Walden University has been committed to social change since it was founded in 1970. As part of this commitment, students in most every program and specialization are encouraged to actively engage in social action and to become an agent of change. What does it mean to be an agent of change? As a professional in an educational field, you have chosen to make a difference in the lives of children and students, which is an example of social change. In this course, and throughout your program, you have considered the education and development of children and the role of educators in the community.
For this Discussion, you will analyze how you will continue to use data in creating and supporting effective educational practices. You will also examine your own social change profile and how you can become an educational agent of change.
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Review Walden University’s mission and vision statements, the Callahan et al. paper (2012), and the Fullan (2016) chapters for this module. Consider the impact of data-driven positive social change on government leaders, teachers, and educators.
Read the Hargreaves & Ainscow (2015) article and consider their ideas about leading from the middle. How might the concepts explored and insights you have gained in this course impact your future goals and your development as a leader of educational change and an agent of social change?
Complete Walden’s short, interactive, online quiz, “What Kind of Social Change Agent Are You?” Did your kind of social change agent surprise you, or was it in line with your own thinking?
A response to the following:
How will you continue to use data to inform your decisions in creating and supporting effective educational practices?
How do you envision yourself becoming an educational agent of change in your future professional practice?
What goals will you set for yourself following graduation to impact children, students, and your community? Be sure to include an explanation of how your kind of social change agent profile generated from the Walden quiz aligns with your goals.
How will Walden’s mission and vision, the goals in the Callahan et al. (2012) paper, and Fullan’s (2016) thoughts on educational change influence your views and practices in the future?
For this Discussion, and all scholarly writing in this course and throughout your program, you will be required to use APA style and provide reference citations.
Note: To access this module’s required library resources, please click on the link to the Course Readings List, found in the Course Materials section of your Syllabus.
Fullan, M. (2016). The new meaning of educational change (5th ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
· Chapter 11, “Governments” (pp. 209–227)
· Chapter 12, “The Teaching Profession and Its Leaders” (pp. 228–257)
· Chapter 13, “The Future of Educational Change” (pp. 258–265)
Callahan, D., Wilson, E., Birdsall, I., Estabrook-Fishinghawk, B., Carson, G., Ford, S., . . . Yob, I. (2012). Expanding our understanding of social change: A report from the definition task force of the HLC Special Emphasis Project [White paper]. Minneapolis, MN: Walden University.
Social Change Web Maps [Diagrams]. Adapted from Expanding our understanding of social change, by Callahan, D., Wilson, E., Birdsall, I., Estabrook-Fishinghawk, B., Carson, G., Ford, S., Ouzts, K., & Yob, I., 2008. Baltimore, MD: Walden University. Adapted with permission of Walden University.
Hargreaves, A, & Ainscow, M. (2015). The top and bottom of leadership and change. Phi Delta Kappan, 97(3), 43–48.
Walden University. (2017a). Riley College of Education. Retrieved from https://www.waldenu.edu/about/colleges-schools/riley-college-of-education
Review the Riley College of Education page to locate the Educational Specialist program outcomes and your specialization’s curriculum and outcomes for this module’s Assignment.
Walden University. (2013). What kind of social change agent are you? Retrieved from http://impactreport.waldenu.edu/
Walden University. (2017b). Who we are. Retrieved from https://www.waldenu.edu/about/who-we-are
Review this site for information on Walden University’s mission and vision and its focus on social change.
Walden University. (2015b). Professional dispositions. Minneapolis, MN: Author.
Walden University. (2015a). Diversity proficiencies. Minneapolis, MN: Author.
Walden University. (2015c). Technology proficiencies. Minneapolis, MN: Author.
42 Kappan November 2015
The top and bottom of leadership and change Successful large-scale reform efforts — one in Northern England, another in Canada — bolster the approach of “leading from the middle.”
by andy hargreaves and mel ainscow
For 15 years and more, in the U.S., England, parts of Canada, and elsewhere, reforms to improve educational equity and achievement have come in large-scale measures — de- signed and delivered in detail by big government across whole systems. Such top-down reforms promised a sharp focus on improving literacy and mathematics achievement and boosting high school graduation.
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Training, coaching, and other professional development supports accompanied some top-down strategies. Others, like the No Child Left Behind law, proved excessively de- manding, requiring progress for all categories of students every year and imposing puni- tive consequences when schools and districts fell short.
But punitive or supportive, all top-down reforms have an Achilles heel: Their focus on micromanaging two or three measurable priorities only works for systems pursuing traditional and comparatively narrow achievement goals. A digital age of complex skills, cultural diversity, and high-speed change calls for more challenging educational goals and more sophisticated and fl exible change strategies.
