Evidence on Educational Leadership, is that sufficient?

Evidence about educational leadership or innovation in education does not guarantee implementation without problems. There is growing awareness that evidence in one context may not hold in other contexts (see my last News Alert *1). There are also more doubts about the results of social or medical science in general (see my earlier blog on Evidence *2). The new focus (Long Zhao) on negative side-effects of seemingly good solutions also complicates the issue of evidence.
The practitioner, the teacher or the schoolleader, might have the impression that she or he is left with empty hands. Not by the imagination of the many approaches, theories or concepts that could inspire thinking over problems in practice, but by the lack of relevant evidence in choosing solutions.
 
Surprisingly (so it seems) at the same time there is a tendency to train teacher and schoolleaders in research skills,and to establish data teams in school. Why use research methodologies that don’t deliver even when used by experts? My answer would be that the methodologies really can help solving a particular problem at a particular school when teachers and schoolleaders are enthusiast about using these methodologies (if these are kept simple).
Optimists however also see a beckoning perspective that experiences in one school can be translated to other schools to foster innovation processes there. But in reality transfer still proves to be very difficult. In the Netherlands we experiment with Laboratories for Research in Education, where practitioners and university researchers cooperate in solving practical problems.A recent report (in Dutch *3) states that these laboratories work, however not much is said about the difficulties of transfer of solutions, nor about results (except for research skills).
 
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National test scores reveal educational stagnation and growing inequality

Quite a coincidence (or not). In the USA the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was published on April 10, marking a decade of stalled educational progress *1. In the Netherlands on April 11 the Inspectorate published The State of Education in the Netherlands 2016/2017 (in Dutch *2), warning that results of students are lowering in a slow but steady decline of twenty years. In the USA the results show a widening gap between the highest and the lowest performers. In the Netherlands one observes a growing distance between results of children of well-to-do and well-educated parents, and children of parents of lower social-economic class, with less education themselves.

In this blog I delve into possible causes for these developments, the overestimated role of ‘evidence' and the flight forward of global organisations like the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) *3.

In both countries many people as a response pointed towards the “real causes" for the declines. In the USA: Charter schools, Common Core State Standards and new teacher evaluation systems are seen as cause or as insufficient implemented. Stricter accountability and high-stakes testing *4 are discussed already for years. Some point to the effects of the Great Recession (2008), which negatively impacted school spending. Other causes mentioned are the widening socioeconomic gaps, and increases in the degree of poverty among relatively poor people. Plus demographic shifts (white students dropped below 50 percent of fourth-grade test takers. Hispanics now account for 26 percent of the fourth-grade population).In the Netherlands: Relative low salaries, large classes, low level of ambition of schools, the number of immigrants, too many new elements in the curricula, segregation towards different schools, lower level of qualifications of teachers, early (almost final) selection of children at the age of 12, growing difference in quality of schools, inclusion of special-ed children in regular classes, influence of social media, teacher shortages, too much power (autonomy) for the boards of education, too much focus on school management instead of a focus on teachers.Others reacted fiercely denying the importance of these causes and presented still different ones.

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Global reports on education: Results-based management versus professionalism

It is a busy season with many global reports on education. Reports from World Bank, UNESCO, OECD, the Education Commission.These kind of global reports define the backdrop for our reasoning about education and educational management in the next year(s). The reports build extensively on results of research in the field, presenting the interpretation of that research by these organisations.

In this blog I will reflect on two of the reports *1:• Learning to realize educations's promise (World Bank, 2017) 240 pages;• Accountability in education (UNESCO, 2017) 505 pagesMy main conclusion will be that these are excellent reports but both in a positive and a negative sense.

Learning to realize educations's promise *2. This 2018 World Development Report is (the first time for the series) completely dedicated to education. The report covers global education as a whole, emphasising its learning crisis.

