Tag Archives: innovation

The Whole Child Model at the Van Ness Elementary School: A Conversation with Keptah Saint Julien (Part 2)

This week, Thomas Hatch continues his conversation with Keptah Saint Julien about the development of a Whole Child School Model at the Van Ness Elementary School, a District of Columbia Public School. In Part 1, Saint Julien talked about the beginnings of the Whole School Model, and some of the core components. Part 2 discusses some of the specific strategies for working with students who need additional support and some of the ways the model has changed over time. Keptah Saint Julien is a partner at Transcend with over a decade of experience in urban education. Saint Julien now works with her colleagues at Transcend to share the model in a Whole Child Collaborative in D.C. and in schools in Transcend’s national network. To support that work, Transcend recently received a $4 million dollar grant to study and scale the model in the DCPS and in Aldine ISD, in Texas.

Thomas Hatch: Last time, you talked about some of the key components that characterize the Whole Child School Model, can you talk a bit about the CARE plus and Boost strategies designed for students who need additional support?

Keptah Saint Julien: For some students, CARE isn’t enough. They need additional supports to help them to be successful. For this we have both CARE Plus and BOOST. CARE plus means using CARE strategies with greater frequency or intensity (e.g. if a student needs more connections, they get extra connecting activities during the day, etc), but it also incorporates classroom strategies that teachers can implement to help these students. They may be academic, social or emotional.

CARE plus classroom strategies

We also have what is called TLC (Time, Love, and Connection), which gives students who need additional connection a daily opportunity to check in with an adult that they trust. BOOST also encompasses specific interventions like structured recess. Van Ness incorporated this practice for students who were being unsafe with their bodies. It’s important that every student has recess. Physical activity is an important way to alleviate stress. But if a student gets into an altercation, a staff member will pick up the students and take them to a space where they first talk about what happened. The staff member sits on the ground at the same level as the students, and then makes sure the students understand why they are in structured recess while giving the students a space to express their frustrations. At Van Ness, the staff member is usually a “behavior technician” who works to foster the development of positive behaviors and support students who are struggling. (Van Ness is one of several schools in the district that has behavior tech’s.) What’s beautiful about the model is that teachers do affirm student emotions. Students are allowed to be upset. Structured recess gives them the space to be upset, to express their frustrations and to reflect on how they can improve. After reflecting, the students build their skills with the behavior tech through practicing different recess games. That might be “This is how we play tag. We can practice and play.” So students get a chance to practice appropriate touch in tag and build the skills that they need in a structured setting, while still allowing for them to have recess and deepen a trusting relationship with an adult as well.

The last core component is Family Circle, which has a lot to do with the relationship building between families, teachers and staff members. Family Circle includes proactive relationship building as part of it, ongoing communication, family to family community building, academic partnering, and additional support, of course, for families as well. All these three parts – Family Circle, CARE, and Boost – make up the approach to well-being.

TH: That’s fascinating, such great examples of things like being at eye level with students. These are specific practices that really add up. The structured recess was a good example of something that’s changed or developed over time. What other tweaks or changes had to be made as the model developed?

KSJ: I would say the biggest shift in any school redesign is the shift that happens with adult mindsets, particularly when working with veteran teachers who have experience, knowledge and strategies that work for them. The key issue is helping them to see that we need to approach behavior and approach student well-being through relationship building and through proactive strategies, such as classroom greetings, intentional language and tone, and classroom design.

“The biggest shift in any school with any sort of redesign is the shift that happens with adult mindsets.”

TH: What has Van Ness done to support that shift?

KSJ: Cynthia sends many teachers to trainings and books studies. They do a lot of intentional professional development through organizations like Transcend. A good portion of her budget is allocated towards this.

TH: Van Ness has now achieved some success and been recognized both within DCPS and other places as a really exciting and promising model. I know that you and your colleagues at Transcend are working on sharing that success with other schools and communities. Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve learned as you’ve tried to spread the model? How the model has changed or how you’re thinking towards the model has changed?

