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Equity-Focused Change, STEM & Sustainability: Lead the Change Interviews for AERA (part 4)

“Contradictions, Niceness, and Accountability: A Content Analysis of an Urban District’s Leaders’ Perspectives on Racial Equity Transformation”

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Patricia M. Virella, Montclair State University

I hope they can learn how change research isn’t merely about uncovering problems and finding solutions. Instead, change requires uncomfortable conversations, vulnerability, and pushing through to the other side. I also hope that given the majority of scholars in the field of education research are White and cis gender, more take on the challenge of infusing equity-oriented practices. As a Black Puerto Rican woman, this work is critical to my own identity, but also, doing this can be demanding.

Additionally, if we want to have actual Educational Change, it’s not going to come just from scholarly articles. It will come from working hand in hand with school districts, scholars being reflective about their own privilege and positionality, AND listening to what schools need. In my work, I see that there are great things happening in schools across the United States. Yet, there appears to be a “fix-it” mentality in scholarship without inquiring what schools need or are already doing. I hope that my scholarship lifts the veil on change and shows the way it is happening in some school districts.

Another example of what I hope the field and audience can learn is how to position their work towards social justice. I deliberately draft my findings using Huffman and Tracy’s (2018) work on writing findings using a social justice lens. There is so much scholarship that problematizes urban communities and how to fix them, when, in reality, the fix is to align yourself to White normative practices. I want my work to elevate narratives that show how dope urban communities are and how beautiful they are. When I read scholarship that perpetuates a negative view, it reminds me of Robin D.G. Kelley’s book “Yo’ Mama’s Dysfunktional!” where he explains that researchers who went into urban areas to produce the nation at risk report already had their minds made up before they conducted their research. I see the same in scholarship. I love when there is a focus on joy, inclusive culture, and showing how we are not dysfunctional.

Last, I hope my works shows that one needs to be vulnerable to change anything in education. I do not know it all, none of us do. So, we have to show a level of vulnerability in this work. If you do not know, ask. Do not assume just because you read Derrick Bell or Gloria Ladson-Billings that you now know what the urban or Black or LatinX experience is. Instead, inquire. Ask.

“Self-efficacy within Cultural Representation of Latino Teachers Moving into the Administrative Pipeline”

Excerpts from the LtC interview with LeAnne Salazar-Montoya, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Kristin Kew, New Mexico State University, and David Wade, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

It is our intent to share examples of potential problems of practice and offer suggested research-based approaches that can positively support practitioner strategies for leadership, influencing policies that will amplify the importance of inclusive and culturally relevant and responsive approaches in schools. We love the works of Solórzano and Yosso (2022) and Tara Yosso (2005) in that she focuses on community and cultural capitals from a Latina/o critical race theory stance and challenges traditional epistemologies that are white hegemonic in nature. We see the resistant capital of Yosso’s (2005) work in the form of resilience in our research on the border (Kew & Fellus, 2022). Historically, the practice, policy, and research in the field of educational change and with the Educational Change SIG has been international in nature (Hargreaves et. al., 2016). We see the field engaging more and more in critical research and transformative resistance that questions traditional grammars of schooling such as the value of testing and test taking, teacher centered classrooms, and balkanization of subject matter and grades (Kew, 2018). Our work embraces educational change research from a critical perspective, and we feel that we are among scholars in this SIG who will move this agenda forward to ensure more equitable and inclusive schooling and educational leadership.

The Educational Change SIG founder, Andy Hargreaves, stated in one of his TED Talks (2016) in Canada that we should take off with the wind, not using the resistance of the wind as an obstacle but as an opportunity. We see the trajectory of the educational change field as one that moves us towards embracing community and cultural capitals of diverse groups, keeping some of the classic research in the field while rethinking or abandoning aspects of past literature that create inequitable social structures, practices, and discourses. One of our favorite authors on the borderland, Gloria Anzaldua stated, “If we have been gagged and disempowered by theories, we can also be loosened and empowered by theories” (Anzaldua, 1990, xxvi).

In our work we use a combination of critical race theory and feminist theories. In our AERA presentation, we will share some of the gender barriers, power differentials, the value that Latina Superintendents in New Mexico found in trusted networks and mentors, and how they maintain a sense of direction for themselves and their districts. Aligned with the AERA 2023 call for papers, our presentation shares not only the findings of our research study but also the value we gained as women researchers conducting portraiture.

Assessing a Comprehensive School Reform in Pursuit of Student Success in Math, English, and Science Performance

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Xiaozhou Ding, Dickinson College, Danqing Yin, University of Kansas, and Rong Zhang, University of Alabama

As a team of three accomplished scholars, Xiaozhou Ding brings a background in quantitative economics research with a focus on education. Danqing Yin’s expertise lies in education policy research utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods, driven by a passion for uncovering educational challenges and devising solutions. Rong Zhang, with a background in research on educational
leadership, is enthusiastic about exploring educational topics and advancing educational methods.