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The Dutch Way in Education (review)

It looks like Holland has become the next Finland. Alma Harris *1 calls our educational system ‘a hidden gem’ *2. And indeed we are not doing that bad (typical Dutch expression for being proud) in international comparisons. Not only in PISA, but also in PIRLS and in OECD rankings (though spending less than the OECD average). We have a high rate of participation in higher education and 94% of our population is speaking two or more languages (p. 7). We have considerably success in ensuring that equality of opportunity is prioritized and realized *3. In addition: our children are ‘the happiest in the world’. (p. 236)

Reason for a publication about our educational system: The Dutch Way in Education; Teach, learn & lead the Dutch Way. The immediate reason being the celebration of the centenary of the Pacification of 1917, that brought an end to the battle between the Protestant and Catholic schools over freedom of education, and introduced equal funding for all schools. (p. 5)

The first aim of the book is: to take proper pride in showing that the Dutch education system makes some original choices and has a great deal to offer. Others aims are to contribute to the worldwide discourse on ‘good’ education, and to position the Netherlands as an alternative in the discussion about paradigms. (p. 8)

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Impact of Professional Learning Communities

Professional Learning Communities (PLC's) is a vibrant topic and PLC’s are considered highly relevant for the professional development of schoolleaders (and teachers). Since I worked in the early eighties with the International Network of Principals’ Centers (at that time at Harvard) I also was convinced of that. 

The INPC (Roland Barth) was built on the conviction that then-current (academic) training for schoolleaders was not very useful. Instead principals themselves should organise their own inservice training, meeting in self-chosen groups on self-chosen topics. And the main instrument during the meetings was ‘conversation' that we now would qualify as ‘deep conversation’. (See e.g. Tamara Homund Nelson e.a. *1). INPC was a success for almost three decades. *2

In the nineties and beyond professional development for schoolleaders in many countries became increasingly and thoroughly designed and organised at national and sub-national level, at times with considerable or even large budgets. Profiles for schoolleaders were designed and detailed as well as requirements for training, and by preference evidence-based. There seemed to be no place anymore for initiatives by principals themselves till recently.

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Evidence! Relevant? (Ioannidis, Slavin)

Statement: It becomes increasingly more difficult to come across evidence about educational leadership that is relevant for practice.

I will deal in this blog with this issue from several perspectives: Critics on science in general (Ionannidis); growing recognition of the relevance of context (Hallinger); broadening the meaning of evidence (USA); promise of longitudinal, multi-level research (Hallinger and Heck); trend towards self-improving schools and principals supporting each other (UK); reaching to big data (World Bank); celebrating self-evidence (the principal is the second most important factor -next to the teacher- in influencing student learning, Fullan); courageous affirmation of failure (Mulford); research reporting findings are about leadership old-school, not about leadership new-school.

Sorry, just kidding. I will do so but not all of it in this blog. I will stretch the topic of evidence over a (discontinuous) range of blogs. At times I will interject other topics.

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Biesta, Educational Leadership for What?

Recently Wiley published 'The Wiley International Handbook of Educational Leadership’.(http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1118956680.html) 

The first chapter is written by Gert Biesta 'Educational Leadership for What? An Educational Examination’ and it is one of the downloadable excerpts (the other being the Contents and the Index).

I consider this as a  important recognition of the work of Biesta. 

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Five Decades of Educational Leadership Research in EAQ

The latest issue of Educational Administration Quarterly (EAQ 2017, Vol. 53(2)) includes a very interesting article on trends in educational leadership literature: Automated Text Data Mining Analysis of Five Decades of Educational Leadership Research Literature: Probabilistic Topic Modeling of EAQ Articles From 1965 to 2014 (Yinying Wang, Alex J. Bowers, and David J. Fikis).

The article describes the underlying topics and the topic evolution in the 50-year history of educational leadership research literature in EAQ. The authors identified a total of 19 topics from the 1965 to 2014 EAQ corpus. Among them, five topics—inequity and social justice, female leadership, school leadership preparation and development, trust, and teaching and instructional leadership—gained research attention over the 50-year time period, whereas the research interest appears to have declined for the topic of epistemology of educational leadership since the 2000s. Other topics waxed and waned over the past five decades.

The article presents an overview of prior studies that examined the topics and interdisciplinary nature in EAQ and other educational leadership journals. Very illuminating in showing developments in research topics but also very humbling given the comments and characterisations of a range of authorities on educational leadership.

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School choice and inequity in Chile

In September 2016 CEPPE* (Universidad Católica de Chile) published 'Mercado escolar y oportunidad educacional’ with the subtitle 'Libertad, diversidad y desigualdad’. (Editors: Javier Corvalán, Alejandro Carrasco and J.E. García-Huidobro). This publication seemed very interesting and opportune given the growing inequality of education in Chile and the discussions about causes and attempts for improvement. I was able to receive the book via friends in Chile.