KSJ: One of the first things that we’re committed to doing and that we’re working on is clarifying what’s core. It’s important that if a school says “I like the Whole Child Model and I really love what’s happening at Van Ness,” that they still recognize that each community is different, has different needs, students, and families. We are not trying to replicate Van Ness in every community, because the exact strategies are not going to work for every single community. But we know that student wellbeing is important for every school and every community. We’re trying to clarify what’s core. We’re testing and codifying some of the practices, and we’re also capturing the adaptations that are being done in different sites. Ultimately, we have this goal of increasing the impact of the model for schools and for school communities across the country. Right now, we have a first cohort that we’re still constantly learning from. We have also started an “Ignite Phase” for schools who are interested in the model. During this early phase, they explore questions like: What is wellbeing? What does wellbeing mean to me? What does it mean to my students? To my families? What do we know from research & best practice about factors that influence well-being? What are the strengths of our current approach? What are our needs? They start that listening process by interviewing and synthesizing information.

“We are not trying to replicate Van Ness in every community, because Van Ness is not going to work for every single community. But we know that student wellbeing is important for every school and every community.”

At the same time that we’re partnering with several schools in DCPS, we’re also working with schools around the country. For example, Carrollton Farmers Branch ISD, in the Dallas area, has identified one school who is piloting aspects of the model to determine how it might work there, and to see whether this is something that the district wishes to adopt more fully. Through an EIR grant we recently received, we’re able to expand to 10 schools in Aldine, Texas over the next several years. In addition, we’re partnering with a charter school in Memphis who wishes to adopt the model and potentially be a demonstration site for what this work can look like in Memphis. Even with this early expansion, we are very much in the learning phase. We learned a lot through our early work with Van Ness, and we’re learning a lot through our first cohort who are launching the model in their schools. It’s helping us learn what are the adaptations that we need to make in different school communities. One of the challenges arose when we launched with the first cohort because their first year of implementation happened during the pandemic. A lot of what they learned in the virtual world we are now transferring to classrooms, but it’s not always hitting the mark on the different elements of Strong Start for example. So now we have to go back and work on it again.

TH: Do you have another example like that – of something that’s not working that you have to change?

KSJ: Another thing that has been a struggle is structured recess. The issue is that there’s not a lot of capacity right now. As in many schools, a lot of teachers and staff members are unfortunately out. So, the schools just do not always have the people that they need in the building to run this type of intervention. Training and having a long-term sub who understands the model is a really important piece of the work to ensure students have a consistent experience. When you have a sub that comes in who doesn’t know the model, it can throw off the trajectory within a classroom and within the school culture. But right we just don’t have those long-term subs.

TH: These are great examples of both some of the changes that have been made and some of the challenges. As you look ahead, are there any key lessons, surprises, or things you didn’t know about when you went into this work that you’d want to share with others who are trying to develop more of a focus on well-being?

KSJ: I would like to touch on the family partnership aspect. We’re constantly going back to the drawing board and thinking about how to really meaningfully engage families in the work itself. That has been challenging, particularly now, given the circumstances that are happening in our very real world. It’s not always easy to partner up or communicate with families because families are busy and we’re busy. At the same time, families are our students’ first teachers. We aim to work in close partnership with them. It’s one thing, if I am teaching students how to self-regulate in their centering space and learn breathing, and teaching them focus. It’s even more powerful if, when they go home, they are practicing the same skills there. Without strong communication, there may be misalignment. The practices and teachings of social, emotional learning and wellness may not be consistent. We have to think about how we are working alongside families. What are their goals for their children? How are we helping them learn about the model and what’s happening in classrooms so that they are able to implement similar strategies at home and understand the language that students are using? Ongoing communication with families through meetings, newsletters, email and text has been really helpful. That is a part of Family Circle that is really going well. Parents are constantly looking out for further communication.

“We have to think about how we are working alongside families. What are their goals for their children? How are we helping them learn about the model and what’s happening in classrooms so that they are able to implement similar strategies at home and understand the language that students are using?”

TH: What are some of your hopes for the future?

KSJ: My personal hope is that we are codifying practices in ways that are accessible to everyone. There’s also a need for this type of work in upper grades. What would this look like in middle school? In addition to spreading this work at the elementary level, I hope we can codify and build out practices for middle schools and high schools.

