Working in a school can cause tunnel vision—with a fierce focus and commitment to providing students and families with the highest quality education you can offer, you begin to retreat into the bubble that is your second home. After a long day of lesson planning, teaching, resolving conflicts or managing staff, little room is left to consider the bigger picture of education reform on a systems level.
This creates an interesting paradox: teachers, administrators and school leaders—experts in the field of education—are often left out of the education reform process because a majority of their time is focused on the day-to-day operations of running a school.
However counterintuitive this may sound, it is not uncommon to work in silos in the field of education. There are a variety of stakeholders in education, each with their own vision for K-12 schools. Multiple charter networks spread their model across the city in an attempt to lead the reform movement. Private education companies such as McGraw Hill and Pearson push the standardized testing agenda in order to expand their businesses. Ed-tech companies such as Udemy and Coursera are trying to move classrooms online. Health food companies such as Red Rabbit and Chefables focus on the impact of a healthy, nutritious diet on a child’s education. With all these different agendas in education, it’s no wonder that reform has thwarted and polarization has spread far and wide across the field.
However, it is too easy to stick solely to our own methods while rejecting the work of other groups within the field of education. In order to achieve system-wide progress, we must form cross-sector partnerships and work towards a united vision for reform that leverages the skill sets and resources of each sector. Although no single organization, school or thought leader has all the answers, each of these players possesses invaluable insight and expertise that together, can create large scale impact.
As a firm advocate of collaborative work, I am planning to organize a cross sector education reform conference in New York that provides a space for individuals in education, tech, business, politics and media to collaborate on K-12 school reform. The conference will feature keynote speakers from different sectors and will provide workshops aimed towards:
Creating shared vision in education
Working across difference
Developing sustainable working models
As lines of communications begin to form across sectors, we will witness coordinated reform and innovation in the education system. Rather than retreating further into our silos, it is vital that we learn to reach out and build partnerships that can provide higher quality learning and greater access to students in New York City.