I'm sending you all love and strength coming off an excruciating couple of weeks. Our hearts are broken from the senseless and horrific crimes we saw in Buffalo and Uvalde. In the midst of the continued COVID-19 pandemic, we are also living through an epidemic of hatred. We’ve included in this newsletter a few resources we’ve seen shared that can help educators and community members as they tackle this challenge in their lives and in their classrooms. We are processing, we are grieving, and, at times like these….we are struggling. As we do our best to focus on our work of improving the lives and educational outcomes of students, I want to focus this month on what we're learning from our Networks for School Improvement.
As every educator knows, context is critical. Schools have different cultures, histories, and teaching strategies. Students bring different interests and attributes to school each day. Every entering class is different. So one-size-fits-all solutions can only take you so far. Educators on the front line, figuring out the final mile needed for successful implementation of any new strategy, are critical. This reality makes it imperative to understand and plan for variation across context. We can’t be successful without it.
The new report we’ve released on grantees in the Networks for School Improvement strategy exemplifies this thoughtfulness about context. Looking largely at the 2020-2021 school year, the report is chock-full of information about how schools apply research-based strategies in a variety of different contexts – from very different school systems across multiple states – to make research translate into positive experiences and outcomes for students and their teachers in three critical areas:
- Instructional work, where math or English-language-arts teams, including instructional coaches, special-education teachers, and English learner/multilingual teachers, work to improve the quality of instruction within classrooms.
- Early Warning and Response strategies, where grade-level or cross-functional teams work to create more supportive school environments, where young people are connected to adults, each other, and the school community.
- Well-Matched Postsecondary initiatives, where school-based teams of counselors, service providers, district and school leaders, teachers, and other staff band together to implement evidence-based strategies and processes that support postsecondary application, enrollment, and persistence.
At its heart, improvement is about learning. Each of these networks study their own work, and consistently and strategically make adaptations to increase their effectiveness as the organizational hub supporting schools. And they demonstrate how lessons need not fade away, but when codified, systematized, and shared, they can deepen our collective capacity to accelerate the field’s learning and growth.
What a privilege it is to continue to support this work.
Director, K-12 Education
Resources for Educators and Community Members
Here are some resources to help educators as they continue their heroic work in the classroom:
What would it take for every high school student to have the opportunity to earn credits to complete an associate's degree one year after high school while gaining valuable experience and career preparation in a field of interest — at little to no cost? That’s the question we asked ourselves, and that is at the heart of the Accelerate ED initiative being led by our Education Pathways colleagues. Design teams — each consisting of key stakeholders across K-12, higher education, employers, and youth-focused community-based organizations — in 12 states are receiving grants to build on existing efforts so more high school students will have a path to a valuable credential and early career success by “year 13.” Learn more here.
Educators for Excellence released their fifth iteration of Voices from the Classroom, a nationally representative survey series capturing the views and opinions of educators. Themes this year include how the Great Resignation is impacting the classroom, how schools recover and rebuild, and what should be taught in schools given the political climate.