Education Innovations Around the World: The HundrED Global Collection for 2022

The 2022 HundrED Innovation Summit introduced HundrED’s latest collection of 100 education innovations and featured discussions on family engagement (Greg Behr, Rebecca Wintrhop, Lassi Leponiemi, Crystal Green), fostering social emotional skills (Crystal Green, Paul Frisoli), and conversations on leadership and equity, learning environments and a variety of other topics.

HundrED has been curating these collections every year since 2016 as part of an effort to support the spread of “pedagogically sound, ambitious innovations” in multiple contexts. In their report on the 2022 Global Collection, Crystal Green and Clara García Millán described the latest collection as including many innovations in “areas where there is often a lack of—or a gap—in traditional school education; for example, collaborative learning, creativity, critical thinking, play, etc.”  This year’s innovations come from 43 different countries with 57% from the Global South and 43% from the Global North.

This year’s innovations addressed a wide range of topics with 20% focusing on professional development or collaborative learning:

  • 20% Professional Development
  • 20% Collaborative Learning
  • 19% Creative Thinking
  • 16% Play
  • 15% Project Based Learning
  • 12% Real World Learning
  • 12% Parents and Caregivers
  • 11% Learning Environments
  • 11% Gender Equality
  • 11% Rural Education
  • 10% Literacy
  • 10% Mental Health
  • 10% Global Citizenship
  • 10% Visual Arts
  • 10% Critical Thinking

The evaluation process encompassed 2,204 reviews by 150 academics, educators, innovators, funders and HundrED staff with 100 innovations selected as the most impactful and scalable education innovations today including:

Learning about Forests (LEAF), Denmark

LEAF is a not-for-profit organization established in 2000. It is implemented in 26 countries, reaching a total of 10,038 schools, and has resulted in the planting of 84,243 trees. LEAF encourages environmental education through a project-based and real world learning approach. 


Innovamat, Spain

Innovamat reimagines math through manipulative material and dynamic lessons focused on problem-solving, communication skills, and critical thinking. Since its establishment in 2017, Innovamat has reached over 200,000 students and more than 12,000 teachers.


Teach2030, United Kingdom

Teach2030 offers easy-to-use, easy-to-scale digital professional development courses to teachers in developing countries. The platform minimizes technical challenges by offering courses with less than 50MB. The program has supported 10,000 teachers from over 40 countries.


Slam Out Loud, India

Through a five year program, Slam Out Loud places professional artists in classrooms to help build creative confidence skills like communication, critical thinking and empathy in children from disadvantaged communities. Currently, Slam Out Loud has supported 950 villages across Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra reaching out to 50,000 children.


Semillas de Apego, Colombia

Semillas de Apego is a group-based psychosocial program for caregivers with children in their early childhood, that promotes healthy child-parent attachments as a pathway for a proper development among children exposed to violence. The program helps children reach their full potential, by fostering caregivers’ mental health and their capacity to become a source of emotional protection.


Nube Lab, Chile

Nube was launched in 2012 in Chile with the aim of bringing Contemporary Art to Education. Through collaborative creation strategies, artists-professors, designers and researchers develop resources to enhance a transformative educational experience based on contemporary art, offering concrete solutions to develop sustainable, interdisciplinary and a context-based education.


Chili Padi Academy, Indonesia

Chili Padi Academy aims to solve complex environmental and social challenges via an environmental leadership and accelerator program for senior high school students in Southeast Asia. The program nurtures a community of environmental leaders invested in collaboration and the healthy development of the region.


Want to Make Education More Innovative? Let’s Invest in R&D

This week IEN shares a post from Jeff Wetzler, a co-founder of Transcend and Transcend senior fellow Sujata Bhatt. This post, originally published in EdSurge, was written for a US audience but the international parallels are clear. As Bhatt and Wetzler explain: “With the COVID-19 pandemic, education systems around the globe have awakened to the urgent need to redesign schools to become more relevant and equitable. Innovation is no longer an optional pathway; it needs to be fundamental to how schools and systems operate. We need to redesign our teaching and learning infrastructure to embrace and meet local needs. Doing so means growing local community capacity to reinvent how students experience learning, and redesigning regional and national systems to support innovation at the local level. This piece was written specifically to describe what schools in the US could do to support R&D by using funding for schools made available by the passage of American Rescue Plan Act in March, but the approaches outlined here can readily be applied in all kinds of systems in the US and around the globe. In the past the federal government of the United States has created large funding programs like the School Improvement Grants (SIG) referred to in the article, and they have had little impact because they did not focus on growing the innovation R&D capacity of systems. In this piece, we ask, How might education systems respond differently this time?”

