Voices from the Field

How does existing policy influence efforts to remake learning?

As both an educator and a policy wonk, I often witness the disconnect between classroom practice and legislative decisions. Remake Learning’s recently released Voices from the Field report explores that disconnect. The publication shares stories and strategies from school leaders across the Pittsburgh region and the country who have successfully linked policy to practice, but also highlights the challenges many districts, administrators, and educators continue to face.

The interviews conducted and research collected for Voices from the Field clearly show that we value learning experiences that develop students’ abilities to learn how to learn, to work alongside diverse peers, and to persevere in creative problem solving. It also questions if our policy framework effectively centers those values.

Voices from the Field

Voices from the Field synthesizes school leaders’ perspectives on state and local policy, and its impact on learning innovation, into four key findings:

  1. A shared vision between school boards, school leaders, and community members is necessary for generating transformative change.
  2. The flexibility afforded by the Pennsylvania Public School Code is beneficial to schools and helps them define their own approach to quality, holistic programming.
  3. Existing accountability measures reinforce traditional methods of teaching and learning.
  4. External funding sources seed transformational change.

Within these findings, the report highlights how forward-thinking school leaders in the Pittsburgh region achieve innovation while operating inside the existing policy framework.

For example, one rural school district advanced mastery-based learning by removing grade level distinctions in their elementary literacy program, allowing them to appropriately challenge all learners in mixed age groupings. To implement this change, educators first examined the PA Core to collaboratively define learning progressions and benchmarks for mastery. The administrative team then developed an elementary schedule that enabled all students to study literacy at the same time each day. The aligned schedule made it possible for students to transition between educators who facilitated specific pieces of a learning progression. Once students demonstrated mastery, they advanced. This approach enabled educators to differentiate learning to authentically meet students at their level and support them along an individualized learning pathway.

Voices from the Field

Voices from the Field celebrates successes like this and asks how we might develop a policy framework that advances a systemic paradigm shift toward learning innovation. And when schools in our region are faced with persistent obstacles, it points to policies from neighbors across the country that may shed light on our path forward.

The full-length report is available for download here.

This report was informed by thoughtful and extensive interviews with superintendents, district administrators, school administrators, and teachers from across the Pittsburgh region. It was an absolute privilege to spend the summer sharing space with and learning from these school leaders. I am in awe of their readiness to collaborate and their willingness to build trust and honor vulnerability to pursue learning innovation. These school leaders understand what it means to remake learning in the modern landscape; they know that we must continually reimagine thinking and learning so students can leave school prepared to meet the demands of an unknown future. In embracing this reality, these school leaders truly seed transformational change for all students across the Pittsburgh region.

Voices from the Field fits into larger efforts by Remake Learning’s Innovative Ed Policy Collaborative to bring policymakers closer to students, teachers, and classrooms. Stay tuned for more from our working group, including site visits that elevate shared policy priorities and a partnership-building summit.

Voices from the Field

Published April 05, 2019

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