation of church and state or to stop the use of public funds for religious education and prayer in school.

So what to do? Well, I might suggest that there are lots of people who have been fighting for our rights and the rights of educators, communities, and children without it being officially sanctioned by those in power and that we should be looking to them and not to the academy for answers. I note here that some of these are folks are in our SIG and AERA more broadly and have worked hard to tell us that we would never get real transformation through the existing system. There are also community organizers, educators, parents, young people, and lots of others who have long been doing this work and know what to do and how to do it. We should ask them what to do and listen when they tell us. I’m trying to follow this advice and do all I can to listen deeply to them, learn from them, use my resources to uplift, bankroll, and promote their work.

“There are community organizers, educators, parents, young people, and lots of others who have long been doing this work and know what to do and how to do it. We should ask them what to do and listen when they tell us.”

This does not mean I am giving up on my work or educational research more broadly and what I believe it can do – move people to ask different and hopefully more thoughtful questions about change and school systems and equity. In this best cases, such efforts will then lead to new and better solutions. As such, I still plan to engage in my research, serve the larger education community, and teach and learn from my students. In my professional life, I will continue to make a stink that can push the academy, the professional organizations with which I affiliate, and my institution to be fairer and more humane.

As the Educational Change SIG, I would suggest too that we can do the same in our organization and respective institutions. We can push for policies and structures that challenge the status quo and evoke research ideas and methods that promote equity and justice. But I am also going to be honest with myself that while this work is important, it is not, in and of itself, my solution to how to navigate these times, nor do I expect it to be – and that makes me feel just a little bit better.


  1. American Educational Research Association. (2007, January/February). AERA position taking and policymaking processes guidelines. Educational Researcher, 36(1), 50-54. https://www.aera.net/Portals/38/docs/About_AERA/AERA%20Position%20Taking.pdf
  2. See, e.g., Levine, F. J., & Ancheta, A. N. (2013). The AERA et al. amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: Scientific organizations serving society. Educational Researcher, 42(3), 166–171. https://doi.org/10.3102/0013189X13486765
  3. Note that AERA adopted a social justice mission statement in 2004 reaffirmed in 2006. See American Educational Research Association. (2007, January/February). AERA social justice mission statement. Educational Researcher, 36(1), 49. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.3102/0013189X06299093
  4. The adverse impact of COVID-19 for graduate student and early career women and women of color was pointed out in Levine, F. J., Nasir, N. S., Rios- Aguilar, C., Gildersleeve, R. E., Rosich, K. J., Bang, M., Bell, N. E., & Holsapple, M. A. (2021). Voices from the field: The impact of COVID-19 on early career scholars and doctoral students [Focus group study report]. American Educational Research Association; Spencer Foundation. https://doi.org/10.3102/aera20211v

The LtC series is produced by Alex Lamb and colleagues from the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association. A fully formatted pdf of this month’s post is available on the LtC website.

Preparing, hiring, and supporting education leaders: The Lead the Change interview with Lauren Bailes

What does it take to support the development of a diverse group of education leaders? Lauren Bailes discusses this and other key issues of educational change in In this month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview. Bailes is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware who explores how organizational, social-cognitive, and leadership theory unite to promote the success of school leaders and K-12 students.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?

Lauren Bailes: Two things come to mind for me in response to this call. First, I’m trying to stay connected to practitioners and stakeholders in my local contexts as much as possible in order to listen and learn about their needs in the midst of a rapidly shifting set of systems. I recently had a conversation with a state education leader in Delaware and he asked me, “Do you ever worry that you’ll do research for forty years and you will have become irrelevant?” I told him that I think about that most days. I think, right now, my responsibility—and the way to preclude that irrelevance—is to tailor my work to the espoused needs of education leaders and practitioners around me. I try to conceive of my research agenda as a way to be of service; that necessarily entails collaboration, flexibility, and pivots—all of which definitely keep things current and engaging.

For me, this has certainly meant attending to meaningful research questions using high-quality methodological approaches and publishing in respected outlets, but I don’t want to stop there. One of my favorite moments of my career thus far was when one of my EdD students (a Black woman who was at that time an assistant principal) saw the assistant principal findings from my and a colleague’s AERA Open piece (Bailes & Guthery, 2020) in EdWeek and reached out to me to say, “Hey! This is you, right? This is everything I’ve been trying to say in my district!” This encapsulated so much for me: research has to be multilingual and speak the languages of our research colleagues and our practitioner colleagues. For Sarah and me, this has meant writing shorter summaries of our research in plain language with clear action steps which follow the peer-reviewed research articles. This is not new information, but I take this responsibility very seriously. I’ve also tried to take on some responsibility for leader preparation in my state—both through our EdD program and through other initiatives like the Governor’s Institute for School Leadership (GISL), which is a year-long executive style professional learning experience for third-year Assistant Principals who seek promotion in the school system. My colleague Bryan VanGronigen and I co-wrote the curriculum for the year, and I also teach in the program. The woman who contacted me about the EdWeek writeup graduated from our EdD program then spent a year with GISL and is now a district leader. For her and others like her—in our preparation programs and in our statewide leader supports—the job of translating research clearly in diverse outlets, is incredibly important, as is the practical enactment of what I find and espouse in research.

LtC: Your recent work examines the impact of “disappearing diversity” on the hiring of teachers of color. You have also examined the path to the principalship for assistant principals of color. What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience examining the growing equity issues of school staffing?

LB: School staffing is the chief concern I hear among my practitioner colleagues. Whether it’s hiring a highly qualified teacher, finding someone to cover a special education classroom, identifying an instructional coach for the school’s one STEM teacher, or retaining a principal, staffing is at the forefront for many school leaders.

Staffing shortages are certainly not new to schools and the acuity of that challenge varies by context; in Delaware, for example, 41% of principals are eligible for retirement in the next five years. Throughout the educator pipeline, there is a profound need to get positions filled. But even in the midst of a staffing crisis, just filling positions is insufficient. We have to maintain focus on equitable and just practices associated with recruiting, hiring, developing, retaining, and promoting education professionals (Bailes & Guthery, 2021).

Having a racially diverse pool of educators is good for all students and not just students of color, even though we also know that students of color experience particular benefits when they are taught and led by people who look like them (e.g., Simon et al., 2015).

One thing that became clear to me as Dr. Sarah Guthery and I wrote about teacher hiring was that we lose so many teachers of color in their teacher preparation programs. Whether that’s due to the cost of those programs, biased systems of licensure and certification, or lack of support among predominantly white systems of preparation, we have to make teacher preparation not just attractive but feasible for people of color. These might include more incentives for early career teachers of color as well as induction supports.

“We have to maintain focus on equitable and just practices associated with recruiting, hiring, developing, retaining, and promoting education professionals.”

We know from literature, and from the experiences of our practitioner colleagues, that the challenges inherent to education careers are multiplied when those educators are the only or one of very few people of color in their organizations. So, networks and ‘taps’ matter a lot. It’s critically important that, as women and people of color indicate interest in school leadership, they are able to identify systems of support and mentorship to get them into those positions, to scaffold their skills as they move into leadership, and then take seriously their development in those positions in order to retain them.

Ltc: In your study of principal promotion in Texas, you find that Black assistant principals and women high school assistant principals have harder paths to the principalship than their White and male counterparts. What policies and practices can school systems put in place to ensure equitable promotion?

LB: There are a lot of things districts can do and they fall roughly into issues of perception and issues of preparation. It’s also important to note that our study has been replicated a couple of times and the exact promotion patterns vary in different contexts, so I strongly recommend getting familiar with those patterns in your context. However, some of the perceptions regarding the leadership of women and people of color persist across systems. One of the most interesting things that I learned in the process of writing that paper with Dr. Guthery was that, even though we did not find a difference in likelihood of promotion to the principalship for women, we found that women were far more likely to be promoted to principalships in elementary and middle schools than in high schools. Given that superintendents and other district-level leaders are often hired out of high schools, this renders a lot of women invisible for those promotions (and has lasting consequences for pay equity). Principals of lower schools may be perceived as less ‘tough’ or as having to contend with fewer complex organizational management issues and that’s just not true (see for example: Joy, 1998). This is a perception problem and one we can and should counter very directly.

“Efforts toward equitable principal promotion have to be paired with other issues of persistent segregation as well.”

Similarly, principal licensure exams function as a sorting mechanism for many principal candidates of color. Despite similar qualifications to their white peers, aspiring leaders of color may be removed from candidacy because of licensure exams. This is also an opportunity to use the Professional Standards for Educational Leaders (PSEL) in lieu of biased exams to enhance justice and equity within principal hiring and promotion practices. No standards are perfect, and they require careful training to be used well, but assessing principal candidates through the lens of standards rather than licensure exams may be one way to create more equitable access to school leadership for women and people of color.

Superintendents are best positioned to enact some of these reforms. They can call for audits, examine hiring records (including applicant pools that are often inaccessible to researchers), change job postings and hiring structures, and deploy resources for support and mentoring opportunities for people who are underrepresented in school leadership.

Finally, it’s important to recall that issues of segregation among education professionals do not occur in a vacuum—they’re influenced by racism, sexism, misogyny, and oppression throughout our systems of housing, medical care, higher education, and the list goes on. Efforts toward equitable principal promotion have to be paired with and are more likely to be successful as we concurrently attend to other issues of persistent segregation as well.

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?

LB: I see a tremendous amount of curiosity and willingness to experiment among many of my collaborators—both researchers and practitioners. My conversations with local education leaders suggest that the inequities and challenges associated with schooling in the last two years are not new—they weren’t created by the pandemic—but they were instead thrown into stark relief by the pandemic. Researchers have one set of language and tools to name those challenges, and I’m consistently impressed when I see researchers expand their language, outlets, and tools to be more inclusive of practitioners.

Similarly, I’ve seen practitioners take on some really brave and creative work regarding equity, school discipline, community engagement, instruction, and cycles of school improvement and they’re looking for research partners to support that work. Our practitioner colleagues spent two years creating systems to do schooling with unthinkable constraints on staffing, resources, and technology, so they’re empowered to innovate in ways that previously seemed outside the ‘grammar’ of schooling.

“Get close to a school and support the shared work of the teachers, families, leaders, and students there.”

