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#AskExcelinEd: What I’ve Learned about Humility, Innovation and Education Reform

• Karla Phillips


During our #AskExcelinEd Summer Learning series, you’ll get to know some of ExcelinEd’s team as they share what they are learning over the summer. Remember to join us on social media to ask your burning policy questions. Enjoy!

Meet Karla Phillips

Policy Director for Personalized Learning

This summer, I have been looking at the various ways innovation is defined and the many ways the word is used or framed. Simultaneously, I have been reflecting on our nation’s journey toward education reform. Both of these efforts have led me to one conclusion—we all need greater humility.

I Prefer…

Print Book over E-Book

Phone Call over Text

Coffee over Tea

My Recommended News Clips

What Inspires Me

I’ve been reviewing the Christensen Institute’s Theory of Disruptive Innovation and the Jobs to Be Done framework.

What’s Next for Personalized Learning

As interest in new learning models and innovation continues to increase, the education reform community will have to determine a pathway forward. This excerpt from the Christensen Institute’s resource, The State Innovator’s Toolkit: A guide to successfully managing innovation under ESSA, explores what states must do to drive innovation:

“But driving innovation in K–12 schools—both sustaining innovations that improve on existing school models and disruptive innovations that upend traditional approaches—will require more than simply modifying school performance goals or tweaking the tools used to drive school improvement. To pursue both types of innovation, states will need to encourage local school systems to fundamentally understand the processes and priorities that guide their day-to-day decisions. States must take a deliberate approach to innovation under ESSA. They must buck the tendency to merely layer new metrics onto their existing policies and processes, hoping for the best. In other words, leaders will need to examine how current practices drive deeply ingrained processes across their school systems. Not doing so risks allowing the old system to simply cannibalize any new efforts in the ESSA era.”

My Favorite Quote

“This scaling-up of innovation has proved so difficult because the management and change processes we use in public education tend to reflect industrial-age thinking and methodologies. Even the verbs we use–to ‘implement,’ ‘adopt,’ ‘scale up’–imply a set of practices that have more to do with instruction-following than agency- and purpose-building. For agency-driven, personal efficacy-building, next gen forms of learning to advance broadly, the change processes we use to make that happen must reflect those same core tenets.”

ExcelinEd Resource Highlight

The blog post Personalized learning and accountability: From transition to transformation by our CEO Patricia Levesque is one of my favorite ExcelinEd resources. This was the first time we publicly acknowledged the tension between traditional reform policies and innovation. In particular, I loved the last sentence.

About the author

Karla Phillips

Karla is Policy Director for Next Generation Learning at ExcelinEd. Previously, she served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent of Policy and Programs at the Arizona Department of Education. Karla also served as the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Brewer and as the Vice-Chair of Arizona’s Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. Her experience includes serving as Director of State Government Relations for Arizona State University (ASU) and as a senior policy advisor for Arizona’s House of Representatives. Karla received her B.A. from Indiana University and an M.P.A from Arizona State University.