California Schools Getting Global

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As our team has discussed in our Smart Planet series, to deliver quality education for all worldwide, we need exponential growth in collaboration among educators, students, parents and communities. Only connected networks of schools, districts, regions, states, provinces and national educational systems can deliver connections at that scale.

California is making great steps towards providing all of it’s vastly diverse students with a 21st century education that has a global focus. The following post is a reflection from the California Department of Education on their Global Education Summit.

By Janet Mann

What more can California’s PreK–12 education system do to provide students with a 21st century education? To help answer that question, educators, business and community members, and policy-makers convened for California’s first Global Education Summit in 2016.

The goal of the Summit was to develop recommendations to improve and expand globally focused teaching and learning in California. But how do you address all of the needs of a 6.2 million student population that includes the largest number of immigrant families and English learners in the nation? A good place to start is to provide opportunities for students to develop multilingual/multiliteracy skills and cross-cultural understanding to better participate fully in a global economy. To begin to discern how to accomplish this Herculean task, Summit participants shared practices, reviewed research, and heard from experts to help inform their recommendations for instilling global competencies in all students as a critical 21st century skill.

But is California a lone wolf in this endeavor? Policymakers nationwide recognize that global competence is an imperative for all students. A recent National Education Association Policy Brief stated that as world economies become more interdependent, society becomes increasingly linguistically and culturally diverse, and global challenges such as transmittable diseases, natural disasters, global warming, and poverty increase in intensity, a call for coordinated global responses and an understanding of other languages and cultures among those who facilitate communications is essential (NEA 2010).

“The California Way,” outlined in A Blueprint for Great Schools Version 2.0, emphasizes a challenging and innovative education for all students that includes multilingualism, multiculturalism, and viewing the world with a global lens extending far beyond our borders. Economically, as the sixth largest economy in the world, (CA Department of Finance, 2015) California needs to lead the way in finding the most effective way to ensure its graduates are globally competent.

Screen Shot 2017-06-08 at 9.49.48 PM.pngWith this information in mind, Summit participants engaged in two days of activities to gather best practices and evidence to inform their recommendations. The findings of the Summit were released in December 2016 through the Educating for Global Competency: Findings and Recommendations from the 2016 California Global Education Summit. Summit activities included keynote speakers and panels of experts who shared their perspectives on global and multilingual education and provided insight into several models for professional learning and classroom implementation. Following panel discussions, participants gathered in small groups to engage in dialogue around three key questions: (1) How will we build global competence in California’s students through teaching and learning in 21st century schools and local communities? 2) How will local, regional, and state policies and leadership support global competence for California’s students? 3) How should we leverage neighborhood, community, and business resources and perspectives to build global competency in California’s students? Summit activities around these questions ultimately resulted in nine recommendations, broken into three categories: Policy and Leadership; Teaching, Learning, and Schools; and Community and Business.

What Is Global Education?

Summit participants grappled with how to define “global education.” They knew that a challenging and innovative education prepares students for college, careers, and civic life in an increasingly interconnected world. They also were familiar with the California English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework’s emphasis on “global competence” as a critical 21st century skill. Therefore, they agreed on the idea that global education in schools may include courses, programs, approaches, partnerships, and other supports designed to build global competence in students.

Mansilla and Jackson define global competence for us as “the capacity and disposition to understand and act on issues of global significance.” (2011, xiii). Global competence is having the requisite skills to communicate, socialize, work, and live with people from diverse cultures, both internationally and domestically (Framework, Ch. 10, page 941). And, “California students who are globally competent are able to engage in four competencies: to investigate the world beyond their immediate environment; to recognize differing perspectives including others’ and their own; to effectively communicate ideas, in multiple languages, with diverse audiences; and to take action to improve conditions.” (CDE 2014a, 941). Globally competent students will have “the ability to understand and take action on issues that matter in the world.” (Summit Report, page 2).

The report recommendations were written around these definitions and ideas about global education and global competence and provide a foundation for the California global education effort to be carried forward. Each recommendation includes strategies to focus the work. Ideally, the report is meant to start a conversation and then have members of the newly formed California Global Education Network (CGEN) take over and work on implementing the recommendations. The CGEN provides an opportunity for global education advocates to join the effort started by the Summit and contribute to a collaborative network of educators that supports one another by disseminating information, resources, and opportunities.

In November 2016, California voters breathed even more life into the Global Education movement when Proposition 58 passed with more than 73 percent of the electorate supporting it. California voters validated the need for increasing global competence through valuing multilingual education, strengthened through the California Education for a Global Economy (CA Ed.G.E.) Initiative. The purpose of the CA Ed.G.E. Initiative is to ensure that all children in California public schools receive the highest quality education, master the English language, and access high-quality, innovative, and research-based language programs that prepare them to fully participate in a global economy.

With all of the momentum of the Summit and the CA Ed.G.E. Initiative, stay tuned to see how California Schools Get Global.

Janet Mann is Education Programs Consultant at California Department of Education. Follow California Global Education efforts on Twitter @CaEdGlobal.

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