We have been avid learners of change literature and have kept up with innovative approaches and reforms in our fields. Our academic journey has been marked by a continuous exploration of education reforms. From Tyack and Cuban’s (1995) seminal work, “Tinkering toward Utopia: A Century of Public School Reform,” which illuminated the challenges of bringing about change in education, to more recent literature that continues to shape current reform initiatives such as “Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing” (Margolis, 2017), “Organizing Schools for Improvement” (Bryk et al., 2010), and “What Works May Hurt: Side Effects in Education” (Zhao, 2018), these readings have given us a deeper understanding of systemic inequities in specific areas of education, the drawbacks of one-size-fits-all systems, and the importance of using evaluations with caution.

With the findings from our project, we hope to shed light on how school leaders contribute to successful educational changes based on the evidence we found from the Kansas Can School Redesign Project. To be more specific, using the causal inference methods, we discovered that the Kansans Can School Redesign Project significantly increased eighth-grade students’ science achievement. Hopefully, with more data, we will find the key factors influencing Kansas students and schools (e.g., on student behavior, social-emotional learning, etc.). We hope to provide promising evidence for future school reforms in other districts.

Hyukshin Schools in Korea: Educational Change Toward Whole Person Education

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Dean Stanton, Wortham, and Clara Shim, Dr. Deoksoon Kim, Dr. Dennis Shirley, Hailey Shin, Boston College

The central idea of our research is that teachers play a foundational role in sustainable educational change, particularly in the case of Hyukshin schools. Educational change occurs best when teachers take a leading role, working with leaders, parents, and students to make improvements in the schools. Hyukshin schools are enacting educational change with teachers leading the way. The bottom-up Hyuksin Schools movement is led by teachers and administrators who are passionate about ensuring student well-being. Hyukshin school teachers play a crucial role in leading the paradigm shift that is diversifying definitions of student success, forming horizontal relationships with students, and establishing a collaborative school community in which multiple voices are heard.

Our research also explores how educational change cannot occur without societal change. At the same time as Hyukshin schools are moving toward whole-person education, Korean society, and particularly parents, push in the opposite direction –overemphasizing academic achievement and narrow professional success. Although broader Korean society has recently begun acknowledging the need for whole-person education in the 21st century, the society still prioritizes academic performance over whole-person education. The Hyukshin School movement is making some progress at the margins. But more educators, policymakers, and parents will have to join such movements for broader social change to take hold. In Korea, and elsewhere around the world, the tension between whole-person development and narrow academic achievement will continue to manifest.

STEM Education Addressing Sustainable Development Goals: Building Global Competencies to Co- Construct an Agenda of Consequence

Excerpts from the LtC interview with Elizabeth C Kurucz, University of Guelph, Catherine Hands, Brock University, Emily Krysten Spencer-Mueller, Wilfrid Laurier University, Asfiya Taji, Wilfrid Laurier University, Karin Archer, Let’s Talk Science, Nadine Gudz, York University

Now more than ever, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are being recognized as a priority for education to ensure both personal and national success (Let’s Talk Science [LTS], 2019). A recent review of international and Canadian policy
recommendations indicates the need for graduates in the STEM disciplines and broader STEM fields to meet societal demands, and systemic educational change from developing specific domain knowledge to developing global competencies (LTS, 2019). Toward this end, we hope to convey to the audience a collaborative strategy for operationalizing policy recommendations for a greater focus on STEM programs.

The primary purpose of this year’s presentation is to highlight promising practices for implementing educational change. It provides academics, practitioners (school leaders and teachers), and policy makers with insight into new ways to develop and evaluate innovative curriculum that responds to an evolving landscape and encourages both individual and societal well-being. Co-
constructing an innovative STEM program including UN SDGs, responds to AERA’s call to collaboratively advance agendas of consequence that support goals of social and environmental justice. In doing so, we work toward addressing the Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development’s Education 2030 question: “How can instructional systems effectively develop the
knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed for students to positively impact society and flourish in this uncertain future?” (OECD, 2018), which we suspect is a focal question for many SIG members.

This research contributes to educational change, and school-community relations literature. It involved designing and evaluating an innovative model of high school education focused on developing future-ready learners. We believe the collaborative ways in which students, teachers, school and district administrators, as well as community members and academics worked together throughout this project to develop and implement the initiative provides new insights and direction for further investigation.


Love, B. L. (2019). We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom. Beacon Press.

Huffman, T., & Tracy, S. J. (2018). Making claims that matter: Heuristics for theoretical and social impact in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 24(8), 558-570.

Kelley, R. D. (1998). Yo’mama’s disfunktional!: Fighting the culture wars in urban America. Beacon Press.

Ladson-Billings, G. J. (1999). Chapter 7: Preparing teachers for diverse student populations: A critical race theory perspective. Review of research in education, 24(1), 211-247.

Anzaldúa G (2012) Borderlands/La frontera: The new mestiza. Aunt Lute Books.

Gil, R.M. & Vazquez, C.I. (1996). The Maria paradox: How Latinas can merge old world traditions with new world self-esteem. Publisher’s Putnam’s Sons.

Solórzano, D.G. & T.J. Yosso. (2002). “Critical Race methodology: Counterstorytelling as an analytical framework for educational research.” Qualitative Inquiry, 8(1), 23–44

Yosso, Tara J. (2005). “Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth” (PDF). Race Ethnicity and Education, 8 (1): 69–91 doi:10.1080/1361332052000341006. S2C ID 34658106.

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