In 2019, the United States spent 2.8 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on Research and Development (R&D). R&D is our nation’s engine of innovation. It put that smartphone in your hand, that solar panel on your roof, and that COVID-19 vaccine in your arm. R&D unquestionably makes our lives better.

“[O]ur education system needs to innovate to make it more equitable, agile, relevant and responsive.”

At a basic level, R&D is the set of activities an organization undertakes to innovate—using research techniques to solve problems or learn new things. During the crises of 2020-21, we clearly saw that our education system needs to innovate to make it more equitable, agile, relevant and responsive. We learned that education conditions are intensely local; they vary dramatically in each and every community, limiting the usefulness of one-size-fits-all solutions. We also saw many communities embracing local innovation because they had to.

The Community-Based Innovation Opportunity

Over the next few months, the Federal Government is infusing $122.8 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding into our education system. This unprecedented investment offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redesign our teaching and learning infrastructure from the ground up by empowering local school communities to innovate.

Why local communities? During the pandemic, systems, schools, teachers, families and students began innovating to make different kinds of education possible. Perea Elementary in Memphis, for example redesigned how parents, teachers, and children support each other in virtual, in-person, and hybrid settings.

Contrary to the prevalent narrative of learning pods as the province of privilege, Edgecombe County Schools in North Carolina created learning pods for students without wifi access. The Oglala District, serving indigenous Lakota families in South Dakota, designed the Lakota Oyate Homeschool Coop to meet the needs of children who were disengaged and worried about both cultural and physical safety. This inventive renaissance needs to be supported and sustained. As these examples show, we learned that families and students want greater involvement, including the opportunity to infuse cultural values and traditions into what has been a one-size-fits-all model of schooling. We also know from previous funding programs like School Improvement Grants (SIG) that large infusions of federal funds can be less than successful if states, districts and schools do not work in collaboration to grow conditions for innovation at the local level. Why not bring these learnings and agents for change together to grow capacity for school communities to lead their own innovation journeys?

What if we—each state, each regional agency, each district, each school—were to commit to spending even just 2.8 percent of our ESSER funding to catalyze deep, broad, local, community-based innovation? What if we used this tiny percentage of our massive federal windfall to reinvent our education system by building strong local conditions, particularly the capacity of each and every school to apply evidence-based approaches to reinventing teaching and learning?

It starts with a small step: take evidence-based methods and models that we know work now, and seed and sustain them in local contexts so they can take root, grow, and spread.

With this small investment, we could leapfrog our nation’s PK-12 system from our current inequitable industrial era learning model to equitable, 21st century learning—and thereby create an education sector that is prepared to be flexible, agile, and resilient when the next crisis comes along. It starts with a small step: take evidence-based methods and models that we know work now, and seed and sustain them in local contexts so they can take root, grow, and spread.

How Might States, Regions, and Districts Develop and Support Local School Communities’ Innovation Capacity?

Below are two powerful, locally empowering strategies that states, regional service centers, and districts could use to focus their 2.8 percent R&D Reinvention investments:


Invest in capacity for community-based redesign and evidence-based efforts with long-term impact.