The book presents an overview of several years of research of CEPPE on school choice.Part I offers a revised history and empirical analysis of the functioning of the schools market in Chile. Part II develops a detailed analysis of the relations between various social classes and the schools market. It also presents in part III some (older) work of foreign experts who had a distinct influence on the study of the mechanisms of markets in education in Europe and the United States.

I experienced the book to be more difficult to grasp than other books, articles and reports in Spanish I had read on education in Chile. To me the book seemed to use another level of Spanish, partly more philosophical and partly by using less common words, long sentences and complex constructed logic, etc. So it was a kind of struggle to read and try to understand the introductions and the conclusions of the 15 chapters.

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Successful School Leadership: International Perspectives

I was curious to read 'Successful School Leadership: International Perspectives' (2016, editors: Petros Pashiardis, Olof Johansson). So I felt fortunate that I could buy their book as an eBook on Google Books with a major difference in price to the hardcopy. 

Both editors have been active (are still active?) in the International Successful School Principals Project. The ISSPP is an international version of a project in the UK (The impact of school leadership on pupil outcomes, Research Brief DCSF-RB108, 2009). Both projects are conceived by Christopher Day (University of Nottingham).

The UK projectThe project in the UK started on high ground. This was the project that finally would unveil the practice of good leadership in schools. Conclusions were sobering. In essence: Successful principals choose those strategies and activities that fit the complexity of the situation of the school. 

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Leading Futures by Alma Harris

Leading Futures, Global Perspectives on Educational Leadership is edited by Alma Harris and Michelle S. Jones.I thought it to be a promising book given the position and experience of both editors. So I bought the Kindle version.Unfortunately I experienced it to be more of a lucky dip. I’ll explain my experiences. 

I had hoped to find detailed information about the results of the 7 System Leadership Study of Alma Harris that started in 2012. The prime aim of that project is looking at leadership in different cultures and contexts. The study is empirically mapping the way in which different education systems develop school leaders and the impact these programmes have on prinicpals’ leadership practice. Information about the project is scarce on Internet.

The book indeed builds on 7LSL and also on the Asia Leadership Summit 2014 in Kuala Lumpur. The authors are partly researchers on 7SLS and partly contributors to the ALS 2014. But there is not much direct information about 7LSL.

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Verger and The Global Education Industry

Anthoni Verger came to Amsterdam after his PhD in Barcelona (2010). In Amsterdam he worked from 2007 - 2011 within the framework of the IS Academie Programme, a collaboration between the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the University of Amsterdam.  It was (and is till end of this year) a joint effort to strengthen the relation between the academic world and policymaking.https://educationanddevelopment.wordpress.com/members/antoni-verger/ 

Verger researched and published in the areas of the global governance of education, education privatization, and higher education and international development. At the moment he is lecturer at the Department of Sociology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Via IS Academie I came to know his publications. I was immediately attracted to his work. And I consider ‘The Global Education Industry’ as a first peak in his work. I hope more valuable publications will follow.

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Distributed Leadership: State of Art

This week the British Educational Leadership Management and Administration Society (BELMAS) published its latest issue of Management in Education (MiE October 2016; 30 (4)). It is a special issue on Distributed Leadership (DL).

This state of art of DL is very relevant and the range of authors of articles is excellent. 

- Alma Harris and John DeFlaminis show that DL (apart from all comments on the concept) can be used in practice and shows hopeful results.

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Equitable Schools (USA)

From books by e.g. Kozol (Savage Inequalities - 1991), we know already for a long time that in the USA poor children receive an education in poor schools from teachers with the lowest capacities and knowledge. 

There have been numerous efforts to correct that situation, many not very successful.

 George W. Bush e.g. introduced the program ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB)’ As a goal to be lauded but the instruments had unfavorable side effects: competition between schools, test-based accountability, punishments in case of failures, introduction of evidence-based school innovation programmes that left hardly any space for the creativity of the professional teacher. 

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'PUM Netherlands senior experts’. Evaluation positive?

PUM supports development of SME’s abroad. PUM has a network of 265 representatives in 70 countries around the world, connecting directly with entrepreneurs, business support organisations and partners locally. PUM works with 3,000 senior experts (volunteers) who share their knowledge on a one-on-one basis. Either through short-term and repetitive advisory missions at the work floor, or through online coaching activities.’ (https://www.pum.nl/how-we-work). 

