Author: Rhonda Broussard

One Good Question with Susan Patrick: How Can We Build Trust in Our Education System?

March 6, 2017 by
Susan Patrick

Susan Patrick

This post originally appeared at iNACOL on December 16, 2016 and One Good Question on December 6, 2016.

In what ways do our investments in education reveal our beliefs about the next generation’s role in the world?

There’s a big difference in how you would fund the education system if you were building for the longer term – you would invest in building capacity and trust. We need to take a very honest look at our investments. If people and relationships matter, we need to be building our own sense of inquiry. That’s not at odds with innovation investments. We should be about innovation with equity. That way, we can change our own perspectives while we build new solutions.

The debate about top-down reform vs. bottom-up innovation is tied to the same trust issues. In Finland, they made an effort to go towards a trust based model and it meant investing in educator capacity so that the systems trust educators to make the best decisions in real-time. If we don’t start investing in trust, we can’t get anywhere.

When US educators visit other countries, we tend to look for silver bullet programs from the highest-performing countries. What are we missing in that search?  

During my Eisenhower Fellowship, I was able to meet with teams from OECD and UNESCO that gave me great perspective. UNESCO has just published an Education 2030 outlook presenting their global education development agenda that looks at the whole child. Their goals are broad enough to include developing nations who aren’t yet educating 100% of their population. When we read through the goals and indicators, the US could learn a lot from having our current narrow focus on academics. Our current education structure is not going to lead us to provide a better society. Are we even intending to build a better society for the future? We’re not asking the big questions. We’re asking if students can read and do math on grade level in grades 3-8. In Canada, they ask if a student has yet met or exceeded expectations. If not, what are we doing to get them there? You don’t just keep moving and allow our kids to have gaps.

The UNESCO report specifies measures about access to quality education. Is there gender equality? Is there equity? They define equity as:

Equity in education is the means to achieving equality. It intends to provide the best opportunities for all students to achieve their full potential and act to address instances of disadvantage which restrict educational achievement. It involves special treatment/action taken to reverse the historical and social disadvantages that prevent learners from accessing and benefiting from education on equal grounds. Equity measures are not fair per se but are implemented to ensure fairness and equality of outcome. (UNESCO 2015)

Across the global landscape of education systems, there is a diversity of governance from top-down to bottom-up regarding system control, school autonomy and self-regulation and how this impacts processes and policies for quality assurance, evaluation and assessments. It is important to realize the top-down and bottom-up dynamics are often a function of levels of trust combined with transparency for data and doing what is best for all kids. In the US, let’s face it, our policy conversations around equity are driven by a historical trend of a massive achievement gap. Said another way, there is a huge lack of trust from the federal government toward states, from states to districts and even down to schools and classrooms. We ask, “How do we trust that we’re advancing equity in our schools?’” (more…)

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