An illustration of a fleet of tugboats.

Tugboats & Lighthouses

How school leaders in western Pennsylvania are turning the big ship of education

School districts, no matter how many students they serve, are big and sometimes unwieldy ships traversing the seas of learning. Lately, those waters have been especially rough. Already grappling with declining enrollment, stagnant funding, and deadlocked debates on standards and assessment, America’s public school systems were then faced with the unimaginable disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.

Amidst the trauma and grief of those years, educators, school leaders, students, and families began to envision a brighter future for learning. And with so much turned upside down by the pandemic, they committed themselves to making that vision a reality.

As the Remaking Tomorrow report stated: “Out of necessity, the barriers to change have been weakened in ways that make education transformation seem ever more plausible.”

But turning a ship as big as a school district doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time to change course. And it helps to have a tugboat or two nudging the ship in the right direction. During the 2022-2023 school year, 34 public school districts in the greater Pittsburgh region led their own “tugboat” efforts to move their schools in new directions.

Learning 2025

These districts are part of the Western Pennsylvania Learning 2025 Alliance. Led by local superintendents and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, the Alliance convenes school leaders for workshops, networking, and world-class professional development.

One of the goals of Learning 2025 is to “create a lighthouse region that shines not just for the rest of our area but also for the state and country, full of specific and tangible examples of
what transformational change looks like in practice.”

Through their participation in Learning 2025, each district received a $32,500 Tugboat Grant from Remake Learning to “set their compass” for the future of learning. School leaders used Tugboat Grants to catalyze change in their districts.

Tugboats & Lighthouses, a new publication from Remake Learning, shares stories of these districts’ efforts to turn the big ship of education.