Just when the situation in education has reached its most fraught tensions, due to the teachers’ strike, we can see with optimism and pride that there are schools, faculties, and directors, that in spite of being in a difficult and complex context of vulnerability, are able to achieve excellent results and innovate in their practices to move towards a quality education for all their students. It is these schools, such as the ones that make up the network of 100 leader schools, which no doubt should serve as reference points to learn and move decisively towards the kinds of practices and policies that our school system should adopt with more strength and decision.
What we have observed in these years, during which we have identified leader schools, are not single recipes or “silver bullets”, but recurring strategies that allow us to identify patterns of scholastic innovation. On one side, we have seen with great clarity that there are schools whose leadership is not centered on one principal that “administers” an establishment, but in teams of directors who center their work on a so-called “pedagogic nucleus”; that is to say, their decisions and actions start from and take shape in the dimension that seeks to assure the students’ learning.
Innovative schools are the ones that have transitioned from the paradigm of the “school that teaches” towards the “school that learns”.
Additionally, they are schools which value and invest decisively in the development of their instructors, and who know that no improvement or innovation is possible if it does not come from the classroom, and that in there, the teacher’s role is fundamental. They are also schools whose innovation is the product of planned and constant efforts, based on ongoing learning from what has or has not worked before, and that put students at the center and are capable of mobilizing other teachers, even other schools. The concepts of educational networks and community are fundamental in order to observe them.
We have also seen that these are schools that are always evaluating their results, that are mobilized by the change and improvement that they want to reach, and that this is the reason that they put so much weight on feedback, searching for evidence and ongoing evaluation.
Innovative schools are the ones that have transitioned from the paradigm of the “school that teaches” to the “school that learns”, and are today much more connected with the ways of learning and teaching that the 21st century requires. They recognize that not every child learns the same way and that they need teachers and pedagogies capable of facing that diversity in a more personalized way, with greater dialogue inside the schools, between peers and with permanent support from their principals.
They are responding to the challenges of 21st century education and also facing daily situations with new and effective answers, like, for instance, improving the scholastic climate and reinforcing community connectedness through learning the violin or using technology to improve work skills and develop the values of global citizens.
Leader Schools have demonstrated that in Chile, in spite of its surroundings and contexts (many of which are difficult and challenging), it is possible to improve and innovate, which should serve as a reference point for the practices and policies of student improvement.
Today, working in networks (between teachers and between schools) is a priority for improving education in our country, but is also at the same time a great challenge for educational policy. Effective school networks know very well that the focus and must continue to be the total learning and development of their students. They also require developing trust between the participants, a bigger challenge if we look at the degree of mistrust that generally permeates our society. They are action-oriented networks, in search of results (they do not remain in mere declarations and dialogue), which allows them to focus their efforts and materialize the feeling of network efforts.
It is because of this that, in a moment where we are asking ourselves how to move towards an education that faces the 21st century with quality for everyone (equitable and inclusive), but which also puts the student back at the center (revaluing teachers and rethinking the way we educate), we need to look at the schools again, like the ones we present in this network today and which should serve as real, concrete examples for decision-taking and possible reforms.
Leader Schools have demonstrated that in Chile, in spite of its surroundings and contexts (many of them difficult and challenging), it’s possible to improve and innovate, which should serve as a reference point for practices and policies on scholastic improvement.