Catching up with the Innovative Education Policy Collaborative
What’s happening in local, state, and federal education policy? What do recent and anticipated policy changes mean for engaging, relevant, and equitable learning? Catch up on the latest with Sunanna Chand, Remake Learning Director and lead of the Innovative Education Policy Collaborative.
We know that without participation, policy stands an equal chance of being a conduit or an obstacle to change. But within a field as complex as education—where multiple levels of governance, ever-changing sources of funding, and competing sets of standards—staying at the leading edge of policy changes is challenge, if not impossible, for working educators.
The Innovative Education Policy Collaborative is the Remake Learning working group monitoring local, state, and federal education policies to understand their effect on learning innovation. Sunanna Chand, director of Remake Learning, leads the collaborative.
We caught up with Sunanna to learn about resources the collaborative has created to inform policymakers, recap recent efforts to convene policymakers and educators, and take a look at the policy landscape.
Policy-related efforts are among the least visible of Remake Learning’s work. What should members know?
That’s true. We talk much more about the actual practices of teaching and learning than the policy conditions underlying education. But we’ve been engaging in policy discussions and working with policymakers for years, so I think there are a few things every network member should know:
Number one, all of our engagements with policy have been based on what we’ve heard bubbling up in the network. We have been deeply listening to network members and what their concerns are around policy at every level: local, state, national. That is the impetus for everything we do in policy spheres.
Number two, Remake Learning can’t lobby for specific initiatives or candidates. What we can do is produce materials created by network members that share information and offer suggestions for policies that would cement a future for learning agenda. This year we published Voices From the Field, a set of interviews with local school leaders about how existing policies influence their efforts. We also worked with the Learning Policy Institute to publish a review of PA state policies called Preparing Pennsylvania Teachers to Remake Learning. That report recommended four ways for policymakers to ensure every child is taught by a teacher well prepared for the future of learning.
Number three, we convene network members and policymakers to help build relationships and mutual understanding. We’ve taken legislators on a tour of schools and communities in the Allegheny Valley, we’ve hosted forums to instigate dialogue between legislators, experts, and educators. Last December, we worked with network members in West Virginia to bring Ted Dintersmith to the annual West Virginia Legislators’ Forum. Like with all of our convening work, we bring people together, share information, and encourage people to reimagine what learning could and should look like.
Number four, we try to expose legislators to more engaging, relevant, and equitable learning experiences happening right in their home districts. During Remake Learning Days, we invite legislators to attend events and participate in the festivities. For instance Representative Jake Wheatley has attended Remake Learning Days events in the past.
And finally, we keep network members informed. When the Pennsylvania plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act rolled out in 2017, we did a close reading to share the most salient points with the network. Remake Learning working group lead LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill has been acting as a liaison between the network and the Pennsylvania Department of Education, helping to make sure that educators in our region could take advantage of opportunities like PASmart.
So while our policy work hasn’t been at the forefront, we know from our network members that having support from policymakers is really important, so it’s important for us to keep at it.
In July, Remake Learning partnered with the Pitt Institute of Politics to host a Legislators Forum. What’s most important to share from that event?
The goal of convening was to open up more communication channels between educators and legislators, particularly around the future of learning. So we had to get people connected and we had to get them speaking the same language.
The opportunity to have space and time for conversation between legislators and educators is really precious. We facilitated discourse by having legislators and educators work together and co-construct a profile of a learner, sometimes called a portrait of a graduate.
What we saw from doing this was that educators and legislators are not that far apart when it comes to their values for learning: they both want to be sure that a student getting ready to finish high school in Pennsylvania is ready to be successful in a rapidly changing world. That means they’re skilled at collaboration and communication, ready for civic engagement, are adaptable and flexible, and of course have those core academic skills of literacy and numeracy.
Sometimes people assume that this common ground doesn’t exist, but it does!
So that raises the question: what changes can we make, working together, to make it easier to get closer to that portrait of a graduate?
We’re really proud to just get this started. It’s a much longer conversation and effort to bring these two constituencies together in more frequent and deliberative ways.
The way we get to action is through conversation, this is a start.
Anything else you’d like to draw network members’ attention to?
Yes, we’re starting to think about school board members as a key network constituency that hasn’t been engaged intentionally as part of the Remake Learning movement.
We’ve focused on building relationships with the PA Department of Education and other state-level actors and that will continue to be important. But we need to really support local school board members as they think about the future of learning and what it will require.
So network members should keep an eye out for this conversation. And if they are school board members or know school board members who want to be involved, we’d love to connect! Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the conversation.
Published August 09, 2019