Insights on designing education systems to get ever better
It’s a common theme in education reform: Public school systems across the U.S. adopt the same evidence-based tool or follow the same policy – and get different results, so many of them disappointing. Why is that? It’s because leaders too often are laser focused on what they are changing but less so on examining and transforming how they make that change. How you do things matters as much as what you do.
Imagine you are an education commissioner or in any leadership role you dream for yourself. Develop a theory of action for your next project. How will you ground your work in a systems approach? How will you open yourself up to the idea that leadership is not a role but a way of being? This final assignment for students in our graduate course was one they had been working toward all semester, building their muscles in governance theory, systems change, stakeholder participation, and measurement and knowledge management. They learned by reading about theory and practice -- and by doing, through hands-on, real-world projects. That critical work with partners across the ed sector is shaping this next generation of leaders’ efforts to effect equity-focused systems change.
School district leaders gave us a massive task: Design a more equitable student assignment strategy for thousands of students enrolling in a city school district’s elementary schools. The demographic makeup of the community had changed. Some schools had long waitlists, others weren't even half full. Leaders had to consider budget, transportation, infrastructure, and tensions between choice and equitable and integrative opportunities, all while maintaining and improving school quality. To support this effort, we convened a diverse group of graduate students in law, policy, business, and education, and built their skills for organizing diverse stakeholders around a shared purpose and engaging them in a rigorous and ongoing cycle of learning and discovery. This is how we help school systems get ever better while developing the next generation of leaders.