Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

21 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know

By Peter DeWitt — June 05, 2016 11 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Peter will resume writing the Finding Common Ground blog in mid-June. We will be posting some of his most popular blog posts from the last few years. Today’s post originally appeared on January 4th, 2015 as 18 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know.

There are many inspiring women in education. Unfortunately, we do not hear about them nearly as often as we should, because the pulpit seems to be dominated by men. It’s not that we should take away from the work that the guys have done, because we shouldn’t, but there are many strong female thought leaders whose voices should be equal to the men that surround them. They influence everyone in the field through their research, opinions and experiences, and have helped fight bad reform, create more innovative practices in the classroom, and unify voices around the country if not the world.

I have compiled a list of 21 female practioners and thought leaders. Some of them are well-known, while others may have names you are hearing for the first time. I do not expect you to agree with all of them, but I do hope that if you have not heard of some of them you will give them a deeper look.

They are:
Diane Ravitch - If you do not know who Diane Ravitch is then you must be living under a rock. Ravitch has had great influence over millions and her last two books, the Death and Life of the Great American School System as well as Reign of Error have been two of the most important reads of the past few years. You don’t have to agree with everything she writes and speaks about, but you should listen to what she says because it has implications for us all.

Viviane Robinson - Robinson is a Professor at the University of Auckland (New Zealand) and has written many great books on education, teaching and leadership. One of the best is Student-Centered Leadership where she was one of the first to write about “Lead Learners.” Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves and John Hattie all reference her work, and although she says she is not well-known in America, she should be because her works is practical and powerful.

Deb Masters - If you have heard of John Hattie and Visible Learning, then you have been impacted by Deb Master’s work. Masters has a great understanding of what needs to be done to improve learning and is working with multiple Ministries of Education around the world using the Visible Learning Collaborative Impact Program. For full disclosure I work with Deb on Visible Learning, but this work is being implemented internationally and Deb is a large part of the reason why it is happening.

Carol Burris - Carol Burris is more than a thought leader. As the former Principal of Southside High School in the Rockville Centre School District (Rockville Centre, NY) she has been an outstanding practioner, NY State Principal of the Year, as well as an outspoken opponent of harmful standardized testing in New York State and all over the nation. Burris is a frequent guest blogger for Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss, and has written a great deal about the harmful nature of tracking in schools.

Nancy Flanagan - Nancy Flanagan writes the Teacher In A Strange Land Blog for Education Week Teacher. She is a long time arts educator and has many strong opinions and great insight into education and the way it works. She is on this list for many reasons, and one happens to be the fact that she is a strong proponent of women in leadership. We can learn a lot from reading her blog.

Angela Duckworth (new additon for 2016) - Best known for coining the word “Grit” which seems to have set off a firestorm of controversy, Duckworth has inspired the education world to talk about our expectations of students...whether we agree with her or not. Duckworth defined Grit as, “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.” However, like the work of most researchers, many have gone on to redefine it for her, even without her input. One recent excellently written blog post about Duckworth’s work that I found interesting is this one Jenn Borgioli Binis.

Patricia Ciccone - As the Superintendent of Westbrook Public Schools in Connecticut, Ciccone has long been a leader in the area of school climate and anti-bullying. Ciccone has not only created school board policy on safeguarding all marginalized populations, she has also made sure that there is curriculum that is used to educate all students about those populations. She serves on the National School Climate Council and was a 2013 Leaders to Learn From for Education Week.

Avis Glaze - Avis Glaze has had an outstanding career in education but her bio speaks for itself. “Dr. Avis Glaze is an international leader in the field of education. As one of Canada’s outstanding educators, she has been recognized for her work in leadership development, student achievement, school and system improvement, character development and equity of outcomes for all students. As Ontario’s first Chief Student Achievement Officer and founding CEO of the Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, she played a pivotal role in improving student achievement in Ontario schools. Her primary focus in education is on building capacity to ensure that all students achieve, regardless of background factors or personal circumstances. It is her core belief that educators play a fundamental role in sustaining democracy.”

Jenni Donohoo - Donohoo is soft spoken, passionate and very modest when it comes to her place in education, but she has a bright career ahead of her. As the author of the best-selling Collaborative Inquiry for Educators, and her new book The Transformative Power of Collaborative Inquiry (co-authored with Moses Velasco), Donohoo has spent lots of time working with teachers across Canada. We need to see her in America much more. She is also the Director At Large for Learning Forward Ontario, where she has worked with teachers and leaders to provide insight into how they can work collaboratively. She is destined to do more great things. Read Jenni’s guest blog here.

Deb Delisle (updated 2016) - As the new Executive Director of ASCD, Delisle has a real opportunity to influence educational conversations because of her vast state (Ohio) and national (USDOE) experience. Delisle’s biography is extremely impressive, which you can read here. Through their Educational Leadership publication, the Whole Child Initiative and all of the other incredible ways ASCD reaches 125,000 members in over 138 countries, Delisle has a far reach and I look forward to seeing how ASCD moves ahead over the coming years.

