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The Education We Need for a Future We Can't Predict

The Education We Need for a Future We Can't Predict

  • Thomas Hatch - Professor, Teachers College, Columbia University and Director, National Center for Restructuring Education, Schools, & Teaching (NCREST)
  • Jordan Corson - Assistant Professor, Stockton University
  • Sarah Gerth van den Berg - Curriculum Designer and Doctoral Candidate, Teachers College, Columbia University

Thomas Hatch with Jordan Corson and Sarah Gerth van den Berg

Additional resources:

February 2021 | 248 pages | Corwin
Improve Schools and Transform Education

In order for educational systems to change, we must reevaluate deep-seated beliefs about learning, teaching, schooling, and race that perpetuate inequitable opportunities and outcomes. Hatch, Corson, and Gerth van den Berg challenge the narrative when it comes to the “grammar of schooling”--or the conventional structures, practices, and beliefs that define educational experiences for so many children—to cast a new vision of what school could be.

The book addresses current systemic problems and solutions as it:

  • Highlights global examples of successful school change
  • Describes strategies that improve educational opportunities and performance
  • Explores promising approaches in developing new learning opportunities
  • Outlines conditions for supporting wide-scale educational improvement

This provocative book approaches education reform by highlighting what works, while also demonstrating what can be accomplished if we redefine conventional schools. We can make the schools we have more efficient, more effective, and more equitable, all while creating powerful opportunities to support all aspects of students’ development.

"You won’t find a better book on system change in education than this one. We learn why schools don’t change; how they can improve; what it takes to change a system; and, in the final analysis, the possibilities of system change. Above all, The Education We Need renders complexity into clarity as the writing is so clear and compelling. A powerful read on a topic of utmost importance."

~Michael Fullan, Professor Emeritus, OISE/Universtiy of Toronto


"I cannot recommend this book highly enough – Tom tackles long-standing and emerging educational issues in new ways with an impressive understanding of the challenging complexities, but also feasible possibilities, for ensuring excellence and equity for all students."

~Carol Campbell, Associate Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto


List of Figures
List of Programs
An Education in Schools

An Education in School Reform

Why This Book?

About the Authors
School Improvement in (Norwegian) Perspective

Improving Schools and Transforming Education

Design and Organization

Chapter 1: Increasing Access and Quality
What Has Improved in Schooling in the Developing World?

What Has Improved in Established Educational Systems?

Improvement Is Not Enough

The Bottom Line

Chapter 2: Establishing Equitable Learning Opportunities
Equity, Opportunity, and Education

The Vicious Cycle: Economic Inequality + Inequality of Educational Opportunity

Separate and Unequal

How Inequality Adds Up

The Bottom Line

Chapter 3: Learning With Purpose
What Are Schools For?

The Power of Unanticipated Learning

The Education We Need for a Future We Can’t Predict

The Bottom Line

Key Ideas From Part 1

Chapter 4: The “Grammar of Schooling” Always Pushes Back
The Possibilities of Incremental Improvement

The Challenges of Radical Change

What It Really Takes to Improve

Chapter 5: Beliefs Endure, but Times Change
“Real School” and “Real Learning”

Real Differences in Values

Turbulent Conditions

Improving in “Niches”

Key Ideas From Part 2

Chapter 6: From Common Concerns to High-Leverage Problems
Identifying Common Needs and Concerns

From Common Concerns to High-Leverage Problems

High-Leverage Problems and Foundational Skills

From High-Leverage Problems to Systemic Improvement

Looking for Leverage: Finding Productive Problems

Chapter 7: Solving Problems and Developing Micro-Innovations
Micro-Innovations for Teaching and Learning

Expanding the Power of Educators

Micro-Innovations Across the System

Micro-Innovations Beyond the Classroom

An Abundance of Needs and Possibilities

Key Ideas From Part 3

Chapter 8: The Conditions for Learning
Plugging Into Schools

Finding the Right Fit

Scaling Into School Systems

Chapter 9: From Possibilities to Practice
Building the Infrastructure for New Forms of Learning

Evolution and Expansion of the Infrastructure for Learning

Spandrels: Planning for Unpredictable Opportunities

Creating the Conditions for Improvement

Key Ideas From Part 4

Chapter 10: Capacity-Building
Investing in Expertise and Materials

Relationships and Social Networks

From “Best Practice” to Comprehensive Support

Chapter 11: Coherence and Common Understanding
What Does Curriculum “Renewal” in Finland Really Entail?

Coherence Inside and Outside Schools in Singapore

Beyond Alignment

Chapter 12: Collective Responsibility
Trust in Society

Accountability, Answerability, and Responsibility

Building the Capacity for Collective Responsibility

Improvement in a Norwegian Context

The Mechanisms That Can Support Education Into the Future

Key Ideas From Part 5

Chapter 13: From Improvements to Movements
Pursue a Series of High-Leverage Problems

Develop New Approaches to Critical Challenges

Take Small Steps to Make Big Changes

Key Ideas for Creating the Education We Need

Condense Schooling and Increase Learning

Chapter 14: The Problems and Possibilities for Improvement in Every System
Improvement in Context

Steering Toward the Future

Between Nudges and Disruption

High-Leverage Leadership



Hatch has written a deeply personal and reflective book that weaves decades of personal and global research evidence with his own personal experience as a student, parent and scholar in different countries. As a result, The Education We Need provides a unique, timely and compelling argument for how lives within schools and education systems are inextricably linked to local and national context.

This book will be essential reading for my students!

Karen Edge, Reader in Educational Leadership
UCL Centre for Educational Leadership, UCL Institute of Education

A well written and well-argued book, bringing in the value of small scale changes in improving whole educational systems across the developed and developing world. It is healthily critical, reflective and humble while seeking to be constructive and ultimately optimistic, too. The book shows that educational transformation without social transformation is extremely unlikely on any significant scale, but that substantial improvement of what already exists is feasible, desirable and, of itself, can make significant contributions to equity.

Andy Hargreaves
Research Professor, Boston College, Director of CHENINE (Change, Engagement & Innovation in Education), University of Ottawa, President & Co-Founder, ARC Education

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ISBN: 9781071838501

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