Keynote Speaker - Sarah Nelson

sarahnelsonSarah Nelson an associate professor in the Education and Community Leadership program at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She teaches courses in principal preparation, research, and education law and policy. Her research interests center on policies and practices related to educational inequity. She specializes in connecting local contexts with international perspectives and educational theory to practice.  She is a member of the International Study of Principal Preparation and also studies the effects of student protests for educational equity in Chile. Before joining the faculty of Texas State, Dr. Nelson served as the principal of a large urban elementary school. She continues to work in the field to help educators develop culturally responsive teaching and learning environments and to create community-based leadership practices.  She is an editor of Understanding the Principalship: An International Guide to Principal Preparation and is currently writing a book on creating a culturally responsive college-going culture in P-12 schools.


Shaping the policy landscape: Lessons from student activists in Chile - view the full paper (pdf) and presentation (ppt)

This keynote takes up the conference theme of Educational Policy and Practice: Can leaders shape the landscape? by examining forms of leadership embedded in the 2006 nationwide secondary school student protests for educational equity in Santiago de Chile.  Coming just 16 years after the end of a military dictatorship that resulted in the death or disappearance of thousands of Chileans, the student protests represents a unique historical moment in Chile’s ongoing project of post-dictatorship democracy.  The protest, popularly known as la revolución de los pinguinos in reference to the black and white uniforms worn by students, involved 800,000 secondary school students going on strike and occupying schools for three weeks in protest against entrenched inequities in Chile’s educational system. The actions of the elected student leaders led to successful negotiations with government officials and generated unprecedented equity-oriented reforms and policy changes, including the introduction of a free school lunch program for low-income students, elimination of the college entrance exam fee for all but the wealthiest students, a commitment to examine differences in the quality of education by school type, planned capital improvements to over 1200 schools, the appointment of a national educational commission inclusive of student representatives, and the introduction of new democratic practices within local secondary schools. This keynote examines key decisions and actions of student leaders that led to successful policy reform and what educational leaders who seek to shape policy in their own contexts can learn from this.

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