By Karla Phillips
Two minds are better than one. A tried and true adage that reminds us challenges are easier faced when working together. In their new book, Better Together: How to Leverage School Networks for Smarter Personalized and Project-Based Learning, authors Tom VanderArk and Lydia Dobyns spotlight the growing expansion of networks as a support mechanism to expand and scale innovation in K12 education. The idea gained greater traction when the Gates Foundation announced a strategic shift to support school networks to drive improvement.
Networks are an excellent vehicle to leverage expertise, share resources, and provide a venue for collaboration. At ExcelinEd, we realized the potential that networks could have for state-level staff charged with implementing new policies and initiatives. In 2015, we formed a K-3 Reading Network to convene policy practitioners and key stakeholders from states with active early literacy programs or those that are pursuing the policy. The K-3 Reading Network, a cohort of more than a dozen states, is sharing lessons learned and best practices for effective policy implementation through in-person and virtual gatherings.
For similar purposes, we recently launched a Network for State Innovation Partners to support state-level staff charged with implementing innovation or pilot programs. Through these convenings we explore common challenges and brainstorm potential solutions.
Tom and Lydia’s book seeks to provide examples from across the country along with strategic recommendations based on lessons learned. The information is timely and sorely needed if networks are to accomplish their goals. As the authors note, the work facing educators is hard as they strive to prepare our students for a rapidly changing world. There is strength in numbers and we know that educators will be Better Together.