  1. A Local Reinvention Team in Every School: Invest in teachers, families, parents and students to form teams that can design and prototype learning experiences that are customized to create equitable, responsive, 21st century schools. When schools reopen, they face inimitable challenges in redesigning learning for students who return from a year of crises with varying strengths, skills, knowledge and needs. The focus, pace and sequence of learning, as well as the resources and supports provided, need to be tailored to each learner’s identity, prior knowledge, development, way of learning and life experiences—which requires designing new types of learning experiences collectively and coherently—not classroom by individual classroom. This is deep, creative, team-based innovation requiring listening, passion and energy while driving collaboratively towards a defined mission. Districts and states could resource (via Title I or II funds, or a separate Innovation fund) participation in these reinvention teams, which would develop innovation capacity for educators, families and students.
  2. Access to an Innovation Specialist: Invest in giving school reinvention teams temporary (2-3 years) access to innovation specialists explicitly tasked with growing local capacity to own and carry on the work. Innovation is not a haphazard process; R&D entails methods rigor, and expertise. These methods and mindsets are not widespread in the pre-K-12 sector, and they need to be. Innovation specialists who have expertise in these methods could be explicitly tasked with growing reinvention teams’ capacity to design and run rigorous R&D pilots so that over time the school community has the skills, methods and confidence to develop a transformational school design unsupported by coaches.
  3. Create system-level Innovation Funds that enable schools to access and adapt innovative models: Support school communities in investing in and implementing high-quality, evidence-based learning models that are equitable and responsive to the demands and opportunities of the 21st century.

“Every school needs to reinvent itself to support diverse learners survive and thrive in complex environments. However, the experiences need not be created and recreated by scratch in each and every school.

Every school needs to reinvent itself to support diverse learners survive and thrive in complex environments. However, the experiences need not be created and recreated by scratch in each and every school. School reinvention teams and communities should be able to adapt and adopt models developed elsewhere, particularly ones that are equitable, rigorous and evidence-based (and codified in the model libraries described below). To do so requires funding to pay for the models and for the innovation specialists who support the initial adaption process.


  1. Invest in regional and state-wide reinvention capacity-building structures.Innovation Connectivity: Invest in leadership relationships and development by convening groups of school and systems leaders who are actively engaged in reinvention so that leadership capacity grows and knowledge may be shared across those networked groups. Innovation requires a different type of leadership; one that builds opportunities and guardrails rather than managing top-down compliance. Systems leaders need support in growing their capacity to lead innovation this way, and they need to be connected to others because innovation spreads through networks. These networks of innovative leaders need to be resourced and built. Launching, supporting and sustaining innovation networks across schools within districts and across districts within a region and state would be a valuable use of funds.
  2. Model Libraries: Invest in documenting innovative learning experiences and models via video and design blueprints, as well as funding regional and national “libraries” and platforms that allow systems and schools to borrow from each others’ experiences and models, thereby accelerating the spread of reinvention.

There are inspiring bright spots across the country that can supply others with inspiration and tangible approaches to implement. These innovative models are centered on equity, effective learning and human flourishing, so that all young people not only maximize their own potential but also see, confront and tackle society’s greatest challenges. Documenting evidence-based models that other communities can borrow and adapt, rather than reinventing the wheel each time, saves time and money.

It is impossible to forecast all of the crises, ruptures, and even opportunities that lie ahead. Imagine if each school, each district, each state chose to spend a mere 2.8 percent of their ESSER funds to proactively build capacity and infrastructure for this unknown future. These proven strategies have the power to yield an unprecedented return on investment for our children.

— Jeff Wetzler & Sujata Bhatt

What Type of Education Do We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict? The Getting Unstuck Podcast Episodes #149/150

This week, IEN features an episode of the Getting Unstuck podcast in which hosts Jeff Ikler and Kirsten Richert talk with Thomas Hatch about his new book with Jordan Corson and Sarah Gerth van den Berg, The Education We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict (Corwin, 2021). The wide-ranging conversation addressed a number of topics from the book including why reform efforts so often fail and what we can do to create the conditions to make real improvements in schools right now and to build the foundation for transforming schooling over the long term. As Ikler and Richert put it in their own book, Shifting: How School Leaders Can Create a Culture of Change (Corwin, 2021), these are steps that can help to get education “unstuck.”  Audio is available for both the full interview and an abridged version.

In a blog post on the conversation, Ikler highlighted several key ideas from the conversation:

What kind of education do we need?

