Transforming the Education Sector into a Learning System: Harnessing the Power of Continuous Improvement, Research & Development, and Data to Improve Outcomes for Each and Every Child

Published February 2019
by Dan Gordon, Scott Palmer, and Sean Darling-Hammond

The history of human progress is defined by our ability to work together to accumulate knowledge and skills and to build upon what came before. Today, sectors that have developed structures, processes, and cultures focused on thoughtfully using data, evidence, experience, and judgment to inform innovation and continuous improvement have experienced ongoing progress and (periodically) breakthrough successes. But this learning engine is ironically and profoundly weak in our education system, which is instead more likely to drive compliance that acts as a barrier to innovation, improvement, and scale. In Transforming the Education Sector Into a Learning System, we argue that for our education system to achieve equity and excellence for each and every student, we must shift it toward being a learning system at all levels-from the school and classroom to the district, state, and even federal levels. The paper draws on research, experiences from other sectors, and leading efforts underway in education to provide a framework for action regarding why, what, and how to make these shifts.