We’ve seen systems that are breaking new ground in leadership preparation, team teaching arrangements, and school-wide equity training. So if you’re looking for partnership opportunities, get close to a school and support the shared work of the teachers, families, leaders, and students there. Their work is accelerating, rather than slowing, towards justice and equity—often in spite of profound barriers associated with resources and policymaking.

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

LB: I’m learning a lot from thought leaders in the conversation about CritQuant (critical approaches to quantitative methods). I employ a lot of administrative data and I’m keenly aware of their limitations and the ways in which the assumptions embedded in those data perpetuate oppressions along dimensions of race, class, and gender. Categories—like those that currently characterize quantitative data— are necessarily limiting and so I’m trying to think about ways to acknowledge meaningful differences in how individuals are treated by education systems (for example, people of color are less likely to be promoted from assistant principalships to principalships than are their white counterparts) while also exploring ways to think beyond the limitations of the categories in those data. I’m excited about the conversations in this space and the ways in which we have more opportunities for collaboration across theoretical and methodological boundaries.

I’m also really excited about the recent emphasis on PSEL Standard 3, which addresses equity. As I mentioned above, I think there’s a real appetite among schools for concrete and creative steps to increase equity in their schools at every level. Standard 3— which includes skills like cultural responsiveness, an emphasis on each child, and inclusive decision-making—is really brought to life in the other nine standards. For example, what does it look like to carry out inclusive decision-making with instructional faculty or with families? How do leaders enact cultural responsiveness in their communications with families? How do school discipline policies attend to the needs of each child? As I’ve worked with school leaders, the overwhelming refrain is something like, “I’m committed to equity—I just don’t quite know how to do it.” It seems like some clear direction on how to bring Standard 3 to life will offer them some purchase as they engage equity work in their own contexts. I’m so excited to be connected to more of that work, and I’m really optimistic that such clarity will contribute to overall school improvement.

Overall, I feel very lucky to be surrounded by talented, committed colleagues at University of Delaware and nationally as well as in our surrounding communities and schools. I’m consistently encouraged by their technical expertise, courage, and optimism, and I’m confident that educational change is possible as we learn from each other and continue to prioritize students.


Sawchuk, S. (2020, June 15). For Black candidate and women, it takes longer to be promoted to principal. Education Week. https://www.edweek.org/leadership/for-black-candidates-and-women-it-takes-longer-to-be-promoted-to-principal/2020/06

Bailes, L. P., & Guthery, S. (2020). Held Down and Held Back: Systematically Delayed Principal Promotions by Race and Gender. AERA Open. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332858420929298

Bailes, L. P., & Guthery, S. (2021). Disappearing diversity and the probability of hiring a nonwhite teacher: Evidence from Texas. (EdWorkingPaper: 21-447). Annenberg Institute at Brown University. https://doi.org/10.26300/qvmz-gs17

Joy, L. (1998). Why are women underrepresented in public school administration? An empirical test of promotion discrimination. Economics of Education Review, 17(2), 193-204.

Simon, N. S., Johnson, S. M., & Reinhorn, S. K. (2015). The challenge of recruiting and hiring teachers of color: Lessons from six high-performing, high-poverty, urban schools. The Project on the Next Generation of Teachers. https://projectngt.gse.harvard.edu/publications/challenge-recruiting-and-hiring-

A Focus on (Imperfect) Leadership: Snapshots from the 9th ARC Education ThoughtMeet

The latest ThoughtMeet (TM) from the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory (ARC) featured conversations with Steve Munby and ARC delegates exploring “imperfect leadership.” Munby facilitates ARC events and is a member of the ARC Secretariat, and Visiting Professor at University College London Centre for Educational Leadership. Munby’s talk drew from his recently published book with co-author Marie-Claire Bretherton, Imperfect Leadership in Action: A practical book for school leaders who know they don’t know it all. This post highlights the key ideas and issues that were discussed in the meeting by representatives from the seven ARC member systems and its global partners. A summary, videos, and other resources from the March 25th ThoughtMeet: A Focus on Leadership. Summaries and materials from previous ThoughtMeets are available on the ARC Education Project website. This post was written by Mariana Domínguez González, and Daphne Varghese, ARC Research Assistants and Trista Hollweck, ARC Project Director.

“Nobody is ready for leadership. It is always a big step up. Imperfect leadership is neither a set of competencies to be mastered nor a body of knowledge to be memorized. It is a mindset to be embraced.”

Steve Munby

What is imperfect leadership? According to Steve Munby, imperfect leadership goes beyond how effectively a leader responds to ever-changing and dynamic work conditions to encompass who the leader is as a person– their personality, expertise, how they motivate others, respond to stress, etc. Leaders are not finished products; rather, they should strive to be endless learners which he describes as grown up & restless (as illustrated in the quadrants below). Munby reminded ARC delegates that “walking into a leadership role is a new playground for everyone. There is no such thing as perfect leadership when we step into a leadership role.” Thus, strong self-awareness is crucial for imperfect leadership.

Source: Quadrant taken from Steve Munby’s presentation: March 25th TM

In order for leaders to stay restless, Munby stressed the importance of developing and leading an open-to-learning culture. Leaders should review and reflect on events or situations that haven’t gone well, practice self-compassion, and use feedback processes (such as 360 degree feedback) in a focused and time-specific way to improve their leadership practices. 

How can we help educators to improve and to develop as leaders? Munby stressed that all members in a team have the potential to be leaders. The key is to provide them with the confidence to step up and take a leadership role. Creating an imperfect leadership culture requires an investment in others, especially early career leaders. As the more experienced leaders, he explained “it is our responsibility to support the leadership development of others. We must support future leaders and provide them with opportunities to take on challenging tasks and feel supported to take risks. We also must be conscious to not reinforce one simple stereotypical view of leadership, but encourage potential leaders from diverse backgrounds and perspectives to lead.” Munby added that an imperfect leadership culture provides opportunities for experienced leaders to take on new and challenging roles in an effort to renew and re-energize them.

A Q&A panel discussion followed the ARC talk and delegates asked Munby about the role of diversity in leadership, the importance of co-leadership and distributed leadership models, how to deal with negative organizational cultures, as well as how to balance risk-taking and learning from one’s failures against stakeholder expectations:

What role do you think diversity plays in leadership? Munby noted that organizations need to go beyond the notion that diversity is solely about fairness. Rather, diversity creates better teams characterized by numerous perspectives and expertise. Organizations also need to steer away from a singular approach to leadership, as it can encourage specific group members to be leaders and deter others from stepping into a leadership role. Munby emphasized that conceptualizations of talent are narrow and fixed, and we need to find ways to challenge them.

How do we “row together” to create an expectation of sharing power and decision-making?  Munby described how stakeholder engagement is an essential collaborative strategy for systems to develop imperfect leadership and promote progressive policy leadership. 

How do leaders cope with negative organizational cultures? According to Munby, it is always important to try to find a way to internally influence the work culture. However, in some cases, if the negative culture becomes too fixed and unlikely to change, it may be best for the leader to switch to another workplace. 

Follow-up reflection questions for system leaders: 

  • What does imperfect leadership mean in a virtual post-Covid-19 context? 
  • What is the difference between leadership and management? 
  • How do we further develop adaptive leadership in our systems so that leaders are not only aware of their individual strengths and default styles but equally aware of how to respond when a situation needs a different approach? 
  • How do leaders balance the system/political aspect as well as the personal side of leadership? 
  • How do leaders manage the very real external pressures and expectations and also provide conditions for aspiring leaders to grow and make mistakes? 
  • How do we prevent or avoid burnout in leaders at all levels? What kind of support is most needed? 

About the Atlantic Rim Collaboratory: 

The (ARC) is an international policy learning network that was established in 2016 to advance educational change based on eight guiding principles: equity, excellence, inclusion, wellbeing, democracy, sustainability, human rights, and professionally run systems. Headquartered at the University of Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) since 2019, ARC brings together senior public officials (i.e ministers and deputy ministers of education), professional association leaders (i.e. unions and inspectorates) and other key stakeholders from its seven education member systems (Iceland, Ireland, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Scotland, Uruguay and Wales), global partners (International Confederation of Principals) and international experts and scholars to discuss, debate and exchange knowledge about educational policy issues and to formulate responses suited to their contexts. One of the founding ideas behind ARC is to tear down the walls between countries and regions, as well as between educational researchers and politicians, in order to pursue the most fundamental ideas of what it means to be educated in today’s world for the mutual benefit of all ARC-systems and future generations of students worldwide. Every year, ARC members meet at the annual Summit hosted by one of the member systems. However, since 2020, in addition to a virtual summit, ARC has also hosted bi-monthly virtual ARC ThoughtMeets (TMs) for its members. The TM outreach series was designed to stimulate and support a global educational movement for equitable, inclusive and sustainable educational solutions to COVID-19.

Leadership, research, and educational change in a time of disruption: The Lead the Change Interview with Rebecca Lowenhaupt

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features a conversation with Rebecca Lowenhaupt, an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Boston College. Her research investigates educational policy and school leadership in the context of immigration.

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?

Rebecca Lowenhaupt: As educational change scholars, we have long understood the complexity of shifting entrenched practices within organizations. We are well-aware of the many barriers to change that can keep reforms from succeeding, and we have had some success developing models and frameworks to support adaptable, learning organizations. The current call to focus these efforts on dismantling oppression and designing new, justice-oriented systems provides a clear purpose and direction for us in our scholarship and partnership work.

I am hopeful that we are well-situated to address these issues. While the pandemic has been devastating for educational institutions in so many ways, we have seen how, when faced with crisis, many of our public schools were able to respond nimbly, work in partnership with public health and government, and serve as hubs of support for many communities. We continue to grapple with substantial challenges in education from youth mental health to staffing shortages and the ongoing politicization of curriculum. At the same time, new forms of leadership and collaboration have emerged along with an understanding that the complex problems we are facing as a society require interdisciplinary, innovative solutions. For example, many schools implemented pandemic response teams comprised of educational leaders, local government and public health officials, and in some cases, concerned parents. These teams helped sift through changing state guidelines, emerging research, and risk management, to support educational leaders’ decision making. In some districts, schools partnered with community organizations in new ways to address food insecurity and technology needs among families (Lowenhaupt et al., 2020). And across states, state leaders partnered with one another and researchers to share guidance and tools for their respective districts, such as the work conducted by the English Learner Working Group led by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in partnership with nearly 20 state EL directors (Hopkins & Weddle, 2021).

