Top-down doesn’t work and site-based or bottom-up management doesn’t work either. The systems we are working with, like Sanger Unified in California, cultivate partnerships and leadership from the middle to get coherence. They develop a ‘whole system identity’.
This powerful term can be interpreted in different ways, but what does pedagogy really mean and why is the new pedagogy having such a great impact? When integrated with a small number of deep learning goals and accelerated by technology, the outcomes are extraordinary.
Governance in California is undergoing tectonic changes. Some of these changes are the result of deliberate policies to shift authority and responsibility to community level governments with the expectation that those agencies will deliver better results. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Public Safety Realignment are two highly visible examples of what Governor Jerry Brown has termed subsidiarity.
Other state innovations – including the requirement for Sustainable Community Strategies and Integrated Water Management Plans – explicitly encourage local governments to work together to accomplish multiple goals that cannot be achieved without cooperation, innovation and learning. And still other changes – including self-initiated alliances among K-12 schools and county offices of education, community colleges, and four-year universities – are examples of community-level leaders responding to needs unmet by higher levels of government. These trends are not unique to California, and reflect a new way of advancing the public interest with leadership emerging at an optimal decision making level to address public needs.
These changes are instigated and reinforced by several factors and trends. Among them: Public agencies are facing fiscal pressures requiring them to control costs and improve results. Integrated services – including educational and social services – have been proven to be cost-effective, but are hard to engineer at the state or federal levels. Distinct cultural needs of communities and regions require tailored approaches, even to achieve common statewide outcomes. And civic involvement and public support are both critical to improvement efforts, and best incorporated at the community level.
Over the next few years, public education in California is positioned to become one of the most improved systems in America and internationally. Forces at all levels are aligning in ways that are seen only once in a generation. In the context of the profound governance changes underway, the LCFF and the CCEE offer a foundational opportunity to replace compliance-based oversight with an excellence-oriented strategy to inspire, inform, and connect professionals and communities throughout California.
There is increasingly precise knowledge about what it takes to develop effective education reform, and there is strong internal expertise within California that can be mobilized to bring about substantial improvements in the learning lives of students in the state. The CCEE will become a valued asset to the system if it:
Successfully identifies key areas of need in districts with regards to capacity building for improvement of teach practice and student learning
Establishes a valued repository of current, proven expertise and resources available to develop those capacities
Effectively brokers capacity building resources adequate to the context and learning needs of districts, to increase their ability to improve from within
Monitors progress, identifies and builds success around district improvement and makes it visible across the state
In preparing A Golden Opportunity, we sought to capture some of the best ideas and thinking from leaders in California with deep knowledge of the system and proven records of success mobilizing whole system improvement. Our intent is to offer constructive ideas as the form and function of the CCEE begin to take shape.
The early implementation of both educational and public safety reforms has revealed some of the concerns associated with shifting from state-centered to community-centered governance. Many of those concerns relate to the varying capacities of local government to make good use of their new authority. While capacity-building efforts have emerged – involving regional collaborations, professional associations, nongovernmental organizations, and philanthropy – the state has an interest in accelerating capacity building to demonstrate the potential of the reforms, and to replace the distrust that underlies many of the concerns regarding subsidiarity with confidence in community decision-makers.
The Governor and the Legislature recognized this new state interest in establishing the CCEE. Now, the leadership of the CCEE has the opportunity to operationalize the new entity in a way that further defines and advances this interest, while simultaneously fortifying implementation efforts, establishing momentum, and solidifying support for the overall reform.
California’s education sector has a golden opportunity to fulfill its promise of delivering high quality education to all students and become one of the most improved systems in America over the next few years. In particular, educators have the chance to raise the bar and close the learning gap among students across the state. The ideas outlined here are offered to contribute to making California Collaborative for Educational Excellence a trusted and effective ally in the quest for substantial improvement across the educational system in California.
Accelerate change and break the mold of inertia, stagnation and low moral by creating excitement. This requires recognizing the potential of small changes to have huge impact, especially when there is ‘positive contagion’.
Worlds of Education is celebrating the completion of the first phase of Education International‘s Quality for Education campaign with several insightful articles by globally renowned policymakers, educators, authors and researchers.
We have been working in California and, among so many others, are committed to and interested in how it can improve its education performance statewide over the next four years—improvements across the entire system and all of its levels. We believe that there are enough forces aligned to make this result a distinct possibility and the actions and coordinated efforts we are taking are practical and realistic. Our team is working in partnership with a number of groups at all levels of the state but it will be the internal leadership within the state that will lead and cause the change to happen. We are fortunate and proud to be participants in this unprecedented endeavor. This is indeed a golden opportunity for system transformation that occurs once in a lifetime at best.
Starting January 8th we will be posting weekly videos every Thursday for 22 weeks. These short topic clips, 2-3 minutes each, feature Michael Fullan and capture educators on site. They are real life examples suitable for teachers, principals, and administrators, designed and filmed to illustrate ‘motion leadership in action’.
We hope you enjoy them and look forward to your feedback!
Twin Rivers Unified is one of four California school districts being studied by Canadian education expert Michael Fullan to evaluate how they attract, train and use staff.
“Twin Rivers is an interesting one to look at because it has been a struggling district” that has a new superintendent who wants to install changes, Fullan said.
Long Beach Unified, Whittier Union High School and Fresno Unified school districts also will participate in the study, which is funded by the Stuart Foundation, a philanthropic organization that focuses on improving the school system in California.
Fullan, a renowned researcher and author, said California’s top education leaders, including state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, have visited Canada to see the work he has done in the Ontario provincial school system, considered one of the best in the world.
Over the next three years, researchers working with Fullan will visit district schools, interview and survey staff, review district documents and set up online focus groups. Fullan said the research team members will arrive in February to acquaint themselves with the district. The study will measure the effectiveness of staff training by looking at benchmark tests, student and teacher engagement, and the quality of collaboration in the district, he said.
Fullan and his team will advise Twin Rivers administrators how to develop systemwide policies to train and utilize teachers and staff. The district will be able to use data generated by the study to improve professional development.
Superintendent Steven Martinez said the district will begin offering training to all of its staff, from janitors to administrators, next school year. The idea, he said, is to provide “opportunities for everyone in our school district to get better. To develop a culture of continuous learning.”
Martinez said that Fullan contacted him about participating in the study after talking to Peter Senge, another education expert working with the district. Senge’s philosophy of systems teaching is designed to help staff members see beyond their belief systems so they can communicate effectively with others.
“It gets at some of those things that are holding this system back,” Martinez said of the district created seven years ago by the unification of four school districts. The district pays $60,000 annually for Senge’s systems learning training.
“We truly believe we are going to increase student achievement by improving the staff,” Martinez said.
Based on the latest knowledge in Fullan’s newest book, Freedom to Change: Be careful what you ask for (Jossey-Bass, in press); and on the work in new pedagogies for deep learning, this institute will narrow in on the dilemmas of change: That the new digital age has provided us with free rein to change and with that comes new challenges and problems.