Approach & Impact – Digital Promise

Approach & Impact

Digital Promise’s Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) is an international learning community of city school systems. Learn more about GCEN.

GCEN’s goals are to:

  1. Create a sustainable international learning network that effectively engage stakeholders in urban education systems in dialogue and collaborative work.
  2. Examine common problems of education policy and practice, and catalyze thinking to improve education in participating cities.
  3. Produce and broadly disseminate knowledge and resources—such as case studies, background papers, and meeting reports—developed for and by Global Cities Education Network sites for use worldwide.

Our Approach

We advance our work through:

People: Teams participate from each member city, including high-level decision makers who are able to support this work. Members may include the city’s school district superintendent and/or other senior leaders of a city’s education system, content experts, key stakeholders from outside the formal education system, and practitioner-leaders.

Issues: From the outset, GCEN was developed with a clear focus on high-priority issues that matter to the city members and can leverage better learning for students at scale. As the network has progressed, working group topics were selected with city input, conversations with external advisors and experts and Digital Promise’s own national and global scan of reform efforts. An important consideration is identifying problems of practice and policy that are of the right “grain size” to allow for the pragmatic, detailed discussions needed to foster understanding of how innovations in one cultural and political setting can be the basis for change in quite different jurisdictions.

The GCEN structures:

Symposia: The entire network gathers annually for a dynamic, three-day learning experience involving school site visits, collaborative exchanges, and presentations from experts, with a focus on issues identified by the cities and facilitated by those on the cutting edge of practice and policy. Learn more about previous symposia.

Working Groups: In between meetings and building off the cities’ agreed-upon areas of focus, the network has engaged in studies and formed working groups around several topics. Starting in Shanghai in March 2014, the working groups utilize case studies and background materials to participate in expert-led workshops. Within these working groups, cities will strive to collaboratively transform best practice discussion into policy and practice change. Learn more about the working groups.

Best Practices Shared: Multiple reports from the network’s learning have been disseminated widely; participated in webinars led by the Alliance for Excellent Education to share network findings; hosted public programs in Hong Kong, Seattle, Singapore, and New York; written articles for Ed Week and Phi Beta Kappa; supported the cities in sharing their practices in their districts and community with local newspapers, business councils, and boards of education, and supported our expert advisors and colleagues in highlighting the work of the network.  

What Cities Are Learning

Cities Are Shifting Their Policies and Practices

Just two years into the program, we are beginning to see evidence that cities are shifting their policies and practices based on what they are learning through international best practice. Denver has started to revamp its teacher training program based on innovations from Toronto and Singapore, and has also started an overhaul of its career and technical education programs based on learning from Singapore and Melbourne. Houston has rethought how it is defining 21st-century skills and how this concept is being introduced to teachers, as well as rethought the district-university relationship in teacher training based on practices observed and discussed with Singapore and Shanghai. Shanghai is considering how best to use data at a system and classroom level, and is learning from Toronto’s efforts in this area.

Cities Are Engaged and Demand is Growing

We have seen high-level, engaged support of city teams, including 100 percent participation in all international meetings, webinars, and working groups, and in-kind support from the cities who have served as hosts of the international meetings. Two cities have been added to the network since its inception based on immediate demand after the first year.

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