During this generative, if difficult, time, our role as researchers has shifted. In many cases, we have been brought in to help our partners in the field make sense of the changing landscape. Our research-practice partnerships have become more important than ever and require us as researchers to engage alongside practitioners with our boots on the ground, not as outsiders simply documenting what we see. As we encourage our partners to try things out, it is our responsibility to help them evaluate and understand the impact of their initiatives. Because the pace of change accelerated so rapidly as organizations tried to respond to the pandemic, we were called on to speed up our processes as scholars to support our partners.

“Addressing injustice requires coordination across institutions.”

Several researchers rose to the challenge by finding ways to support partners as well as providing timely, relevant policy guidance to support educational leaders in the field. For example, the Annenberg Institute produced a series of policy briefs that brought existing research to bear on the current crisis through the EdResearch for Recovery Initiative. In one brief, Kraft and Falken (2021) offered a summary of research and recommendations for implementing high dosage tutoring at scale in response to school closures and disruption. Similarly, the Journal of Professional Capital and Community provided an opportunity for rapid response and engagement. A colleague and I contributed a piece on school leadership for immigrant communities during the pandemic, highlighting the role leaders play ensuring access for students and families and providing opportunities for collaboration among educators and across immigrant- serving organizations (Lowenhaupt & Hopkins, 2020). And capturing student perspectives, Reich and Mehta (2021) shared their insights about what post-pandemic schooling might, and should, look like in real time. These are just a few examples of the many ways our scholarly community sought ways to quickly and meaningfully respond.

Now, as we are gradually emerging from the crisis, it is important to keep in mind that unexpected (and expected) changes will continue to challenge us to keep pace with an evolving field. We also have much to learn about bridging fields to address such complex problems—a challenge one school faces is likely also a concern for mental health providers and impacted by community resources and local government agencies. Addressing injustice requires coordination across institutions. As researchers, we can help uncover barriers and map the intersecting systems that shape educational experiences. We can also engage with our partners in developing solutions and learning about how those solutions shape practice as intended.

LtC: Given some of your work examining how social-justice oriented leaders holistically support immigrant students in challenging contexts (such as under accountability pressure and during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic), what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

RL: Throughout my career, I have always studied change as an inherent, defining feature of schooling. Whether studying new immigrant destinations or the implementation of new curricula, I have found that educational change is the norm despite the multiple ways the organization of schooling is entrenched. If we acknowledge that things are always changing despite an understandable longing for stability, we will need to build educational organizations that are responsive and adaptive to change. Over time, the pressures facing schools continue to increase, particularly in the last few years as the ripple effects of the pandemic, alongside an increasing number of climate related disasters such as fire and hurricanes, demographic changes caused by global migration, and ongoing political unrest continue to challenge educational organizations. Tied to this broader context, internal pressures of schooling such as severe staffing shortages and contested curricula require organizations and their leaders to be nimble and responsive to a range of challenges.

Take, for example, a national study my colleagues and I are in the midst of conducting on school district practices to support immigrant-origin students. We launched our study in 2018 during a time of crisis for immigrant communities that not only impacted students and families, but also impacted the work of educators seeking to support their students (Yammine & Lowenhaupt, 2021; Lowenhaupt, Mangual Figueroa, & Dabach, 2021). At the time, both the education and research community were alarmed at the deleterious effects of policy changes at the federal level such as the travel ban on Muslim- majority countries and challenges to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program. Increased immigrant enforcement, the separation of children at the border, and other anti-immigration policies were found to impact students from immigrant families attending our nation’s public schools (Costello, 2016; Ee & Gándara, 2020; Rodriguez et al., 2022).

While our study’s inception came in response to one crisis, we quickly found ourselves in partnership with district leaders in the midst of another crisis caused by the pandemic. As we navigated our ongoing research through various disruptions that included school closures and then reopening, online instruction shifting to hybrid and back to in-person, and a halt to immigration that was then followed by a flood of recent arrivals, it struck us how change really was the only constant for our district partners. At the same time, we were impressed by the ways in which our partners were able to rely on existing routines and establish new ones that allowed for reflection, communication, and connection.

Our study found educational leaders with routines and structures in place that created a bridge between them and their communities prior to the pandemic were better able to respond in real time to changing needs and circumstances (Lowenhaupt et al., 2021). Relatedly, my research has clarified for me the importance of context even as it changes. Leaders who knew the contours of their community, its assets and needs, were better able to leverage and innovate in the midst of
crisis. They had routines in place to listen to and understand the unique histories and experiences of their community, and this allowed them to continue learning as the community context changed (Lowenhaupt et al., 2020).

“Leaders who knew the contours of their community, its assets and needs, were better able to leverage and innovate in the midst of crisis.”

In our work, we have seen that relationships and trust really matter during crisis, not just among educators, students and families, but also between researchers and practitioners. I know
that many of us have known this for a long time, thanks to Bryk and Schneider (2002), among others. But I think the pandemic really highlighted this and amplified the need to create and maintain relationships in purposeful, organizational ways. For example, the pivot to providing basic resources to families in need was easier in districts where educators had pre-existing relationships, not only with families but also with community organizations, food banks, and other service providers who could help establish new strategies for supporting community members. These relationships proved invaluable in navigating barriers and responding to emergent needs during crisis.

LtC: In some of your recent work, you use a large- scale survey across multiple states to examine educators’ beliefs and understandings about immigrant students. In the current political climate, how might we support educators in having justice-oriented and liberatory beliefs and practices?

RL: Often, there is a sense from general educators and even some school leaders that they are not responsible for addressing issues related to immigration, particularly issues that may arise outside of school such as those involving immigration enforcement or the need for various social services. This form of boundary management is incredibly understandable, given the number of demands and responsibilities on educators’ plates, especially in the midst of the pandemic. It also makes sense in terms of how educators may feel about bounding their work based on their expertise in education, not immigration policy or law, with some educators with awareness of their own limitations trying to tune out external distractions and focus on academics (Queenan et al., 2022). Those with a more holistic view of their roles may still see their work as bounded by the school walls, taking up issues of safety and belonging within school without considering, or lacking the confidence, knowledge, or skills to address the many ways external threats outside of school may impact their students (Lowenhaupt et al., 2021).

In our research, we have also seen a few instances of educators who support anti- immigrant policies or identify politically with those promoting these policies maintaining a boundary in their work. They do so as a way to manage the tension between honoring their professional commitment to care for all students with their support for policies that threaten those same students’ sense of safety and belonging. These educators avoid using the terms, “immigrant” or “immigration” when referring to their students, instead selecting other terms such as “Hispanic” or “English Learner”, perhaps as a way to avoid tangling with the broader politics and maintain a focus on educational categories and designations relevant to their work (Yammine & Lowenhaupt, forthcoming).

Our research team is currently working on a paper about the ways educators do (and don’t) view immigration issues as part of their roles in their work with immigrant-origin students (Queenan et al., 2022). Perhaps not surprisingly, we find that designated instructors of multilingual learners (MLs) are often the ones to feel that addressing issues is part of their job, as opposed to an added responsibility. We attribute this belief, at least in part, to the training and understanding these educators typically have about the communities they serve. We also have seen the many ways these educators identify personally with these issues, many of whom have themselves experienced immigration in their own or their families’ lives (Queenan et al., 2022).

“School and district leaders play an important role in establishing a sense of shared responsibility among all educators.”

We also found that school and district leaders play an important role in establishing a sense of shared responsibility among all educators, not just those focused on supporting MLs. The extent to which leaders speak openly about these issues, signal support to their community and staff, and ensure that educators have access to information and training shapes the ways educators view their roles and responsibilities when it comes to engaging with students, families, and even the broader community about the particular challenges facing immigrant communities as they evolve.

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?

RL: In the midst of the pandemic, I have given a lot of thought to my role as a researcher and scholar during such a time of disruption. What can we do? I have come to realize that there are a few things we can do that are absolutely necessary in our current circumstances: first, we can facilitate meaningful reflection, helping make and hold space open for our partners to make sense of their efforts, consider the resources and barriers that may help them achieve their goals, and interrogate their own assumptions and habits that may get in the way of transformative practice. For example, when initial school closures took place in the spring of 2020, our research team pivoted to facilitate online conversations with our district partners as opposed to the design work we initially planned. Instead, we offered time for job-alike pairs from districts around the country to commiserate and share strategies with one another. We also invited individuals to share a practice that they were proud of and work across districts to brainstorm how to deepen or expand that practice. Leveraging our skills as facilitators, several colleagues and I have developed other opportunities for practitioners to gather, pause, and reflect in the midst of a busy time. I think we need to do the same for ourselves, finding ways to build our own practice of reflection and recalibration in the midst of change.

Second, I see an important role for evidence in the midst of educational change. What kinds of data will we help our partners attend to? How can we contribute our research skills to help gather and interpret evidence about change as it is enacted? Decision-making is hard enough during times of upheaval, and one role we can play is to help our partners bring evidence to that process. Sometimes, that is as simple as taking notes in a meeting, pulling out themes, and reflecting those back to leaders as they plan for next steps. Other times, it is a matter of gathering and interpreting practical measures as we did in our district-university partnership focused on expanding family engagement practices where we documented participation rates in Parent-Teacher Conferences (Lowenhaupt & Montgomery, 2018).

“What kinds of data will we help our partners attend to?… We have the tools, skills, and time to expand what counts as evidence.”

As research partners, we have the tools, skills, and time to expand what counts as evidence, and I encourage us to continue innovating in this regard. Sometimes, our partners have particular habits or biases when it comes to evidence. In public schools, for example, we are accustomed to looking at accountability measures, graduation rates, and other formalized and generally quantitative metrics
that while useful, can be dehumanizing and don’t attend to the individual perspectives and experiences of those who matter most. We can help round out the array of evidence that matters for educational change decisions, sometimes providing the elbow grease to gather additional information, qualitative data, or help design new forms of data that are more directly linked to the decisions at hand. For example, while it is students who are most impacted by the majority of decisions, schools often lack the mechanisms to gather their perspectives on particular, emergent issues. We can help our partners by developing questionnaires or engaging in interviews with students in response to current dilemmas. We can also help identify relevant practical measures, drawing on the tools of improvement science to identify and generate quick, accessible forms of evidence that can help ascertain the impact of changes (Bryk et al., 2013). Of course, this isn’t easy especially in the midst of various disruptions that can demand educational leaders’ full attention. In the context of crisis, we cannot always design the most rigorous study or gather as much evidence as we may want. However, we can still step in and gather information to help our partners use some form of evidence to develop strategies and innovations.

