Advocacy and Education Policies of Tomorrow

Topics: Education Policy, Future of Learning

Tomorrow conversations, facilitated by Remake Learning Field Director Ani Martinez and KnowledgeWorks Director of Strategic Foresight Jason Swanson, feature some of the most forward-thinking leaders in teaching, learning and technology. I was honored when they chatted with me in the episode “Futures of Learning Policy” about a variety of topics, including the importance of advocacy and community ownership in advancing equitable and just futures for students. We also discussed what the future might look like if concerted, thoughtful advocacy work were part of the education system.

Making change in the future requires engagement from everyone

Thoughtful policy change requires buy-in from an entire ecosystem. State and local decisionmakers have a duty to bring voices into the change process, and advocates have a duty to make their voices heard. Increasing stakeholder engagement and shared accountability across systems are critical elements to successfully creating policy change and sustaining its implementation. While some types of transformative learning practices can be implemented without policy change, I called out the importance of systems change for transformative practices like competency-based education.

“What I think is really interesting about competency-based education specifically, is that you can’t sustain it classroom by classroom,” I said. “There has to be a system-level buy-in.” This buy-in is created in large part when advocates with experience in practicing competency-based education share the importance of their work with decisionmakers who, in turn, can enable the practices to deepen through policy change.

“No one organization can do it alone, nor should they.”

Jason Swanson
Director of Strategic Foresight, KnowledgeWorks

We also discussed the blurring of marketing and advocacy through platforms like social media, in which advocates create “soundbites” for a particular issue and “sell” their issue online. Tried and true advocacy strategies, such as coalition-building, are still relevant in today’s environment, and may increase in importance over time. “As politics have become more and more polarized,” I pointed out, “if you do not have a coalition built, it can become very easy to conflate politics with policy.” When advocates find common ground, even when they differ on other policy issues, it allows decisionmakers to move beyond partisanship and transform systems.

When asked to explore advocacy in the future, I included students as an important part of the change-making process. I reimagined what school and community engagement might look like if advocacy for transformative systems change were prioritized:

  • What if schools reimagined guidance counselors as facilitators that help elevate students’ needs to adults within the school and leaders within the broader community? What if we were able to create entirely new positions that held that role?
  • What if community change was part of the learning process for students?

Rethinking roles and ways in which learning ecosystems engage in the changemaking process opens the door for more relevant learning for students in the future.

Considering a call to action

Every voice is important in a policy change process, be it local, state or federal. You can be an advocate for transformative education and for personalized, competency-based learning – as a student, an educator, a parent, a community institution or even as a policymaker – by bringing a variety of voices together to build capacity for the work, by being a source of knowledge, sparking passion for student-centered frameworks, demonstrating successes and driving change forward with strategic activities.

Through the coming months, KnowledgeWorks will be sharing stories of successful growth and systems change in states focused on transforming their education systems. We will also be sharing out specific strategies, gleaned from advocates, marketers, educators and activists, you can use to become an advocate for education systems design change. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletter for the latest.