The K-12 Water Cooler Network is a space that allows for a unique opportunity for collaboration. Key stakeholders include teachers, principals, superintendents, administrators, researchers, elected officials, advocates, and many others from across California. The K-12 Water Cooler Network is an opportunity to build trust and create partnerships through networking, learn the latest in education policy and best practices, and help build consensus in creating critical education policy recommendations.
Through quarterly meetings, stakeholders meet as if around a water cooler to elevate the needs of California’s K-12 scholars to the forefront of policy decisions. At each convening, the K-12 Water Cooler tackles one of four pillars, which represent the key issues identified by stakeholders.
The K-12 Water Cooler Network Four Pillars:
ONE: Support and recruitment of outstanding teachers and educational leaders;
TWO: A new approach to accountability and learning;
THREE: Strengthen/increase school finance and resources; and
FOUR: Seek opportunities for continued alignment with the ECE and K-12 education systems.
At our inaugural event in the spring of 2015 the Network addressed Pillar One: support and recruitment of outstanding teachers and educational leaders. Apropos to the dramatic changes taking place in California with the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Common Core, the agenda included presentations by two world renowned education speakers, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves, on “Creating Systems Change.” They spoke to the importance of recruiting outstanding teachers and educational leaders in order to successfully implement the many education policy changes in California. They emphasized that the nation was watching California and that partnerships and a united voice would be essential, making events like the K-12 Water Cooler all the more imperative.
The summer 2015 K-12 Water Cooler event addressed Pillar Two: a new approach to accountability and learning. State Superintendent Torlakson and then Interim Chief of Staff Glen Price presented a blueprint for California’s scholastic future, including a vision for accountability. After hearing from a broad panel of accountability experts present at the convening, the K-12 Water Cooler made recommendations to the State Board of Education and the California Department of Education, which included the following:
• Support the right measures;
• Publish a clear timeline;
• Create a coherent and aligned system;
• Engage parents and the community; and
• Conduct an ongoing review of the accountability system.
The fall 2015 K-12 Water Cooler Network convening covered Pillar Three: strengthen / increase school finance and resources. The event featured two keynotes: State Board of Education President Michael Kirst provided us with California’s history of school finance and the opportunities provided by LCFF, and Linda Darling-Hammond, renowned Stanford professor and founder of the Learning Policy Institute, presented her research on effective policies promoting investments in educators. Each spoke with a focus on the opportunities for allocating dollars to those students with the most need.
The spring 2016 Water Cooler Network event covered Pillar Four: seek opportunities for continued alignment with the early care and education (ECE) system. With potentially broad changes ahead, the event will explore the positive effect of Early Learning on K-12 outcomes and on equity, perspectives from practitioners on how to align the ECE and K-12 systems and why this is important, and explore current proposals and innovations in ECE funding.
We are indebted to our partners and speakers who have generously contributed their time to assure the success of the K-12 Water Cooler Network. The pursuit of a caring, inclusive, and just system of education is made stronger by their collective guidance. Advancement Project would like to recognize with gratitude:
- California Federation of Teachers
- California State PTA
- California Teachers Association
- California Department of Education
- Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
- S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation | Stephen Bechtel Fund
- Stuart Foundation
- Carol Kocivar, Former President of the California State PTA and an author of Ed100.org
- Christy Pichel, Former President of the Stuart Foundation
- Dr. Carl Cohn, Executive Director of the California Collaborative for Education Excellence and former Professor at Claremont Graduate University.