Reports – Digital Promise


Global Cities Education Network Reports


Centering Wellbeing: Advancing Social-Emotional Learning for All
by Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

The Working Group on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Learning Differences was launched in 2021 as an initiative of the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN). Fourteen school districts each worked to implement a unique action plan designed to strengthen SEL supports in their district, including for students with learning differences. Districts drew on expertise and resources shared in the working group and adapted the strategies to meet their needs. The learning centered on deep dives into two international school systems: a virtual site visit to Surrey Schools (British Columbia, Canada) and an in-person convening in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia). This report features four case studies and shares lessons learned and strategies implemented by the districts.


A District Vision for Equity: Strategies from Surrey Schools
by Kathleen B. Fletcher, Brian K. Eyer, and Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

School systems worldwide have a clear call to action to address the long-standing inequities that have become more and more visible over the last few years, including during the COVID-19 pandemic and increased attention to systemic racial injustice. Regardless of where a system is in its transformation to authentically center equity, translating that commitment into action in schools and classrooms is not easy and requires both significant shifts in mind-sets and practices and supports for those shifts. This requires courageous, adaptive, and morally centered leadership. The Center for Global Education at Asia Society (CGE) identified Surrey Schools as a “bright spot” of a district meaningfully engaged in this application of its equity commitment, as evidenced through its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


System Strategies to Advance Educational Equity
by Derek L. Riley and Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

How can school districts create more equitable opportunities and dismantle systemic barriers facing many students, families, and educators?  During the 2019-20 school year, 10 districts from across the United States joined a learning cohort, convened by the Center for Global Education at Asia Society and Digital Promise, to explore this question. Leaders shared strategies and learned from a study tour to visit the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), where leadership has explicitly centered and invested in equity. 

Collection of COVID-19 Education Policy Resources


Innovate, Iterate, Improve: Strategies for Developing 21st Century Competencies
by Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

Innovate, Iterate, Improve: Strategies for Developing 21st Century Competencies, a report by the Center for Global Education at Asia Society and Policy Studies Associates, documents how three education systems (Denver, Colorado; Hangzhou, China; Hiroshima, Japan) participating in the 21st century competencies working group of Asia Society’s Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) used improvement science methods to develop and test strategies to foster the competencies that students need to succeed in the 21st century. 


Instructional Practices for Deeper Learning
by Jackie MacFarlane, Dan Aladjem, and Christina A. Russell; Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

America Achieves and Asia Society support school systems in their efforts to improve performance. Asia Society’s Center for Global Education partners with schools and school systems to promote the incorporation of global education into policy and practice, including through the Global Cities Education Network (GCEN), which convenes city and education system leaders from the Asia-Pacific region and North America to share promising practices for addressing system-wide challenges in education. America Achieves facilitates the Global Learning Network (GLN), a professional learning community for school and district leaders from world-leading schools that are committed to improving education within their own systems and beyond based on shared best practices.


Innovation and Change: Lessons from the Global Cities Education Network
by Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

The Global Cities Education Network (GCEN) is an international learning community of urban systems in Asia and North America launched by Asia Society in 2012. Through participation in the GCEN, teams of high-ranking city officials commit to sharing ideas; learning from one another and from global best practice; and strategically identifying, designing, and implementing systemic reforms and innovations that support educational success for all students. The Center for Global Education at Asia Society serves as the convener of the GCEN, identifies expert advisors and resources, organizes an annual symposium hosted by one of the GCEN cities, and plans working group meetings that delve deeply into issues focused on specific topic areas identified in partnership with city systems. In spring 2015, Asia Society commissioned Policy Studies Associates (PSA) to conduct an evaluation of the GCEN. The key findings and recommendations that emerged from the evaluation are available in the report below.

System Supports for 21st Century Competencies
by Christina A. Russell, Policy Studies Associates, Inc.

Educators around the world are rethinking the ways in which they prepare students for learning, work, and citizenship in a global society that requires individuals to effectively engage with each other, creatively approach tasks, and be lifelong learners. The skills required for success in school, careers, and life can be collectively referred to as 21st century competencies, although the specific competencies emphasized vary based on local contexts and values.

Leaders from Denver, Hiroshima, New York City, Seattle, Seoul, and Singapore gathered in Shanghai to share their approaches for creating systems that support students with developing the competencies they need to succeed and ideas for strengthening the reach and impact of their work. During this meeting, which took place in November 2015, it became clear that despite differences in the cultural and policy contexts across these six cities, there were also many common threads in how leaders approached the effort to building and sustaining a system-wide commitment to helping youth develop, practice, and master these competencies.


Early Teacher Development: Trends and Reform Directions
by Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership for Asia Society.

Asia Society’s Global Cities Education Network has recently been discussing how the world’s best education systems approach the initial teacher education and induction of new teachers. To inform this discussion, Asia Society commissioned the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to develop a paper summarizing the evidence and best practice on initial teacher education and induction.

Measuring 21st Century Skills: Guidance for Educators
by Jim Soland, Laura S. Hamilton, and Brian M. Stecher for Asia Society.

The world is changing at seemingly breakneck speed. Around the globe, a wide-ranging debate is taking place about what knowledge and skills are most important for the increasingly diverse, interconnected, and innovation-oriented societies of the 21st century.

The cities in Asia Society’s Global Cities Education Network all agree that the goals of education can no longer simply be to provide basic literacy skills for the majority of students and higher order skills only for a small elite. The skills that are easiest to teach and easiest to test are now also the skills that are easiest to automate, digitize, and outsource. Instead, cities are directing their attention to developing so-called 21st century skills and competencies for all students. Cities differ in exactly how they define and prioritize these skills and competencies, but they generally include:

  • Cognitive skills: critical thinking, problem-solving and knowledge application, creativity
  • Interpersonal skills: communication and collaboration, leadership, global and cross-cultural awareness
  • Intrapersonal skills: self-direction, motivation, learning how to learn


Improving Performance of Low-Achieving and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students

Chicago, Denver, Seoul, Shanghai, and the EdVisions charter network are very different from each other in many ways—size, diversity, poverty levels, institutional structures and political processes. Yet they share a common focus on trying to reduce achievement gaps so that all students, no matter what their background, can have a successful school experience. In every system around the world, it is still the case that students who grow up in the wrong circumstances, or do not speak the dominant language, or have different skin color from the majority are more likely to have poor educational outcomes. There is still much work to be done to produce truly equitable school systems.

Developing and Sustaining a High-Quality Teacher Force
by Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University for Asia Society.

Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University examined the strategies used to develop and support high-quality teaching in three cities from different nations on three separate continents. The cities—Melbourne, Singapore, and Toronto—have developed a number of productive policies and practices that aim to create strong teaching and school leadership workforces in very different contexts.


Teaching and Learning 21st century Skills: Lessons from the Learning Sciences
by Anna Rosefsky Saavedra and V. Darleen Opfer, The RAND Corporation for Asia Society.

School districts are largely engaged in or contemplating wide-ranging reforms of curriculum, instruction, and assessment to prepare students for the increasingly complex demands of life and work in the 21st century. The Asia Society Global Cities Education Network is comprised of of policymakers, practitioners, and researchers from Chicago, Denver, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Seattle, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Toronto, and the American charter network EdVisions. They came together to discuss the critical challenges they face and to identify ways to learn from each other and from the world’s best practices. They shared their experiences in trying to move their systems towards 21st century learning environments.

Transforming Learning in Cities: The Global Cities Education Network Inaugural Symposium
includes summaries of the background presentations during the meeting, discussions by members, and examples of best practices in Network cities for Asia Society.

Sign Up For Updates! Email icon

Sign up for updates!