School districts across the country are tackling the toughest challenges in education, from kindergarten readiness, to family engagement, to school redesign. To address these challenges, we need to understand how they are experienced in different settings — from small, rural districts to large, urban districts — and we need to learn from educators and researchers who are working to solve these challenges.
The Challenge Map was created to communicate shared challenges that League of Innovative Schools (League) districts are addressing in order to surface promising approaches and bring educators and researchers together around high priority issues.
To discover shared challenges faced by League districts, the Digital Promise Research team undertook a rigorous process of data collection and analysis. First, they facilitated interactive sessions with more than 100 League leaders to identify root-causes of several of their top-of-mind problems of practice. Using what they learned in these sessions, the team identified broad challenge areas — including academic achievement, technology, and equity — and reviewed artifacts such as district strategic plans to deepen the understanding of each broad area. They then selected a sample of 20 districts representative of the League in terms of district size, type of community, and proportion of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch and conducted in-depth interviews with leaders regarding district goals, initiatives, and challenges related to the broad themes. Finally, researchers transcribed and coded those interviews and synthesized what learnings into shared education challenges.
The resulting Challenge Map contains 36 specific challenges that are broadly relevant (i.e. not just faced by a one or two districts), well-defined, and distinct from the others. The challenges are organized within 9 themes, starting with student- and classroom-focused challenges on the left and moving towards systems- and community-focused challenges on the right. Within each theme, challenges are organized by frequency, with the most common challenges reported within each theme at the top of the column.
The 9 themes include the following: Student Learning, Instructional Approaches, Professional Learning & Support, School Culture Climate & Safety, Family Engagement, Assessment, Technology & Network Infrastructure, Systems Change, and Equity.
The Challenge Map is designed for education leaders who are looking for resources, from innovative approaches to research syntheses, to help address common education challenges.
For each challenge, the Ideas from the Field section shares some emerging trends and interesting practices League districts are implementing.
The Resources section includes links to summaries and tools which were identified based on the extent to which they are research-based and aligned with the specific challenge. This section is not a comprehensive review of research and initiatives related to each challenge, but rather a starting place to explore approaches for addressing these shared challenges.
To view the challenge map, see https://challengemap.digitalpromise.org/