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Analyzing K-12 Education as a Complex System

Abstract

"Schools and school districts are complex, dynamic systems affected by numerous factors, specific to the particular environment. These factors, which range from the stability of the home life of the enrolled children, to the interpersonal relationships of the school staff, to the funding decisions of the school board, to the laws passed by the U.S. Congress (and innumerable additional factors in between), all interact in sometimes predictable but often completely surprising ways. Educational initiatives and interventions that work well in one environment can prove completely ineffective (or un-implementable) in a different school setting, for a myriad of reasons. For university faculty and STEM professionals who partner with K-12 schools to implement and assess STEM educational reform initiatives, particularly for those who choose to work or scale up projects in non-charter or non-specialized lab school settings, the complexity of the system of K-12 education makes it difficult to identify all the potential barriers that can impact the proposed project. Unexpected factors can easily derail an otherwise well thought-out project, both in terms of project implementation and also in the success of assessing student outcomes."

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