Third and relatedly, we can help document and learn from the process of our partnership. Working alongside practitioners, we can support the process while also taking notes, writing up next steps and identifying barriers and mechanisms to contribute not only to change efforts in one particular context, but also help extend our learning to other contexts as well. Essentially, we can study educational change at the same time that we find ways to support the change process as research partners.

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

RL: I think this field is incredibly relevant, now more than ever, given the major disruptions we have experienced and can anticipate in the years ahead. Given the many tools we have now to study organizations as organic, evolving entities, I think we have much to contribute to an evolving field. As educators and researchers, we are also learners, and I hope that we are well-positioned to learn from what is happening now and apply those lessons to what comes next.

Thinking about my own trajectory, I’m excited to continue exploring how to involve communities in more meaningful ways in the change process. This is happening in some contexts organically via engagement and protest, as families on different sides of the political spectrum have made their voices heard about topics ranging from temporary and permanent school closure, masking, safety, policing, and racism in schools. While I certainly agree with some movements more than others, there is no doubt that communities are actively engaging in educational change.

In this politically divisive context, I have thought a lot about how to partner more purposefully in ways that lead to coordinated, collaborative change. In the current moment of pandemic recovery and racial reckoning, I have seen among some of my partners a willingness to seek the input and wisdom of youth and families. In particular, I’m excited to think about strategies to bring more youth voices to the table as we recreate a vision of schooling that is more holistic and expansive building on the traditions of Youth Participatory Action Research (e.g. Camarotta & Fine, 2008) to think creatively about supporting youth leadership for change. I am also excited to pursue new partnerships beyond schools and think collectively within communities across organizations, local government, and families about addressing complex social problems together. These are new areas of research for me, and I think increasingly relevant given the various crises we are facing. Education alone cannot solve the problem.

The challenges are daunting, but I hope we can leverage some of the strategies I talked about above to support our practitioner partners as we work to envision and enact real change. As we navigate the uncertainty of a future that will likely continue to challenge our commitments and capabilities to address longstanding and growing inequalities, rise of global migration, and climate change, we will need to continue to innovate across sectors and continue to adapt. As Bryk et al. (2015) put it, we need to continue learning to improve. I do believe that as a community of scholars, those of us working on Educational Change are up for the task!

The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research Association; Jennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.


Bryk, A., & Schneider, B. (2002). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. Russell Sage Foundation.

Bryk, A. S., Gomez, L. M., Grunow, A., & LeMahieu, P. G. (2015). Learning to improve: How America’s
schools can get better at getting better. Harvard Education Press.

Costello, M. B. (2016). The Trump effect: The impact of the 2016 presidential election on our nation’s schools. Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.

Ee, J., & Gándara, P. (2020). The impact of immigration enforcement on the nation’s schools. American Educational Research Journal, 57(2), 840-871.

Hopkins, M. & Weddle, H. (Eds). Restart & Recovery: State Leadership Guide for Engaging Stakeholders in Continuous Improvement of English Learner Programs & Services During COVID and Beyond. CCSSO: Washington D.C. https://learning.ccsso.org/engaging-stakeholders-in-continuous-improvement-of-english-learner-programs-services-during-covid-19-beyond

Kraft, M., Schueler, B., Loeb, S., Robinson, C. (2021). Accelerating Student Learning with High-Dosage Tutoring. Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University: https://annenberg.brown.edu/recovery/edresearch1

Lowenhaupt, R. and Hopkins, M. (2020). Considerations for school leaders serving US immigrant communities in the global pandemic. Journal of Professional Capital and Community. 5(3/4), 375-380. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPCC-05-2020-0023

Lowenhaupt, R., D.B. Dabach, Mangual Figueroa, A. (Online, 2021). Safety and belonging in
immigrant-serving districts: Domains of educator practice in a charged political landscape. AERA Open.

Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A., Dabach, D.B, Gonzales, R.G., Yammine, J., Morales, M., Tesfa, E., Andrade, P. and Queenan, J. (2020). Connectivity and creativity in the time of COVID19: Immigrant serving districts respond to the pandemic. Immigration Initiative at Harvard Issue Brief Series no. 4, Cambridge MA: Harvard University.

Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A., Dabach, D.B, Tesfa, E., Andrade, P. and Queenan, J. (2021, November). “We’re already doing it”: Expanding leadership practices in support of immigrant communities in times of crisis. Paper presented at the University Council for Educational Administration Annual Convention. Online.

Lowenhaupt, R. & Montgomery, N.* (2018). Family engagement practices as sites of possibility: Supporting immigrant families through a district-university partnership. Theory into Practice, 57 (2), 99-108. DOI: 10.1080/00405841.2018.1425814

Queenan, J., Andrade, P., Lowenhaupt, R., Mangual Figueroa, A. (2022, April). Supporting Immigrants in School: Educators’ Personal and Professional Identities in Context. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. Toronto, Canada.

Reich, J., & Mehta, J. (2021, July 21). Healing, Community, and Humanity: How Students and Teachers Want to Reinvent Schools Post-COVID. https://doi.org/10.35542/osf.io/nd52b

Rodriguez, S., Roth, B. J., & Villarreal Sosa, L. (2022). “Immigration enforcement is a daily part of our
students’ lives”: School social workers’ perceptions of racialized nested contexts of reception for immigrant students. AERA Open, 8, 23328584211073170.

Yammine, J. & Lowenhaupt, R. (Online, 2021). Educators’ perceptions of immigration policy implications on their schools: A mixed-methods exploration. Teachers College Record.

Yammine, J. & Lowenhaupt, R. (Forthcoming). Leveraging existing educator expertise: Serving Latinx students in the rural Southeast. In E. Hamann, S. Wortham, & E. Murillo (Eds.), Re-engineering Education in the New Latinx Diaspora. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Collaborative Community-Based Research, Leadership, and Counter-Movements: A Conversation with Ethan Chang

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features Ethan Chang’s discussion of his work on Collaborative Community-Based Research, social justice leadership, and counter-movementsChang is an assistant professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University.

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?

Ethan Chang: This is a big and important question. I would agree that there is consensus that we must all do more. But before asking what more we might do, I think there is a prior question: What have we as education scholars been doing? And to draw on Tuck (2009), have these various scholarly doings actually worked? In posing Tuck’s questions to myself and thinking about the urgent, but daunting work of dismantling oppressive systems, I choose to concentrate my work in three areas: (1) Collaborative Community Based Research (CCBR); (2) learning and social justice leadership development; and (3) critical studies of countermovements.

Collaborative Community-Based Research.

Collaborative, Community-Based Research (CCBR) is an approach to inquiry thatstrives to produce knowledge that emanates from, and isaccountable to, those historically excluded from knowledge production processes (Cammarota & Fine, 2008; Glass et al., 2018; King, 2016; Kirshner, 2015). It
refuses prevailing theories of change that insist more and better knowledge automatically leads toward justice (Tuck, 2009). As a process and a product, CCBR facilitates new epistemic relations, identities, practices, and concepts to prefigure the kinds of futures we hope to bring into the world (Curnow et al., 2019).

One way that Leiʻala Okuda and I have taken up CCBR is by engaging in the political education project of “recuperación crítica” (critical recovery) or “harnessing historical interpretation to the formulation of organizing strategies” (Rappaport, 2020, p. 94). We had the privilege of sharing in the insights of elders and former youth activists whose community-based struggles sparked anti-eviction and ʻāina-based
movements throughout Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. In partnership with elder-activists-researchers, we have sought to understand how and why they became lifelong activists (c.f., Conner, 2014) and focused on the organizational environments in which they were inducted into movement work as one way to access this question. We have undertaken this work because we believe it will take intergenerational work to undo centuries of oppression. As Miʻkmaq scholars poignantly remind, social transformation requires “thinking seven generations ahead” (Julian, 2016). Our CCBR activities—hosting virtual events, crafting academic and popular articles, authoring new identities for ourselves and each other (Catania et al., 2021)—represent various ways that we have attempted to enact this long-term theory of change, particularly amid a global pandemic that has strained intergenerational ties.

“It will take intergenerational work to undo centuries of oppression.”

Social Justice Leadership.

Another way I understand how change happens is by cultivating broad-based, collective leadership. Many scholars have productively challenged traditional definitions of school leadership underpinned by military and corporate models of organizational administration (Ishimaru, 2019; McGhee & Anderson, 2019). My work aims to extend scholarship that pulls the field away from assumptions about leadership as an individual act of heroism and toward models of leadership as a praxis of organizing (Ishimaru, 2013); that is, an exercise of analysis and action that co-designs bold and transformative visions of community self-determination and emphasizes building the leadership capacities of others (Anderson, 2009; Anderson & Chang, 2018; Awaachia’ookaate’ & Chang, 2020; Lac & Mansfield, 2018). We have been particularly inspired by Horsford (2012) and her scholarship that amplifies the lessons and insights of Black women leaders and educators like Ella Baker and Septima Clark. We feel there is so much to gain and so little to lose by turning to fields beyond education such as Social Movement, Black, Indigenous, Chicanx, and Asian American Studies. These fields offer generative locations for thinking about how change happens and how we might dedicate ourselves to meaningful projects of education
and social transformation in our lifetimes.


In my scholarship, I have also focused my energies on countermovements, or movements that aim to
undermine gains made by progressive social movements (Meyer & Staggenborg, 1996). Over the past several years, we have witnessed Blue Lives Matter rallies surface in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. We have also observed symbolic performances like the 1776 Commission emerge in response to expansive curricula developments like the 1619 Project (Hannah-Jones, 2019). These possessive investments in status quo racial hierarchies are not new (Harris, 1993; Lipsitz, 2006). But my
work has sought to illumine how these patterns of retrenchment play out on the shifting terrain of education politics today.

As one example, I studied an oppositional movement to Ethnic Studies, which is an interdisciplinary curricula and pedagogy that centers the insights of Black, Indigenous, and minoritized peoples (Cuauhtin et al., 2019). I spent extended time with white parents in a California suburb and attempted to understand how they positioned Ethnic Studies as “anti-American” and “anti-White,” forged a strategic coalition with disability advocates, and digitally sutured or bound their local countermovement to broader right-wing populist currents (Chang, in press). Telling the story of one local countermovement offers potential ways of comprehending, anticipating, and, as I ultimately concluded, weathering the next countermovement.

