(R)evolutionize Systems Leadership

A panel conversation hosted by Ed Trust and the New Teacher Center

Recorded October 21st, 2020

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John B. King Jr.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Education Trust


Tanji Reed Marshall

Director of P-12 Practice, Education Trust


Atyani Howard

Chief Program Officer, New Teacher Center


Desmond Blackburn

Chief Executive Officer, New Teacher Center

(R)evolutionize Systems Leadership

A panel conversation hosted by Ed Trust and the New Teacher Center

In partnership with the Education Trust, New Teacher Center recently hosted a panel discussion with systems leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of Education, Dr. John B. King, Jr. During our discussion, four key themes emerged:

Embrace the Lessons Learned from Change

  • Establish the right mindset – this is not a lost year, this has not been a waste; this is an opportunity to question the systems we’ve had in place and leverage the muscles and tools we’ve developed amid this crisis.
  • The crisis has forced us to expand the definition of a learning environment – gone are the days where you need to be in a brick and mortar building, for specific hours and days.
  • There is value in synchronous and asynchronous learning for students AND teachers.
  • Continue to embrace the new avenues hybrid learning is paving for us.
    • For example, access to AP classes for students, regardless of their physical location, can now increase online. 
    • We’re seeing less student separation and isolation – everyone is learning together online.
    • Outside of the traditional classroom, student agency has grown.


Disrupt – Where Leaders Can Remove Barriers, They Should

  • Where districts make budget cuts will tell you a lot about what they value. Are reductions of staff and resources happening in the most affluent schools, or in those schools with the highest needs? Are non-instructional activities or instructional activities being cut?
  • There are inevitable budget deficits in our future, but we need to push ourselves to make sure we do not cut line items that directly support students (especially underserved students) and educators.
  • Embrace creativity – think differently about how we structure time and deploy people. 
    • For example, if one teacher on a grade-level team of 5 is an all-star presenter of a key lesson, consider having her/him/them present that lesson for the entire grade, freeing up time for other teachers to support students, tutor, plan, etc. 
    • As another example, consider class scheduling – amid hybrid learning, do we need a full 47 minute session for the entire class, or would 15 minute check-ins with smaller groups of students be more effective?

Lift up examples of creativity, such as the science teacher in D.C. who is performing virtual science experience from his kitchen for students who are excited to log on and learn.

There Will Be No COVID Passes – Stay Focused and Hold Space for What Works 

  • Hold tight to foundational, fundamental needs – Are your students and families getting food? Do they have access to healthcare? We have to be in touch with every kid in order to answer these questions; relationships with students and their families at this moment are paramount.
  • Take an asset-based approach and remind students of marginalized backgrounds and communities that it is in their DNA to overcome obstacles and negative conditions.
  • Hold tight to what works in professional learning — analyzing student work, understanding the implications of what and how students are learning, and determining the critical needs of learners in a classroom — in order to accelerate teacher practice. 
  • Do not throw out the use of data – be selective and careful around which measures matter.


Systems Leaders: Continue to Support Educators and Their Students

  • Real leadership will acknowledge that this is a terrible situation and it’s not normal; acknowledging the reality of the situation is important.
  • Take the time to really understand how this crisis and school year is landing for educators in real-time; establish a structure to foster and maintain these conversations, which will sustain relationships. 
  • Continue to build on the ingenuity that the pandemic spurred around local responsiveness and school systems banning together.
  • Live into the notion that we need an expanded definition of what it means to provide a free, public education; “nice to haves” (food, speech therapy, culturally responsive materials and culturally competent teachers) have become “must haves.”

Tune into the webinar to hear more — NTC and Ed Trust also share how recent resources they’ve released (linked below)  complement one another to deepen our understanding of  equity-focused policies and implement equity-based practices in schools and classrooms.

Follow Up Resources:


And check out recent NTC blogs and podcast here: Support Hub