Peggy Robertson - Peggy is an elementary level instructional coach but she is best known for her work in the United Opt Out Movement. Robertson has been outspoken in her state of Colorado as well as the rest of the country about the harmful effects of our present system of high stakes testing.

Karen Lewis - As the President of the Chicago Teacher’s Union, Lewis led over 29,000 teachers in the 3rd largest district in the US. In 2012 she led the very controversial teacher’s strike and was considering a run for Mayor of Chicago until she was sidelined due to a serious health issue.

Lyn Sharratt - At a time when I thought “Data” was a word that was being overused I read Sharratt’s book Putting Faces on Data (co-authored with Michael Fullan) and it changed the way I felt about the 4 letter word. As noteworthy as the book is, Lyn’s experience is profound and includes being a “teacher, curriculum consultant, teacher-trainer, public education policy analyst, superintendent of schools, and superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Currently, Lyn is an Associate at Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at University of Toronto (OISE/UT), where she coordinates the Ed.D. cohort in Theory and Policy Studies.”

Linda Darling-Hammond - President and CEO, of the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emeritus at Stanford University where she founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and served as the faculty sponsor of the Stanford Teacher Education Program, which she helped to redesign. For more information about Darling-Hammond, please click here.

Carol Dweck - Dweck’s work around “Growth Mindset” is both inspiring and important to the profession of education. For too many years there was a mindset that believed that student capabilities were fixed. She is “one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success. She has held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities, has lectured all over the world, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Kristen Swanson - If you’ve heard of Edcamps, then you have been touched by Kristen Swanson’s work. Swanson is one of the Founders of the Edcamp Foundation. Edcamps are considered an unconference because they do not have keynote speakers, are free to attendees and focus on the fact that the power is in the room. Teachers, leaders, students and parents can show up on the day of the edcamp and present on something they believe is important. Edcamps are now found all over the world and are a viable way for educators to learn from colleagues near and far. In these days of mandates, accountability and boring professional development “Sit and get” sessions, Edcamps will only get more popular as people look for something more meaningful.

Jennifer Abrams - Many people take the path of least resistance when it comes to having open and honest dialogue with colleagues, which can build animosity in the work place. Abrams would like to help stop that. She has presented internationally around the topic of helping people find their voice and having tough conversations, as well as helping people bridge the gap in a generational workplace. Jennifer believes that if we can all break through the tough conversations we will work more collaboratively and have more success in our workplace.

Helen Timperley - Helen Timperley is a Professor at the University of Auckland and is best known for “teaching in early childhood, primary and secondary education sectors which formed the basis of her research program focused on making a difference to those student outcomes valued by the communities in which they live. A particular research emphasis has been on promoting leadership, organizational and professional learning in ways that improve the educational experience of students currently underachieving in our education systems.”

Shirley Clarke - Clarke has written extensively about formative assessment and providing effective feedback. According to this website, “she began her career as a primary teacher, working for 10 years in the Inner London Education Authority. She became a primary mathematics consultant and was then seconded for two years to one of the first development agencies for KS1 test writing (CATS). This was followed by 10 years as a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Education, University of London. During this time Shirley directed a number of national research projects focusing on curriculum and assessment issues.”

Janet Clinton (updated 2016) - Clinton is a new addition to the list as of June 2016. As an Assistant Professor at the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Clinton is doing extraordinary work in the area of teacher talk in the classroom through the Visible Classroom, which provides teachers with vital information on patterns of instruction in their classroom. The Visible Classroom provides important insight for teachers and students.

Betty Rosa (updated 2016) - Rosa, now the Chancellor of the Board of Regents for New York State, and has long been an outspoken advocate for proper teacher evaluation and teaching and learning standards. There were many times when she was in disagreement with the direction the state education department was taking when it came to increased accountability and mandates. According to the NYSED website, Rosa worked in the N.Y.C. Department of Education as a bilingual paraprofessional, teacher, reading coordinator, assistant principal and principal in special education, and then was appointed to superintendent and then senior superintendent in the Bronx. She was also elected to a four-year term to the Alumni Council of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and also appointed to a three-year term to the Principal/Site Administrator Advisory Committee of the American Association of School Administrators

We don’t talk about women in education nearly enough, and I know you have your own major influences, so please feel free to add them in the comment section below because there are many, many more out there.

Corwin Press is sponsoring a Women In Leadership Conference November 16th -18th, 2016 in New Orleans. Click here for more details.

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students (2012. Corwin Press), Flipping Leadership Doesn’t Mean Reinventing the Wheel (2014. Corwin Press), School Climate Change (2014. ASCD) and the forthcoming Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (2016. Corwin Press). Connect with Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.