Each of these strands of inquiry cohere around a theory of change rooted in the lessons and insights of social movements. These projects have afforded productive tools and concepts to resist a swift desire to “do more,” and instead, to move with a sustainable (and sustaining) sense of urgency to build more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.

LtC: What are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change might learn from your work and experience on critical analyses of education technology?

EC: My studies on EdTech raise similar questions about how we think change happens (Tuck, 2009). If there is one lesson I hope this work raises, it is that our imagined futures of a “twenty-first century education” demand attention to past and present realities of racism. My work in this space investigated how the institutional field of EdTech unevenly rewarded those actors and organizations who distanced themselves from acknowledging systemic oppression (Chang, 2019). In a familiar tale of American innovation, organizations who received significant funding and media attention were those who championed reform narratives about “fixing” the individual child in preparation for tomorrow’s society
(Chang, 2020; see also, Katz, 2020; Sims, 2017). By contrast, those who utilized digital tools to cultivate youth critical consciousness—to examine the historical formation of present inequities in an effort to
dismantle them—were underpaid, undervalued, and burdened by the day-to-day demands of organizational survival.

Like some of my current work on countermovements, this thread of inquiry into the EdTech landscape has proven profoundly ahistorical and deeply sobering. Most digital innovations rarely paid attention to “educational debts” that we know impact educational outcomes (e.g., adequate housing, nutritious foods, livable wages, to name a few; Ladson-Billings, 2006). Still, what keeps me returning to questions of digital technologies are pockets of hope and resistance such as cases in which youth appropriate digital tools for their own ends such as utilizing Google mapping technologies or social media platforms to build organizing power in their communities (Akom et al., 2016; Emejulu & McGregor, 2017). Our CCBR work aims to extend these insights. We seek to use digital tools to reconnect with prior generations of activists, leverage cloud-based platforms to cultivate place-based leadership, and co-create education and social futures rooted in the lessons of past struggles.

“Let’s move with a sustainable (and sustaining) sense of urgency to build more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.”

LtC: In some of your recent work, you discuss the barriers to developing justice-oriented leadership development programs (i.e., moving beyond individual texts or courses to renovate entire learning ecologies). Your exploration of Highlander offers a number of lessons for leadership preparation programs. What would you consider as some of the most important lessons?

EC: The Highlander Research and Education Center (founded in 1932 as the Highlander Folk School) is an invitational, residential adult learning center for labor, educational, civil rights, environmental, and grassroots community leaders. It dramatically shaped the trajectory of U.S. history and culture, and for over the past century, survived and thrived amid ongoing state and vigilante attacks. Our work on Highlander surfaced in response to a white supremacist arson attack on the center in March of 2019 (Chang & Glass, 2021). We understood “recuperación crítica” (critical recovery) as one way to counter white supremacists’ literal attempts to erase Highlander. But in addition to studying Highlander on its own terms, we approached the school as a potentially illustrative case to “re-envision the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of leadership preparation” (Bertrand & Rodela, 2018, p. 28).

One of the lessons we feel Highlander offers is the power of bold, transformative visions, or what Kelley (2002) might call “freedom dreams.” Co-founder of Highlander, Myles Horton, put it this way: “You can’t develop any valuable leadership if you don’t teach people that they can deal with big problems” (Horton, 1990, p. 147). For Highlander, these big problems included Jim Crow segregation, poverty wages, environmental pollution (among others). This lesson is particularly urgent given the ways educational administration programs can, at times, focus on the small, technical, and managerial aspects of leadership. One of my strongest students recently graduated from our program and decided not to become a principal. She felt the state department of education kept principals “busy with mandates” and sought alternative organizational contexts to enact the kinds of leadership she felt in her naʻau (her gut; see Meyer, 1998). I offer these observations not to diminish the incredible and transformative work of school leaders, but to point the arrow back at my own teaching and scholarship and ask: How am I preparing aspiring education leaders to engage with “big problems”? In what ways am I working to transform the organizational contexts of schooling that so often discourage promising individuals from becoming formal school leaders? For me, Highlander provided a way to clarify the costs we pay, and the valuable people we lose, when we do not cultivate the conditions for aspiring education leaders to deal with big problems.

But Highlander also offers insight into how organizations might adapt to the ways big problems shift over time. Black woman activist, educator, and singer, Bernice Johnson Reagon, observed that Highlander possessed a remarkable ability to “move through time” (Phenix & Selver, 2009). Insights from unfolding social movements—for race, gender, sex, environmental, immigrant, and Indigenous rights (to name a few)—directly informed the organizational roles and routines at Highlander. By actively recruiting individuals that community members identified as leaders, Highlander invited students to infuse organizational structures with their values (Selznick, 1948). In this way, Highlander offers a concrete example of a leadership learning ecology rooted in and responsive to progressive social movements.

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: Like the first question, this question raises two prior concerns for me: first, regarding schooling as a privileged site of inquiry; and second, concerning how researchers might meaningfully support educators, activists, and organizers in ways that trouble an historical paternalism in our field.

“Highlander invited students to infuse organizational structures with their values.”

In the first instance, we know that schooling is only one way to organize teaching and learning (Varenne & McDermott, 1999). Nearly thirty years ago, Tyack and Tobin (1994) conceptualized the “grammar” of schooling to name the taken-for-granted school practices such as the single-subject, age-segregated classroom (p. 454). Like the grammar of speech that organizes meaning in language, the grammar of schooling organizes the everyday practices of teaching and learning in schools (Beckham, 2019; Mehta & Datnow, 2020). When we think of “deep and often difficult transformation” then, it involves changing this grammar. It entails rewriting inherited cultural scripts that so often reduce radical education reform ideas into modest additions to the everyday practice of schooling.

In contrast to studies that operate within the grammar of schooling, rich and exciting education scholarship has focused on learning in social movement (Curnow et al., 2019; Jurow et al., 2014; Shield et al., 2021) and community-based spaces (Baldridge, 2019; Terriquez & Serrano, 2018). Of course, these spaces are not insulated from oppressive roles or routines (Baldridge, 2020; Clay & Turner, 2021). But these studies allow us to consider— or perhaps more accurately, to recover— alternative grammars of teaching and learning such as learning spaces in which classrooms become intergenerational learning circles, teachers identify as relatives, or worksheets are replaced by visits with community elders (Kahakalau, 2020; Shield et al., 2021). These educational spaces represent promising local nodes for building and sustaining a national movement for education justice (Warren, 2018); one capable of realizing more than symbolic additions to the grammar of schooling (Rincón-Gallardo, 2019).

“Leadership as accompaniment stands in solidarity with youth and their struggles for a more dignified and just world.”

This question also raises important tensions concerning the meanings of “support” and the modes of association between “researchers” and the “researched” and between education leaders and the families and young people they aim to serve. Rebeca Gamez and I have been thinking through the idea of leadership as accompaniment as one way to specify social justice leadership in relation to youth activists. Accompaniment is a praxis drawn from social movement and abolitionist studies (Mei-Singh, 2021; Tomlinson & Lipsitz, 2019; Watkins, 2019). Like musical accompaniment, “It starts with careful listening, empathy, and identification” and “involves augmenting, accenting, and countering one musical voice with others” (Tomlinson & Lipsitz, 2019, p. 27). Educational leadership as accompaniment foregrounds an ethic of listening, attends to dominant forms of exclusion, and stands in solidarity with youth and their struggles for a more dignified and just world (Chang & Gamez, 2022). Awaachia’ookaate’ and I have also been interested in notions of accompaniment and aim to think through the challenges and risks inherent in articulating accompaniment toward decolonial ends (Awaachia’ookaate’ & Chang, 2020; c.f., Mackey et al., 2020). Across our projects, we aim to hold ourselves accountable for any recommendations we might pose to education leaders. In the words of Lugg and Shoho (2006): “To advocate for social justice, while being risk-adverse in practice, is the worst sort of professional hypocrisy (p. 205). We approach accompaniment as a generative research praxis that moves us to foreground deep listening and stand in solidarity with those whose lives and expertise have been historically disregarded.

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

I prefer not to speculate on where the field of Educational Change is going but can comment on what excites me and where I hope the field might be heading. One hope is that CCBR will gain increasing legitimacy but in ways that resist shallow inclusion into academia. Scholarship that aims to produce knowledge that is answerable to those with most at stake, that values humanizing processes in addition to products, that is committed to a radical reflexivity is needed now more than ever. Engaged scholars like Sheeva Sabati, Emily Borg, Chrissy Hernandez, Saugher Nojan, Farima Pour-Khorshid, George Lipsitz, Diane Fujino, and Ron Glass are doing impactful work in this area. These scholars understand CCBR as a valuable methodology for producing rigorous and relevant scholarship and insist on CCBR’s foundational political commitments to intervene in the cultural and material contexts of injustice.

Another direction that I hope to see more of in Educational Change scholarship are studies that take seriously the lessons of past and unfolding social movements. Skeptics might comprehend this direction of inquiry as impractical or even impossible amid a global pandemic that has exhausted our school leaders and educators. But it is precisely this exhaustion that speaks to a need for something other than individual models of heroic leadership. In their analysis of the common activist statement, “I’m exhausted,” Emejulu and Bassel (2020) examine the social structures that demand exhaustion and exact a toll on the minds and bodies of women of color (p. 402). One social structure pertains to a patterned refusal to take women of color’sinsights seriously. Activists are exhausted because we keep rehearsing old missteps and mistakes. We continue to insist that we can build futures premised on the oppression of others or remain fearful of our differences instead of leveraging them as sources of collective strength (c.f., Hernandez et al., in press; Surviving Society, 2021). Education research that engages past and present movements can help us reach beyond this exhausting normal. I hope to continue to be a part of conversations that animate these important insights and build toward more humanizing and liberatory educational spaces.

The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. A pdf of the fully formatted interview is available on the LtC website.

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“We are just broken”: The fate of education for girls in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover

This week, nearly 6 months after the US forces left Afghanistan, Naila Shahid shares some of the news and links since August of 2021 describing the impact of the Taliban takeover on girls’ education there. 

