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New & Noteworthy: October 2021

This month we are exploring the role of teacher leaders in supporting whole child education in a paper prepared for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession; family-school engagement strategies in a playbook from the Brookings Institution; U.S. investments in child care compared to other wealthy countries in a piece from The New York Times; and how a new research collaborative is partnering with school districts will monitor pandemic student recovery interventions in real time.

A new paper to inform the 2021 International Summit on the Teaching Profession published by SC-TEACHER of the University of South Carolina, Teacher Leadership for Whole Child Education: A Global Perspective, explores the role of teacher leaders in the context of the pandemic.  The authors suggest that this experience exposed profound inequities in education and highlighted the need to attend to the full scope of a child’s developmental needs, both in and out of school. Written by Barnett Berry, a professor at the University of South Carolina; Linda Darling-Hammond, president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute; and Anthony Mackay, CEO of NCEE, the paper explores teachers’ responses during the period of school closures. Examples include teachers taking on new responsibilities; finding creative ways to make learning more personalized; making time to collaborate and support one another; and connecting with families and community partners. The challenge going forward is how to build on these promising practices and continue to empower teachers and support them as leaders in reshaping the school experience to be more equitable, inclusive, and effective for students and families. For this to happen, the authors argue that teachers need structured collaboration opportunities and school structures that support teacher leadership in decision making.

The Brookings Institution released Collaborating to Transform and Improve Education Systems: A playbook for family-school engagement, a playbook on family-school collaboration that provides evidence-based strategies from around the world that school leaders and partners can adopt and use in their local contexts. The authors analyzed over 500 strategies across 64 countries and organized them across four broad goals: 1) improving students attendance and completion; 2) improving the learning and development of students; 3) redefining the purpose of school for students; and 4) redefining the purpose of school for society. The playbook includes an interactive “strategy finder” to help readers filter strategies based on geography, student age, tech level, and levers for change. Brookings hosted a webinar detailing how the playbook was created and how it can be used by schools; the recording is available here

An article from The New York Times, How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. is an Outlier.,  points out that the United States trails behind other developed countries in its levels of financial support for child care for children under the age of two, spending just 0.2 percent of GDP. This amounts to about $200 a year for most families. Other wealthy countries in the OECD spend an average of 0.7 percent of GDP, mainly through heavily subsidized child care. Nordic countries have the most generous child care systems, including free care for low-income families. The U.S. has long lagged other countries in this area but Gina Adams, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, says “the pandemic reminded people (in the U.S.) that childcare is the linchpin of our economy. Parents can’t work without it. It’s gotten to a point where the costs of not investing are much, much more clear.”

A new collaborative research effort focused on school pandemic recovery interventions was announced this week. NWEA, Harvard University’s Center for Education Policy Research and CALDER at the American Institutes for Research, are teaming up and partnering with ten school districts across the United States to analyze student performance data throughout the school year to evaluate tutoring, after-school programs and other school-based efforts to help students boost their learning after a year of pandemic school closures. The researchers will share their findings with school leaders in real time rather than waiting for next spring’s state-mandated assessments to be administered and the results processed. This will allow districts to adjust and refine their strategies and allocate resources to interventions that show the greatest impact on student learning.