I have been one of those volunteers

PUM just published the results of the evaluation of the PUM-programme 2012-2015. The evaluation is done by Erasmus University Rotterdam. (https://zoek.officielebekendmakingen.nl/blg-780351.pdf). The evaluation is partly based on the results of PRIME (Pioneering Real-Time Impact Monitoring and Evaluation in small and medium sized enterprises). See: www.primepartnership.nl.

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Strategic advice for EMDO's in Sub-Saharan Africa (and Vietnam) (2009, 2012)

This blog introduces thinking about changing characteristics of Educational Management Development Organizations. EMDO's being organizations that have a leading role in fostering support to schoolleaders (training, consultancy, research etc.).

Changes in EMDO's occur over time, sometimes during lengthy periods. Changes partly occur as reactions on changes in the context of EMDO's and partly because of growing professionalism in these organizations.

The text is written for organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, but is also used for consultancy to organizations and universities in Vietnam.

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Reflections on Pacific EMIS development and use in 2011

This note presents reflections on the status of EMIS development and use in the Pacific.It is based on reviews of VEMIS (2008), KEMIS (2010), and SIEMIS (2010), major global reports on EMIS development and on personal experience and expertise.

The reflections are just a review of reviews; so conclusions should be read taking into account that- it was not possible to identify information on (generic) tools used in the development of Pineapples software and the national EMISs- it was not possible to test EMISs- no interviews were held with clients, developers and users (as is done in the reviews).

VEMIS (Vanuatu), KEMIS (Kiribati) and SIEMIS (Solomon Islands) are products developed by UniQuest (University of Queensland) based on Pineapples software. A similar system is implemented in Nauru. It is considered for Tuvalu, Niue and Tokelau. Fiji and Papua New Guinea have their own customized EMIS but these are apparently not meeting all their needs. Tonga planned to develop and implement an EMIS in 2006, but a viable system was not delivered. In Samoa the Ministry is working on establishing an EMIS that merges existing databases. (Grinsted SIEMIS 2010)

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Comment on 'Marco para la buena dirección y el liderazgo escolar' Chile 2015

On 13 november 2015 CPEIP (Centro de Perfeccionamiento, Experimentación e Investigaciones Pedagogical) presented their new version of the ‘Marco’. What follows are the comments I presented to some of the stakeholders. (Some minor changes are made to the text to depersonalize the comments).

The comments:

I consider this document to be one of the bests, maybe the best I have seen of these kinds of documents.

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Leadership Development in Education worldwide 2010- 2015. Relevance for Ecuador 3.4

This second report about leadership development in education depicts worldwide developments from about 2010 till end 2015. Earlier developments are reported in the first report (Leadership Development in Education worldwide till 2010).

This overview starts with the role school leaders can play in achieving equity. After that (as in the first report) this report starts with sketching the situation in the USA (with a main role for ISLLC and for the Wallace Foundation). Next is described the situation in the UK (focusing on the role of the National College for Teachers and Leaders - NCTL).

For Europe are mentioned the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Policy Network on School Leadership (EPNoSL)). Other documents from Europe are from the organisations ESHA and ETUCE and from the countries Scotland, Spain and Sweden.

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Leadership Development in Education worldwide till 2010 1.5

This report is the first part of a global study on Leadership Development in Education. It covers the developments till 2010. This report is mainly written to support colleagues in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A second report covers the period 2010 -2015. That report is written to support colleagues in Latin-America, especially colleagues in Ecuador. Part of the citations in that report are in Spanish (as in the introduction of this report).

Content 1. Trends in education in relation to school leadership 2. Overview of developments in educational leadership 2.1 Mapping the field 2.2 Successful leadership 2.3 Schools successful for whom? 2.4 Leading with a vision 2.5 Distributed leadership 2.6 Instructional Leadership 2.7 Leadership by whom? Cognitive and emotional characteristics of successful leaders 2.8 Six reasons to be cautious in using results of research on topics ‘en vogue’ in educational leadership 3 Overview of regional characteristics of educational leadership development activities 3.1 The situation in the USA 3.2 The situation in the UK 3.3 The situation in other countries (apart from Latin America)

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