 “We have to recognize that there are going to be aspects of the future that are unpredictable; we’re just not going to know exactly what’s expected or required. And so the idea that we could somehow agree now on what we think the world is going to be like 20 or 30 or 50 years from now is not realistic or adequate to guide our education system. So my point in the book is, let’s recognize that fact and prepare our students to be flexible and adaptable, so that they can adjust to the circumstances.”

“We have to improve the schools we have, but at the same time, we have to transform the education system so that we’re supporting the development of all students.”

Should we improve the schools we have now or transform the system?

 “We can and we have to improve the schools that we have right now. But that can’t be at the expense of doing the hard, long-term work on transforming the education system over time. And I think too often, we’re caught between choosing one or the other. It’s like either we can improve the schools we have, or we can start over and have this disruptive new education system. And the reality is, we have to do both. We have to improve the schools we have, but at the same time, we have to transform the education system so that we’re supporting the development of all those students, particularly those who’ve been disadvantaged by the system for so long.”

What can we do to improve schools and transform the system?

 “Find those environments where more powerful approaches to teaching and learning can take root find to take advantage of those conditions there rather than trying to power over the entire school and the entire school system and make everything different and changed in a short period of time.”

Education Innovations Around the World: The HundrED Global Collection for 2021

This week IEN follows up on HundrED’s Innovation Summit by providing a brief overview of some of the 100 innovations featured in their new Global Collection for 2021. The HundrED summit included presentations from Mitchell Resnick on creativity in education, Kiran Bir Sethi Solutions for Inclusion & Equity, Fred Swaniker on the Future of Africa, Vicki Colbert on quality education in challenging environments, and a special tribute from Kate Robinson to her father Sir Ken Robinson. At the summit, along with the launch of the latest Global Collection, HundrED also released a Spotlight Report on Creativity in Education in partnership with the LEGO Foundation and then  shared highlights of the summit along with a full recording on YouTube.

HundrED has been curating these collections of 100 innovations every year since 2016 as part of their effort to support the spread of “pedagogically sound, ambitious innovations” in multiple contexts. To create the collection, 150 academics, educators, innovators, funders and HundrED staff reviewed nominated programs based on each program’s impact and scalability.

In their report on the 2021 Global Collection, Christopher Petrie, head of global research and  Katija Aladin a researcher at HundrED described the latest collection as including many innovations in “areas where there is often a lack of—or a gap—in traditional school education; for example, empathy, social skills etc.” Notably:

  • 63% of the innovations focus on holistic skills like empathy, mindfulness, etc.
  • 55% target the development of 21st century skills
  • 47% develop traditional academic skills
  • 41% Require digital devices to augment learning
  • 35% Use pedagogical approaches that involve playful learning
  • 20% develop vocational skills
Hundred Global Collection 2021 Report

Many of the innovations were created within the last five years, but five were created before 1999.  Among the 2021 collection are organizations from many different parts of the world including:

Genius Lab, China

Genius Lab is a for-profit organization founded in 2013. It has designed more than 600 STEAM and maker education courses in use in over 800 kindergartens, primary and secondary schools with branches in 30 cities around China. It’s “Genius Hour” provides a 21-day online camp consisting of course modules focusing on science, engineering, and design.


Educate Girls, India

Educate Girls has identified 5% of villages that hold 40% of India’s out-of-school girl population. They work in partnership with the government and community volunteers to empower these girls to go back to school. Since its establishment in 2007, Educate Girls has enrolled 750,000+ girls in school.


NaTakallam Lebanon

NaTakallam builds on the expertise of refugees in several different contexts to connect them with opportunities to provide language instruction and translation services to users worldwide.  Currently, NaTakallam’s conversation partners offer language sessions in multiple Arabic dialects, French, Persian and Spanish.


Metis Collective, Kenya

The Metis Collective offers a fellowship program for local innovators with ideas for reimagining teaching and learning. The fellowship provides access to a design thinking approach to innovation, a learning community, and coaching.  The program has supported 63 Fellows who have created learning experiences for over 1.3 million learners across Kenya.


Agora, The Netherlands

Agora replaces the courses, tests, schedules and homework of conventional secondary schools with challenges, collaboration and coaching in order to give 12-18 year-old students control over their own education. As one article described it, Agora is a school with no classes, no classrooms, and no curriculum. Founded in 2014 in Roermond, there are now 12 Agora’s in the Netherlands and beyond.


