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Saturday, January 22, 2022

5 notable trends in school innovation

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Recently I told a group of high school students that my research investigates how schools are changing during the pandemic. One student’s unprompted reaction in the Zoom chat was so straightforward that it made me chuckle: “Oh we changed a lot.” Indeed.

The Canopy project, a collaborative effort to document school innovation across the country, endeavors to categorize and compare the nature of those changes. Starting in 2019, the project has issued calls to nominators—education non-profits, researchers, funders, and state agencies—to suggest schools on their radar that are innovating at a school-wide level. Leaders from nominated schools then participate by sharing details about their school models.

In September 2019, the project featured data on 173 schools’ innovative approaches, and in September 2020, a new interactive data portal featured 144 schools that shared their approaches during the pandemic for the first time.

This week, the project is releasing new data from January 2021. Among the 222 schools appearing in the data portal, 78 are new additions, and another 99 have shared updated information to supplement their existing Canopy profiles.

As we begin to analyze this latest batch of data, here are five takeaways that stand out:

  1. Social-emotional learning continues to rank as the most widely cited approach.

To participate in the Canopy project, school leaders share the innovative practices underway at their schools using a set of consistent “tags,” or keywords and phrases. Seven broad domains, like project-based learning and blended learning, are represented by “general approach” tags. Dozens of additional tags describe more concrete “specific practices.”

Among the 78 school leaders that first participated in Canopy in January 2021, 86% reported implementing social-emotional learning (SEL), making it the most commonly-reported general approach.


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