Volume IV: What works, what matters, what lasts

AAAS: A System of Solutions: Every School, Every Student 2005

American Association for the Advancement of Science

The importance of this report is its triangulation of the experiences of ten "systemic reform" sites (NSF Urban Systemic Initiatives) against an analysis of those experiences from the perspective of careful study of the literature of systemic education reform. (See works cited.)

Those working to transform K-12 learning and teaching at the local level&emdash; as parents, college and university leaders, politicians&emdash; will resonate with one of their key findings, that "time matters." The critical need to get stakeholders to "own" and become "accountable" is another insight that is relevant to the work of all pursuing systemic change, at the level of department or discipline, institution or collaborations of institutions.

Spafford, 2003, www.cioudate.com/insights/article.php/2241581

Spafford, 2003, www.cioudate.com/insights/article.php/2241581

This report, by Shirley Malcom, Joan Abdallah, Daryl Chubin, and Kathryn Grogan, provides guidance to school districts and sponsors investing in communities as the locus of educational change. With support from the GE Foundation, this American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) study [of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) systemic education reform program, Urban Systemic Initiatives (USI)] assesses how science and mathematics achievement gains were achieved in ten complex school systems serving largely minority students living in poverty.

...there is some irony in the fact that major efforts at systemic reform were undertaken with populations and districts for whom the public has the lowest expectations. And yet it anticipates the challenge that America must meet: to provide to the many, from a shifting demographic, the kind of high-level subject matter competence necessary for America’s future.

(From Conclusions, page 19).

U.S. school districts surveyed as part of the AAAS report are: Atlanta; Boston; Brownsville, TX; Columbus, OH; El Paso; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; Portland; and San Diego. Although the passage of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in 2002 was generally applauded by school district leaders, many expressed strong concerns about inadequate funding for program initiatives. Others raised concern that NCLB currently focuses on reading and mathematics, while science is being squeezed out of the school day because it is not scheduled for NCLB testing until 2007.

"This work is hard and will take a long time to get it right," concludes the report. "It is not cheap. It needs to take place in a climate where failures and mistakes begin to be seen as opportunities to learn and correct."

Read the full report.

A further report on NSF-funded Systemic Initiatives, from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, addresses more directly issues relating to strategic leadership.

As we came to understand it, strategic leadership requires a deep understanding of the system one is trying to change. Strategic leaders know who has power and influence. They recognize that virtually every decision has trade-offs, and they deliberately weigh the advantages and disadvantages of alternative courses of action. They use available resources efficiently and effectively, and are opportunistic in leveraging additional resources. Strategic leaders create and take advantage of opportunities for increasing the depth and coherence of reform, and are explicit about what aspects of reform are critical to long-term success. They are able to keep in mind the long-range vision and "big picture" of system reform, even as they make the myriad of day-to-day decisions involved in their work. Finally, strategic leaders use the external funding resources as a catalyst to set in motion other forces that can produce change in the system as a whole.

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