Self-Sustaining Agricultural School Model, Paraguay

Fundación Paraguaya’s Self-Sustaining Agricultural School Model combines classroom learning in agricultural methods and business practices with hands-on training in the schools’ enterprises.  Those enterprises include organic vegetable gardening, dairy processing, beekeeping, tending to goats and chickens, and managing a tree nursery, a rural hotel, and roadside stores. Fundación Paraguaya is now responsible for four self-sustaining schools in Paraguay.


#JourneystoScale: Documenting efforts to scale up education innovations

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-3-34-26-pmOn October 10th, the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) and UNICEF published Journeys to Scale, a report that documents the innovative efforts of five organizations as they aim to increase their impact. The organizations profiled in the report include Accelerated School Readiness, Can’t Wait to Learn, EduTrac Peru, Lively Minds, and Palavra de Criança. These are organizations that have been identified as having “high disruption potential,” and the report describes the journey each has taken to scale up their programs.
As CEI and UNICEF explain, in May 2014 they began designing and testing strategies to systematically select and support innovative education models. They received over 150 nominations but selected only 5 finalists. The finalists received funding from UNICEF and support from CEI as they tested and strengthened their scale-up models while collecting evidence on effectivenes. The report, Journeys to Scale, describes the challenges and strategies of these innovations from Brazil, Ehtiopia, Ghana, Peru, and Sudan, and lays out clear recommendations for implementers, donors, policymakers and researchers who want to support innovation.
One category of key findings from the report points to the importance of defining what is meant by both “innovation” and “scaling up.”  As the report explains,
The five innovations challenged ideas about what it means to scale an innovation, highlighting the reality that scaling does not happen in a straightforward manner and that progress is often accompanied by setbacks. They revealed that the conventional idea of scaling as simply the process of reaching more beneficiaries does not account for steps like the inclusion of new services to an existing package of interventions, the formation of new alliances with government and donor partners, and team capacity building.
Therefore, the authors find that scaling is about more than simply increasing the numbers of beneficiaries, and innovation is about more than the intervention itself. Innovation is about a broader and deeper spread of new norms and beliefs.
In addition to the publication of this report, CEI and UNICEF hosted a Twitter chat (#JourneystoScale) to keep the conversation going. See below for a Storify recap of the conversation.


Global Learning Alliance Conference 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 9.21.08 AMA recent meeting of the Global Learning Alliance (GLA) included a series of presentations from educators around the world responding to the question: “What in the world are schools doing to cultivate 21st century capacities, and why does this matter?” The GLA was established to to share ideas for moving schools and educational systems towards supporting the development of 21st century skills and brings together scholars, researchers, teachers and school leaders from China, Canada, Singapore, Finland, and the US among others.

Presentations at the conference included discussions of recent developments in countries like Singapore and Finland as well as considerations of broader issues of change and innovation. A symposium of educators from Singapore, for example, described innovative school level programs designed to support the development of engineering and design skills amongst high school students. At the same time, Dr. Suzanne Choo, of Singapore’s National Institute of Education, also cautioned that while students there are excelling in many areas like English language and mathematics, fewer and fewer students are taking traditional liberal arts subjects like English Literature. Dr. Jari Lavonen, of the University of Helsinki, suggested that many of the conditions for innovation in schools are in place in Finland. These include a long-term policy vision rather than “ad hoc” ideas from multiple policymakers; decentralized decision-making and assessment at a local level instead of standardization, inspections, and national testing; trust-based responsibility instead of test-based accountability; and collaboration, networks, and partnerships vs. competition and rankings.

Dennis Shirley, Professor of Education at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College and author of The Global Fourth Way, also focused on the possibilities for cross-cultural learning in education. Shirley, who began his career as an education historian, discussed how examples of cross-cultural learning through history, including the way kindergarten permeated the rest of the world, could be vehicles for innovation or for maintaining the status quo.

At issue throughout were fundamental questions, however, about what constitutes “innovation”: When is a program or a practice actually “new” and when and to what extent do “innovations” lead to better schools and educational systems?