Carnegie Summit 2023: Improvement For All

Key Points

  • Systemic change in education requires a broad, connected community passionate about improvement.

  • The work to be done benefits from both smaller, incremental improvements in addition to bold, visionary transformation.

Carnegie Summit

“The Summit is not the place you’ve come to; it’s the place you go from.” — Father Greg Boyle from Carnegie Summit 2022 keynote

On April 23-25, 2023, 2000 people from 47 states and 12 nations spanning five continents came together as one community at the Carnegie Summit 2023 in San Diego. This event marked the 10th anniversary of the Carnegie Summit on Improvement in Education, an annual convening of a community of improvers to connect, share work, learn, and be inspired by each other. It is a place to belong to a larger movement for continuously improving our education system to close opportunity gaps for all our nation’s young people.

The first-time Carnegie Summit attendees were welcomed into the community with open arms and told from the start: “You belong”. In the words of one of the emcees Tinkhani White, “The Summit is a homecoming, where we welcome back those who have been with us, welcome new members to our community, celebrate the community, and bring our whole authentic selves to enrich the community.” Woven throughout the three days was a celebration of joy as an expression of resistance, punctuated by the movement of activist dancers from CONTRA-TIEMPO.

The focus of this 10th Summit centered around the joining of improvement and equity. Tim Knowles, the president of the Carnegie Foundation, opened the event with these powerful words: “Improvement must be about the pursuit of economic and racial justice. Improvement without equity means that achievement gaps don’t close. Improvement with equity means that they can and do.”

Historically, the Carnegie Summit has been the place for educators passionate about improvement science. The community’s collective goals include finding better ways to learn how to improve in general and how to learn fast to achieve quality outcomes reliably at scale, centered around these six core principles of improvement:

  1. Identify the specific problem we are trying to solve.
  2. Specify what works, for whom, and under what set of conditions.
  3. Understand how the current system produces the current outcomes.
  4. Measure improvement by tracking key outcomes and processes.
  5. Engage in rapid cycles to learn fast, fail fast, and improve quickly, embracing failures as opportunities to learn.
  6. Embrace the wisdom of networked communities to accelerate improvements.

There were over 100 sessions and over 50 posters of schools and districts sharing their improvement journeys to engaged audiences.

In recent years, the Carnegie Summit has broadened its tent to include visionary, transformative change for the education sector. With Tim Knowles’ announcement in December about dismantling the Carnegie Unit to shift focus away from ‘seat time’ toward ‘skills’ and Carnegie’s newly announced partnership with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to radically transform assessment, it is clear that the time for a bold and ambitious transformation to our nation’s education system is now.

The XQ Institute joined the Carnegie Summit in 2022 with a vision to improve and reimagine the American high school experience. During the 2023 Summit, XQ hosted two sessions where conference-goers learned about the design journey for two XQ high schools in DC Public Schools and gained hands-on exposure to the XQ Competencies, a comprehensive collection of skills for XQ’s vision of what every American young person should demonstrate mastery of by the time they graduate from high school. The XQ Café was also a popular place to enjoy coffee and chat with other conference-goers about their shared vision for the future of our nation’s education system.

The 10th anniversary Carnegie Summit was a place where like-minded educators came together to be enriched and inspired by each other’s experiences. The education community’s journey from the Summit is toward equity, belonging, connection, joy, and improvement.

Jean Liu

Jean is the Director of Strategy at Getting Smart. She formerly served as an Education Pioneers fellow at Oakland Unified School District and played a pivotal role in designing and implementing their COVID response rollout. Jean is an advocate for SEL, design thinking, diversity and inclusion work and ensuring equity for districts across the country.

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