Thus, reformers are advocating greater autonomy for schools and teachers, increased freedom for local curriculum design, and more independent and personalized access to technology. But the history of bottom-up innovation and individual school autonomy is not impressive. In the 1960s and ’70s, innovative ideas often didn’t spread beyond a few isolated classrooms and schools, and, when they did, their implementation often was fatally fl awed (Gross, Giacquinta, & Bernstein, 1971). There is no reason to believe that efforts to spread the success of a few innovative, high-tech schools will fare any better today.
andy haRgReaVes (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Brennan Chair in Education in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass. He is co-author of Uplifting Leadership (Wiley, 2014). mel ainscoW is a professor of education at the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, and author of Toward self-improving school systems: Lessons from a city challenge (Routledge, 2015).
What can the U.S. learn from
england and canada?
3Top-down reforms have a long
history of failure. A middle-driven
approach of coordinated change,
collective responsibility, and delegating
resources and authority to school
districts can yield positive results.
44 Kappan November 2015
2014; Sutton Trust, 2015). This has created a co- nundrum of district-driven improvement:
Although all high-performing nations are characterized by strong local control, not all nations with strong local control are high per- forming.
One response to this conundrum is to say that school districts aren’t worth saving and either deliver reforms in detail from the top or institute market- based, individual alternatives like charter schools, free schools, and academies that are insulated from district control. Another response is to use central funding formulas to compensate for bad variation and inequities. However, the strings attached to this funding often heap more grant writing and account- ability requirements on already overstretched high- poverty districts.
leading from the middle
A third way to reduce bad variation among school districts is to promote collaboration among them so they share resources, ideas, and expertise and exer- cise collective responsibility for student success. In this leading from the middle approach, districts don’t just mediate and manage other people’s reforms individually; they become the collective drivers of change and improvement together. When districts lead from the middle together, they:
• Respond to local needs and diversities; • Take collective responsibility for all students’
and each other’s success; • Exercise initiative rather than implementing
other people’s initiatives; • Integrate their own efforts with broad system
priorities; and • Establish transparency of participation and
These components of leading from the middle are
In an age of innovation and diversity, top-down strategies are inappropriate, while bottom-up strat- egies seem unable to achieve improvement on any significant scale. So what should we do instead? One possibility is shifting attention toward districts, which can support schools and teachers in innovating and improving together.
leading in the middle
In North America and Northern Europe, school districts have historically been the linchpin of local democracy (Katz, 1987; Bryk et al., 1998). California Gov. Jerry Brown has recognized this by returning education spending control back to the state’s over 900 local districts, placing maximum control at the most local level of competent authority (Torlakson, 2015). Districts can provide a valuable focus for school improvement, be a means for efficient and effective use of research evidence and data analysis across schools, support schools in responding coherently to multiple external reform demands, and be champi- ons for families and students, making sure everybody gets a fair deal. Strong districts are powerful forces for positive educational change (Leithwood, 2013). Strong and steadily improving districts like Boston Public Schools and Long Beach Public Schools have received widespread acclaim for systemwide gains (Barber, Chijioke, & Mourshed, 2011). In England, some of the most dramatic turnarounds have been in urban districts, like the London boroughs of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, which went from the lowest per- formers in the country to scoring above the national average on all key indicators (Hargreaves, Boyle, & Harris, 2014; Hargreaves & Shirley, 2009).
So some reformers argue that the middle level needs a stronger role in order to implement changes from the top and to move around ideas and strategies percolating up (Schleicher, 2015). This amounts to a kind of leadership in the middle — a healthy sort of middle-stage spread.
Weaknesses of the middle
Leading in the middle is promising, but it’s not enough. Not all local school systems or districts are strong. Some districts do well; others fare badly. Districts vary in their resources and capacities for change, like networking and seeking other ideas. Districts can be self-serving, politically toxic, gla- cially slow at driving improvement, and, as in the Atlanta cheating scandal, just plain corrupt.
In the U.S. and England especially, there are unac- ceptable variations in school district quality. Differ- ences in demographics, poverty, funding, and capac- ity to attract and develop effective leadership means very high-performing and very low-performing districts sometimes coexist side-by-side (Noguera,
Large-scale success cannot be achieved if districts continue to act independently of one another.