 With the Taliban takeover of the Afghan government last August, many expressed fears that the substantial gains made in girls education in the past 20 years might be lost.  Although an estimated 3.7 million children remain out-of-school in Afghanistan – 60% of them girls, according to World Bank reports, girls’ secondary school attendance increased 32% from 2003 to 2017. By 2018, girls made up almost 38 percent — 3.8 million — of students in the country; by comparison only 5,000 Afghan girls were enrolled in schools in 2001. Over the same period, the presence of women in higher education also rose, and the  gender disparity in higher education enrollment decreased over time in favor of female students entering Afghan universities. For example, there were only 1,000 female participants in the Kankor exam (the University entrance exam) in 2003, while this number jumped to an all-time high – 78,000 – in 2013. In 2020, Shamsia Alizada, the daughter of a coal miner from Kabul, received the highest score out of 170,000 students on the entrance exam.

When the US troops pulled out, however, and the Taliban seized control of the country in 2021,  many businesses and institutions, including schools, shut down. Since that time, public elementary schools have reopened again and in September 2021 the Taliban government announced the reopening of government high schools but only for boys, saying only that “a safe learning environment” was needed before older girls could return to school.  Private schools, including girls secondary schools and universities, only started operating again in 10 out of 34 provinces, after they negotiated with local Taliban leadership.  

 In  October 2021, Afghan officials announced that girls would be able to resume attendance in government secondary schools, but only after the development of a new educational framework. That statement did not give a time frame for reopening and made thousands of girls fearful about their exams, their plans to graduate, their university applications and their academic future in general. In November 2021, the Afghan government added a statement about reopening secondary schools for girls, simply stating“good news coming soon”. As of January of 2022, the  Taliban are pledging/promising to open all girls schools after the Afghan New Year in late March, offering a deadline for the first time. According to the Taliban’s Deputy Minister of Culture and Information, the major barriers for reopening the secondary schools for girls have been the “capacity” as they plan to completely segregate girls and boys schools. 

Depriving girls of their educational rights has contributed to continuing unrest. Reports have shared the stories of  women and girls in some areas of Afghanistan (mostly urban) who are raising their voices against the closure of girls’ secondary schools and taking action. Among those voices: 

Roya, 18,  who was supposed to graduate from high school and was preparing for the university entrance exam, declared: 

“I always dreamed of being a lawyer and had been preparing to get into law school, but now with the Taliban taking over I don’t think I have a future.”

Rahela Nussrat, 17,in her final year of high school and and unable to attend classes since the takeover, lamented:

 “When the Afghan government fell, I lost my right to education, this was the first time I cried specifically because of my gender.” 

Zakia Menhas, a medical student at Kabul university waiting for her college to reopen, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro: 

“We really – just fed up – and it is really devastating for us. Like, we had hopes. We had dreams to chase. And now it is just a dark place. And we cannot find that light. And we are just broken.” 

Despite the challenges, some are managing to persevere. 

 Shabana Basij- Rasikh whogrew up in Kabul in the 1990s, has been operating Afghanistan’s only private boarding school for girls – the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), explained 

“Education transforms lives and societies. It’s transformed my life and it’s transformed my Afghan society these past 20 years.”

Angela Ghayour, who witnessed the civil war in Afghanistan in 1992 as well, could not bear to see girl’s deprived of education once again. After three months with little progress from the Taliban, she used social media to bring together 400 volunteers and started the Online Herat school to provide educational resources to women and girls. As she put it: 

“I feel this school is the result of all of my pain, my agonies and experiences. Our motto is, the pen instead of the gun.”

In the western province of Herat, the teachers’ union, 40 school principals and parents pushed back and reopened the schools in October. However, they had to negotiate with the local Taliban officials to have completely segregated classes and only female teachers. The parents are determined. Mastoura who now escorts her two daughters to school every day is resolute.

“We had concerns, and we have them still, But daughters must get an education. Without education, your life is held back.”

A timeline of the reported events: 

September 20, 2021- Afghanistan’s new government is likely to impose severe restrictions on girls’ education, The New York Times

September 24, 2021- Deputy UN chief urges girls’ education is a must for Afghanistan, Thompson Reuters Foundation News

October 11, 2021- What will happen to girl’s education under Taliban rule?, Thompson Reuters Foundation News

October 13, 2021- Amnesty International published testimonies from teachers and students in Afghanistan, Amnesty International

October 18, 2021- Taliban stops school for girls over 12, CBS News

October 22- 2021- Afghan girls determined to return to school, CBS News

October 29, 2021- Online learning (secretly) continues for girls in Afghanistan, Global Citizen

October 31, 2021- Afghan girls think their education doesn’t have a future, The New York Times

October 31, 2021- Afghan women’s education in limbo, Deadline

November 02, 2021- Afghanistan’s government says it will soon announce  “good news” about girl’s education, Reuters

— Naila Shahid

A focus on future generations: A Conversation with Carrie Sampson on school boards, research, and educational change

This month’s Lead the Change (LtC) interview features Carrie Sampson’s discussion of her work on equity, research, school boards, and educational changeSampson is an assistant professor in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University. The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. 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?

Carrie Sampson: Many scholars come into the field of education because we hope to make a positive contribution. We have dedicated decades of our lives to learning and teaching. We read, listen, reflect, formulate questions, seek answers, write, and share knowledge. Trained to think critically about our field, most of us are excellent at finding flaws, issuing critiques, and pointing fingers. In doing this, we come to understand just how complex our educational system is, and we recognize that even if we fix one part, there’s still hundreds of moving parts that make it nearly impossible to fix an entire system. Sometimes we become disillusioned. At times, I have become disillusioned. Yet, as education researchers we have not come this far to sit in our disillusionment. It’s our responsibility to continue to find the best possible solutions to the many problems in our systems. It’s our responsibility to fight the good fight.

In building my good fight, I have focused on three major areas as a scholar. First, I constantly return to my “why” for the work I do. While it has always been rooted in the notion of “the personal is political,” my “why” has changed over the years. It has shifted from my own experiences as a mixed race, Black and Chicana, woman who grew up in poverty in both rural and urban communities. My success in education was too reliant on luck and cultural capital rather than a system that offered ample opportunities, a system that failed many of my peers and family members. 

These days my “why” centers on what I have experienced and witnessed as a mother-scholar of two school-aged children—one who is 8 years old and skipped the first grade and one who completed his kindergarten year online due to COVID. Since the time they entered preschool, my kids have faced racism and gender discrimination. Navigating these isms when they happen to me is one thing, but when they happened to my babies, it lit a fire in my soul like no other. The urgency and clarity of my “why” both shifted and soared. In an article about coalition politics, we cited Bernice Johnson Reagon, a Black feminist and activist (Sampson, Demps, & Rodriguez-Martinez, 2020). Her emphasis on the importance of doing what we do for future generations resonated with my “why.” Reagon (1983) said, “…most of the things you do, if you do them right, are for the people who live long after you are long forgotten” (p. 365). This work is not about us. Just like our ancestors before us, we will likely not reap the benefits of our labor directly. Instead, my children, our children, and those children who are not yet born have the chance to be impacted by our work. I believe this must always be the center of our “why.”

My other two areas of focus are simple. I hold on to the notion that “all politics are local.” This means I try to engage in my local community as much as I can. These communities are my home. I seek to understand the history and context of where I live. I am on advisory councils, I engage in political campaigning, and I meet with local officials to advocate for change. Relatedly, and more recently, the final area of focus for me has been gaining the skills to translate my research for a broader audience. As school boards are increasingly part of the broader conversation among the media, decision makers, families, and even youth, I have been increasingly called on to offer a research-based perspective on school board governance. I pursued this career largely because I liked research. And like most of us, I spent many years learning to do research, not translate it. Sadly, we don’t often teach our future academics to talk about their research in a non-academic context. Yet, it’s our responsibility as education researchers to bring our research to broader audiences and that must begin with learning the skills to translate our scholarship in ways that all groups of people can understand and apply what we learn.

In sum, the three areas of responsibility that ground my work and I believe should ground our field’s work are a) a focus on future generations as a major part of our “why”; b) engaging in our local community; and c) translating our research to those outside of the academy.

“It’s our responsibility as education researchers to bring our research to broader audiences.”

LtC: Given some of your work using critical lenses to examine political coalitions, district reform, and equity (or a lack thereof), what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

CS: I’ll share six things I’ve learned from my work and experience.

(1) The notion I mentioned above about “all politics is local” is from the fact that I’ve seen time and time again that local politics matter. Democracy and justice happen locally first. Without political players and policies that make sense at the local level, educational change for the better will never happen.

(2) We need to work on being more proactive. From my dissertation research that explored school board policymaking for English learners, two of the school board members I interviewed said that they, as board members, were always putting out fires and never got a chance to work ahead of the fires to prevent them (Sampson, 2016). While reacting to the inequitable experiences voiced by minoritized communities is critical as a school board member, the idea of being proactive about ensuring that our children have equitable educational opportunities (and not just reactive) always stuck with me. Consequently, I carefully consider what it means to be proactive in terms of my research implications toward educational equity.

(3) Building critically conscious coalitions is needed to sustain the work. As someone with several minoritized identities, I have come to realize that groups are too often in competition mode. Moreover, as one of my research findings illustrates (Sampson, Demps, & Rodriguez-Martinez, 2020), competition can water down the end result for all groups. Instead, coalitions that are rooted in the unique needs of the communities these coalitions intend to serve have a better chance of achieving more relevant and adequate outcomes.

(4) While I center race in much of my work, knowing and acknowledging how race intersects with other identities is critical to how I shape my scholarship. Aligned with Crenshaw’s (2017) concept of intersectionality, I gained significant insight on why this concept and reality matter from my studies in feminist theory and research. While pursuing my graduate certificate in Women’s Studies, I was assisting on a study examining the history of school desegregation in Southern Nevada (Horsford, Sampson, & Forletta, 2013). As I learned about feminism, I began to ask deeper questions aimed at exploring why a group of mostly White women from The League of Women Voters became one of the leading organizations to advocate for racially desegregated schools (Sampson, 2017). I learned that their efforts were often largely informed and shaped by their racialized, gendered, and classed experiences, and more importantly, their efforts influenced the outcome for Black children who were bussed from their neighborhood schools for nearly two decades.

(5) As frustrating as it might be, change is often incremental. Maybe it was my economics degree that trained me to believe that when systems change quickly and drastically (for good and bad), these systems often experience push back aiming to disrupt those changes creating little to no real change. My studies on school boards taught me the same thing (e.g., Sampson, 2019; Sampson, 2019b).

