Transforming Education into a Learning System: Reflections on the Pandemic

In a new brief, Carnegie Corporation of New York and EducationCounsel explore how the American education system responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying gaps (missed opportunities and systemic shortcomings that deepened the challenges our schools faced) and bright spots (existing and new efforts where learning system approaches supported more effective action). Drawing on those lessons, the authors argue that the pandemic has strengthened the case for a learning system approach while sharing resources and examples to help educators do that hard but essential work.

The shift toward a learning system must take place at all levels — from schools and classrooms to districts, states, and even the federal government. It must take place in research institutions, philanthropic foundations, and educator preparation programs. This transformation will require attention to building a culture of continuous learning, as well as the design of key system components, including:

  • An R&D infrastructure that enables the generation and evaluation of insights, evidence, tools, programs, policies, and practices to support teaching and learning
  • A continuous improvement infrastructure that supports ongoing, collaborative efforts in policy and practice to implement, refine, and provide feedback on solutions generated by R&D and practitioner-led innovation
  • A data infrastructure that enables everyone with a stake in education to have the information they need to make sound decisions in their role and context

Working across these interdependent components are four key drivers of a learning system — human capacity, resources, leadership, and policy and incentives — that must align with the overall vision.

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