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land as head teachers) changed the cultures of the schools. Instead of blaming parents in poor families for not being interested in their children’s learning, schools came to appreciate the stresses facing fam- ilies and then responded with local flexibility and intensive support. They began to focus on deliver- ing better, more interesting teaching and learning through strategies like cooperative learning and Japanese lesson study. There was a lot of pressure on teachers and schools to work hard to improve results, but there also was more emphasis on caring for the adults in the schools as well as the children so that the schools became happy and professionally fulfilling places to work.
None of this was easy. Local authorities are politi- cal entities as well as providers of services. Internal conflicts and external turf wars were often exacer- bated by national policies that promote interschool competition. A steering committee involving na- tional government and local representatives got locked into conflicts over the budget. A commit- tee of leaders of the 10 authorities became fractious
evident in two systemwide reforms in which we have been closely involved — the Greater Manchester Challenge (GMC) in England, and district-driven improvements in Ontario, Canada.
greater manchester challenge
The United Kingdom government initiated the GMC in the 2007-08 school year by bringing to- gether 10 school districts (known in the UK as local authorities) to improve standards over three years. Co-author and professor of education Mel Ainscow was appointed chief adviser to this approximately $80 million (U.S.) project. “There are lots of good things going on in schools in Greater Manchester,” Ainscow said upon his appointment. “The task now is to spread the best practice to all schools.”
But how would this be done? Ainscow’s group de- vised several principles for the effort:
• Leaders of successful schools would work with weaker schools to improve their leadership teams;
• Schools with similar student populations would be clustered to share best practices; and
• Local problems would be met with local solutions.
Getting schools to collaborate was not a new idea in England. What was different, though, was that while previous school-to-school networks and part- nerships had tended to bypass local authorities, 10 of them would be driving improvement together (see Ainscow, 2015 for a full account of the GMC).
Multiple strategies brought this simple principle to life. Schools cooperated across authority bound- aries. Recently turned-around schools became key in helping other schools. Hub schools that demon- strated excellence in particular areas provided ex- tensive training and development for teachers in other schools and local authorities. Schools at dif- ferent stages of development organized in “families.” A Jewish school assisted a predominantly Muslim partner. A Catholic school prayed for a good in- spection result for its secular counterpart. School officials found hidden capacity and capitalized on it; they shared knowledge and overcame old rivalries for the higher purpose of improving the whole area.
The Manchester area had suffered from historic problems of unemployment and deprivation for four decades, but by 2011, GMC schools were above the national average on all standardized test measures. Secondary schools in the most disadvantaged com- munities improved at three times the rate of the na- tional average.
By working together, principals (known in Eng-
Punitive or supportive, all versions of top-down reform have an Achilles heel.
whenever it was presented with disturbing data or with concerns about lack of progress. While six of the authorities were willing to change roles and re- sponsibilities, two others accommodated the new language of shared responsibility for improvement without making any real changes in practice. But over time, with persistence of effort, relationships improved, some personnel changed, ideas and strat- egies started to be shared between schools as well as within them, and the authorities even began to commit to some joint delivery of services.
The strategies adopted in Manchester (and now in Wales) define the essence of leading from the middle. But this term didn’t arise in the UK. It first emerged in a systemwide project with 10 school dis- tricts that the other co-author of this article (Andy Hargreaves) carried out with his colleague Henry Braun in Ontario, Canada.
ontario district-led reforms
Ontario has undertaken one of the world’s best- known, large-scale educational reforms. The most
46 Kappan November 2015
where even small amounts of extra resources could therefore make a great difference, this built a criti- cal mass of district support. Larger districts eventu- ally were persuaded to participate with their smaller counterparts by appealing to their historic symbolic status and the contribution they could make to the collective good of the province’s students.
Responsibility for planning and implementation came under a core team of six key staff — retired district leaders and superintendents of curriculum or special education — who jointly developed proj- ect goals, designed an implementation strategy, and monitored participation and results. They did this by constantly connecting with and circulating among the districts, making necessary changes and refine- ments as they amassed evidence of what was working and what was not.
Like the GMC, district leaders did not believe that one-size-fits-all strategies were appropriate in a province where one in four schoolchildren were born outside of Canada, leading to several different strategies:
• In a district with high numbers of children from immigrant families, the project focused on early literacy initiatives like a summer head- start program for students new to the region and a “snuggle up and read” program involving parents or other family members.
• In a district serving a large student population of Old Order German-origin Mennonites whose community is characterized by mutual aid, commitment to collective self-sufficiency, and wearing traditional dress, children tended to leave school early to work on the farms, or, in the case of girls, to get married and have children. Standard efforts to enforce school attendance and improve high school completion would prompt families to move to other parts of their rural network throughout North America. So school leaders engaged with their culture, for example, by using the community’s agricultural products for
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