(6) Specific to my research on school boards, I have learned that school governance matters to educational change, and yet, many states and localities have fallen short when it comes to electing and training strong candidates for these positions. Nonetheless, district leaders (i.e., superintendents, other board members) who can help create a heathy foundation on which a school board can grow and develop cohesively can contribute to setting a vision for positive change. I’ve seen board members who clearly don’t understand issues of race and racism shift their thinking and be willing to compromise once they understand the stakes of their decisions, and that usually happens through both training and developing a trust among district leadership. We must do a better job at creating pathways and training for board members so they are equipped to govern toward positive change (Sampson, 2019a, 2019c).

“As frustrating as it might be, change is often incremental.”

LtC: In some of your recent work examining district reorganization in Nevada using a critical lens, you find that marginalized communities are excluded from the policy process, resulting in anti-democratic and inequitable processes and outcomes. You explain that other efforts to decentralize districts in Chicago, New York City, and Houston, seem to have similar results. Is there a way for districts to restructure in an equitable and democratic fashion given the current political climate?

SC: This is a tough question. Our political climate is highly divisive. Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but I still think many local communities, when given the opportunity to really engage in open and honest dialogue, can agree on some fundamental areas of education that can move school districts in the right direction to improve educational opportunities for all children. The problem in these districts mentioned is that the push to reorganize typically came from outside

of the district, often from the state-level, not from within or at the local level (Sampson & Diem, 2020). While it might take longer to make change from within, informed by those most impacted by the change, I think it’s the only way to prompt the change necessary particularly with the aim of improving educational equity.

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?

SC: We must be in conversation not only with those directly in schools but also those connected to schooling. One thing I hope we all learned from COVID-19 is that schooling happens beyond the walls of classrooms. Not only do teachers, staff, and school leaders matter but without the families and youth they serve, schooling is nothing. And yet, as my coauthors and I noted in a blog we wrote during the beginning of COVID (later published in a book), school systems often overlook and dismiss families (Sampson, Wong, Cervantes-Soon, Estrella, & Demps, 2020).

Moreover, as researchers, being in conversation with communities impacted by schooling can make our scholarship better. This shapes our research methods, including the questions we ask and how we make sense of the problem we are studying. As an example, one recent study I co-conducted was heavily influenced because my colleague and I were in conversation with a

community-based organization advocating for change. We began by thinking that maybe we could help them. But more so, they helped us develop a keenly relevant study by offering us deeper context and helping shape our overarching research questions and the purpose of this specific study on school board meetings (Bertrand & Sampson, 2020; Sampson & Bertrand, 2020, 2021). Without these conversations, our work can miss the mark of being applicable toward any positive change.

“Being in conversation with communities impacted by schooling can make our scholarship better.”

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

SC: I think we are at a crossroads. COVID-19 and the many uprisings prompted by racism and white supremacy have brought to the surface several deep-seated problems in education. To sit in optimism and hope that educational change can offer improvements to these problems keep many of us motivated to fight the good fight. Yet, those of us whose work is rooted in critical theory and who have lived in marginalized spaces, know that the systems holding these problems hostage are too complex and unjust to adequately change without being completely dismantled. I think what the future holds is much of what the author Octavia Butler wrote about in Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents. After the world as they knew it fell apart, she envisioned change as the opportunity to plant new seeds, using their talents to create a community rooted in a collective vision of liberation. Although these texts paint a bleak picture in some ways, I think they also show that change is inevitable. Our crossroads is figuring out how change can offer us the opportunity to collectively envision and engage in efforts that result in an educational system or systems that can support future generations to solve our most pressing problems, such as racism and climate change, that will continue to haunt us for years to come.


Bertrand, M., & Sampson, C. (2020). Challenging systemic racism in school board meetings through intertextual co-optation. Critical Studies in Education, 00(00), 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2020.1765823

Butler, O. E. (1995). Parable of the sower. New York: Warner Books. Butler, O.E. (1998). Parable of the talents: A novel. New York: Seven Stories Press.

Crenshaw, K. W. (2017). On intersectionality: Essential writings. The New Press.

Horsford, S.D. Sampson, C., & Forletta, F.M. (2013). School resegregation in the Mississippi of the West: Community counternarratives on the return to neighborhood schools in Las Vegas, 1968-1994. Teachers College Record, 115 (11). 1-28.

Reagon, B. (1983). “Coalition politics: Turning the century.” in Smith, B. (Ed.) Home girls (p. 356-368). New York: Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press.

Sampson, C. (2016). The role of school boards in addressing opportunity and equity for English

learners in the U.S. Mountain West (Dissertation). University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Sampson, C. (2017). So it ‘‘became White activists fighting for integration?’’ Community

organizations, intersectional identities, and education reform. The Urban Review, 49(1), 72-


Sampson, C. (2019a). (Im)Possibilities of Latinx school board members’ educational leadership toward equity. Educational Administration Quarterly, 55(2), 296–327. https://doi.org/10.1177/0013161X18799482

Sampson, C. (2019b). From a lighthouse to a foghorn: A school board’ s navigation toward equity for English learners. American Journal of Education, 125(4), 521–546.

Sampson, C. (2019c, August 26). In school boards we trust? The potential for educational equity in public education. Equity Alliance Blog. Retrieved from https://equityalliance.stanford.edu/content/school-boards-we-trust-potential-educational-equity-


Sampson, C., & Bertrand, M. (2020). “This is civil disobedience. I’ll continue.”: The racialization of school board meeting rules. Journal of Education Policy. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680939.2020.1778795

Sampson, C., & Bertrand, M. (2021). Counter-storytelling, metaphors, and rhetorical questioning: Discursive strategies of advocacy toward racial equity in school board meetings. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 0(0), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/01596306.2021.2002268

Sampson, C. & Diem, S. (online first, 2020). Democratic (dis)engagement in school district decentralization: A critical analysis of actors and coalitions. Leadership and Policy in Schools.

Sampson, C., Demps, D., & Rodriguez-Martinez, S. (2020). Engaging (or not) in coalition politics: A case study of Black and Latinx community advocacy toward educational equity. Race Ethnicity and Education, 00(00), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2020.1842346

Sampson, C., Wong, L.-S., Cervantes-Soon, C. G., Estrella, A., & Demps, D. (2020, May 13). A Call from Black and Brown mothers for true family engagement. Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/a-call-from-black-and-brown-mothers-for-true/a-call-from-black-and-brown-mothers-for-true-family-engagement-bbfda3e7f72d

Equity, Inclusion and Educational Change: The Lead the Change Interview with Patricia Virella

This week, Patricia Virella discusses her work on equity, inclusion and educational change in the December Lead the Change (LtC) interview. Virella is an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University who focuses on urban educational leadership. The LtC series is produced by the Educational Change Special Interest Group of the American Educational Research AssociationJennie Weiner, Chair; Olga O. Fellus, Program Chair; Corinne Brion, Secretary/Treasurer; Alexandra Lamb, Series Editor; Cynthia Wise, Social Media Coordinator. 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 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? 

Patricia Virella: I think, for me, the idea of dismantling oppressive systems comes with a collective agreement that the systems in place ARE, in fact, oppressive in nature. I’ve observed, in some of the research I’ve read, researchers ignoring this important and blatant fact in their work. For me, when I am writing or teaching, I always try to embed something that addresses oppressive systems and include how equity, diversity, and inclusion should be part of school leadership or research implementation to encourage change. I draw on a variety of texts such as the canon of critical education work as well as Courageous Conversations by Singleton (2014), bell hooks, Toni Morrison and Paulo Friere. I also talk a lot with my dear friend Jonathan Foy who is on the ground continuously challenging what equity and inclusion looks like in the NYC Public Schools. He always tells me that I have to enter into the conversations around equity with a genuine curiosity and understanding that this work is progressive and demands careful attention to how we move the needle. As a collective group of scholars, we have to all agree that educational change happens through risks and bold actions. Audre Lorde (2018) said “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Change cannot happen if we continue to do the same things as a field. Meaning, if we are seeking true social justice and liberation, we must liberate and open up the ways we research, where we research, and admit to the white supremacist nature of academe. I recently read an article about how a librarian developed citation templates for Indigenous oral teachings (Kornei, 2021). This is the change and inclusion we need to move the field along, inclusion of the diverse ways people make meaning of the world to capture it authentically in our research. Furthermore, there is no change if scholars use methodologies that maintain the status-quo of our inequitable society. One example is when I work with other scholars and they may say “but I’m not a critical scholar,” my response to them is “but are you here to transform this system?” Criticality is one element, and equity is much bigger than one element, and they are not mutually exclusive. But also, isn’t our job as scholars to always be critical and examine the world so we can make dutiful change? Equity is necessary because some population will always be excluded, thus you cannot rest on one identification or classification as a researcher (i.e.: a critical scholar). We must always fight to bring the oppressed as Freire (1970) said and stoke the fires of liberation. Otherwise, as a scholar, you are helping to maintain the systems of oppression designed for exclusion. Change takes bold risks and equity and inclusion must be at the heart of the work researchers, policymakers, and leaders do.

Change takes bold risks and equity and inclusion must be at the heart of the work researchers, policymakers, and leaders do.

LtC: Given some of your work examining educational policymaking in Puerto Rico, what are some of the major lessons the field of Educational Change can learn from your work and experience?

PV: I love researching Puerto Rico because there is so much happening on the island that needs to be highlighted, and there is a huge gap in the literature that uses Puerto Rico as the setting. Most people have no idea that Puerto Rico is the 3rd biggest US school district if you add the territories to the continental rankings. Puerto Rico is a geopolitically and socio-politically complex space given its political status with the United States as an unincorporated territory. This complexity makes Puerto Rico appear to be a very different context than any stateside school district, but there are many similarities to New York, Chicago and L.A. school districts. Thus, the field can learn from Puerto Rico’s education system. Specifically, we need to understand the challenges, the oppression, the bountiful culture and the fight for authenticity in the face of neoliberalism – which I believe many urban districts are constantly battling.
One thing I think educational change as a field can learn from my work is how policies implemented in Puerto Rico affect a population in an unincorporated territory that is clearly delineated as a “postcolonial” space, and yet still has many of the functions of being under colonial rule. That complexity, in and of itself, is something we can learn from. As a field, we’re narrowing our scope in deleterious ways by not looking at where these policies are taking place and where there are spaces of experimentation that can further educational change. Finally, the rich traditions, history, and orgullo (pride in Spanish – but we always say orgullo in PR) of Puerto Rico should be seen as strengths, and researchers should consider how these strengths support students in Puerto Rico. There’s a lot we can learn from Puerto Rico and by not studying it, it leaves a blind spot in understanding educational change across the entirety of the United States and its territories as well as globally.

LtC: In some of your recent work examining equity- oriented principal leadership during a crisis, you highlight the importance of an equity-orientation from both individuals and systems in order to fully support students. In the current political climate, how might districts support the development of equity-oriented leaders?

PV: I think this is a very interesting question because what I find is that districts generally have a very clear sense, at least on paper, of what they want as far as equity in their districts. They have a mission statement that talks about equity oriented pedagogical practices or disability services for their students, or they may have diverse curricula that includes lgbtqia+ perspectives as well as diverse racial and cultural perspectives. But where I don’t see districts going far enough is in how they help their leaders to enact equity-oriented leadership practices. That really comes down to the individual leaders and what their values are and how those values come out in their leadership. For example, I found in my research that school leaders act equitably based on their values and beliefs about social justice in schools. The data suggested that the equity-oriented responses were not driven from district initiatives or even what the principals learned in their preparation programs. This is inherently problematic because, in my mind, equity should always be part of a leader’s lens. So, what you see is a disconnect between an espoused theory of equity and a theory in action or use – of principals who lead equitably. This disconnect explains a little of why I saw so much variance in how leaders responded to a crisis in equity-oriented ways. I argue that again, as a field, we need to prepare leaders through an equity-oriented lens and develop their ability to execute equity-oriented leadership in concretized actions and activities.

“Equity should always be part of a leader’s lens.”

If school leaders don’t believe in equity- oriented leadership, that’s not a viable option because our children live in a diverse world and deserve an equity-oriented learning experience and setting. Thus, one thing I’m currently working on, and I’m very excited about, is how we train leaders in an equity-oriented leadership model that moves away from simply focusing on their personal values. Equity situated transformation is about the district getting clear about what an equity-oriented leader does, how they respond to crises, and how they respond to the day-to-day challenges of leading a school. Also, it’s important for districts to give leaders, who are equity-oriented and doing the work in this space, trust to continue on the path they are on and perhaps even become models of what equity-oriented leadership concretely looks like. In one study (Virella & Woulfin, 2021), I found the highest level of equity orientation was this idea of modeling equity so the leader is showing the faculty and the district what equity looks
like. This framing is based in Galloway and Ishimaru’s (2017) work. One participant was incredibly bold and challenged the district’s equity orientation calling attention to the fact that the mission statement in her district said that they are an equity-oriented mission-driven school; however, when the participant looked at, and peeled back, the layers of what that looks like in their schools it was just lip service. And so, instead of being chastised by the district for questioning the status quo, this leader was bolstered by the district and ended up leading an entirely new school under this equity-oriented model.

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?

PV: I think about this a lot because the work that I do specifically, researching how equity-oriented leadership intersects with crisis leadership in schools, is incredibly difficult. I think oftentimes scholars walk into schools to encourage diversity, equity, inclusion, and access and yet this may be the first time these difficult conversations are happening for those schools. And so, how do researchers and leaders, as a collective, debrief and share best practices and really think about both the impact we’re having on the schools and the emotional and cognitive toll this work has on us? As a Black woman who is an Afro-Latina doing this type of equity work and having these difficult conversations, I’m confronting racism right at the head. It is not always blatant racism, but rather passive aggressive racism because the participants are disengaged from learning about the nuance of POC, or they don’t find value in the culture of POC, or they have a Eurocentric notion of what intellectual curiosity looks like and how that appears in students. There are times where as a group of scholars we have to find a way for us to unpack what’s happening so that we can keep marshaling change in schools. It’s particularly important for scholars to support the next generation as they navigate the academy. One way I’ve found to do this is to create an authentic community. I have been very fortunate to work with professors such as Dr. Sarah Woulfin, Dr. Ramon Goings, Dr. Monica Byrne-Jimenez, Dr. Roman Liera, Dr. Jennie Weiner, and Dr. Blanca Vega to name a few who help me develop my writing so I can be my authentic self. To pay this forward, I have developed http://myacademicwritingroutine.com/ to support future scholars who are championing to make the world more equitable and bring out voices of the subaltern. It is also a space to learn how to develop writing routines with academia in mind and break down the Ivory Tower (Freire, 1970) where so many of us are held back or kept away. I want this space to be a place where scholars can converge, learn from one another and feel they can do the work that they feel will transform and liberate their field.

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

PV: Right now, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for educational change and there are some discourses around racial and social justice, equity, and inclusion across scholars and school communities. There is great work discussing decolonizing educational research from Leigh Patel in her book Decolonizing Educational Research: From Ownership to Answerability (Patel, 2015) and from Venus Evans-Winters
(2020), and Introduction to Intersectional Qualitative Research (Esposito & Evans-Winters, 2021. These are important because we must challenge white, Eurocentric research methods. We also need to bolster voices like Rosa L. River-McCutchen who wrote Radical Care: Leading for Justice in Urban Schools (2021). So, this path of research excites me, but what I worry about is the way that education, as
a field, has ebbs and flows. When I look at the research and I see how much large urban districts are surveyed, researched, and quantified, I worry that, as scholars, we are researching for our benefit and not researching for the greater good of the children in urban communities, for the families who have to go through so much to get a fair shake because of the rampant racism in our country. What I hope to see in the future is scholars en masse asking, how does this research help to dismantle these oppressive systems? I want that to be on the minds of all researchers, not just critical scholars, not just ed change
scholars. We need to be really thinking, not necessarily about the scholarly metrics of our work, but of the possibility of transformation and liberation of schools and children as Paulo Freire would see it. Researchers, leaders, and policy makers must help to liberate oppressed communities and honor their inherent value.


Esposito, J., & Evans-Winters, V. E. (2022). Introduction to intersectional qualitative research. Sage. 

Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum. 

Galloway, M. K., & Ishimaru, A. M. (2017). Equitable leadership on the ground: Converging on high-leverage practices. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 25 (2). https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.25.2205

Kornei, K. (2021, November 10). Academic Citations Evolve to Include Indigenous Oral Teachings. Retrieved from https://eos.org/articles/academic-citations-evolve-to-include-indigenous-oral-teachings 

Lorde, A. (2018). The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House. Penguin Classics.

Patel, L. (2016). Decolonizing educational research: From ownership to answerability. Routledge.

Rivera-McCutchen, R. L. (2021). Radical care: Leading for justice in urban schools. Teachers

College Press.

Singleton, G. E. (2014). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Corwin Press.

Virella, P. M., & Woulfin, S. (2021). Leading after the storm: New York City principal’s deployment of equity-oriented leadership post-Hurricane Maria. Educational Management Administration & Leadership. https://doi.org/10.1177/17411432211022778.

Education and Innovation 2021: The WISE Education Summit

The 2021 WISE Summit hosted thousands of education stakeholders and innovators from around the globe for a discussion of the current state and the future of education. Featured sessions included the importance of STEM for the next generation (Gitanjali Rao), the role of philanthropy (Naza Alakija) and girl empowerment through media (Jessica Posner Odede).

The 3-day WISE summit has been held every 2 years since 2009 as part of an effort to revitalize education and provide a global platform for the development of new ideas and solutions. Under the theme: “Generation Unmute: Reclaiming Our Future Through Education,” sessions were built around five thematic tracks: 

  1. Leading for the Future: Transforming Education to Thrive in a World of Uncertainty
  2. Mute/Unmute: Edtech and the Promise of Personalized Learning
  3. Learning to Be Well: Putting Social and Emotional Learning at the Heart of Education
  4. Learning for Life: Bridging the Education to Employment Gap through Equity and Inclusion
  5. From Globalization to Glocalization: Leveraging the Creative Potential of Local Learning Ecosystems

This year’s 2021 WISE Prize for Education Laureate Wendy Kopp was recognized by WISE for her contribution to quality education through creating Teach For All, a diverse global network building collective leadership in classrooms and communities and sharing solutions across borders to ensure all children can fulfil their promise.

Additionally, each year, the WISE Awards recognize and promote six successful and innovative projects that are addressing global educational challenges. These projects represent a growing resource of expertise and sound educational practice, such as:


The Delhi Government’s Happiness Curriculum, India

Dream and Dream partnered with the Delhi government to include social emotional learning in the school curricula. The Happiness Curriculum aims to address the well-being and happiness of students with a strong emphasis on mindfulness, self-awareness, critical thinking, reflection & other social-emotional skills.


Let’s All Learn to Read, Colombia

The Luker Foundation is a comprehensive and innovative model for learning literacy for elementary school students. Using face-to-face and digital strategies such as:


onebillion, United Kingdom

onebillion children delivers a comprehensive numeracy and literacy software, known as onecourse, to adapt to the level of any child, providing personalized learning sessions with no need for login.


ProFuturo Digital Education Program, Spain

The Telefonica Foundation and “la Caixa” Foundation focuses on teacher training and support, to help them strengthen their teaching practice, their capacity to manage the classroom, and their digital skills so they can integrate technology in the classroom and offer the best education to their students.


Taleemabad, Pakistan

The Orenda Project offers a highly localized and contextualized animated series aligned with the National Curriculum of Pakistan that teaches children English, Urdu, Maths and Science across the K-6 spectrum.


Trauma Informed Schools, Turkey

The Maya Vaikh Foundation aims to promote trauma-informed education within Turkish public schools and transform these schools into a safe space for children suffering from traumatic experiences. The intervention applies a multi-pronged approach targeting the children and the entire community surrounding them, including their caregivers, teachers, school administrators and school counsellors.

Related links:

Everyone speaks the language of football, Street Child United CEO says at 2021 WISE Summit, The Peninsula

2021 WISE Prize for Education is presented to Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach For All, Yahoo Finance

‘Generation Unmute’: WISE education summit convenes in Doha, Aljazeera

WISE calls for innovative solutions for education, The Peninsula

‘Education needs to be changed in design and delivery’, Gulf Times

Academic experts discuss future of education in post-Covid-19 scenario, Gulf Times