The Change-maker’s Toolkit, 2022

by Ben Nguyen | September 18, 2022 | 1 Comment
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Tools for Change

What does it take to make change happen in a school or school community? Leadership is important, obviously, but if you aren’t in a position of authority, how can you build the case for change in a way that matters?

Ben Nguyen

Ben Nguyen served as an Outreach Ambassador for the Ed100 Academy in 2021 and 2022.

This summer, Carrie Hahnel presented a master class on systemic change at the 2022 Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders. Hahnel is an expert on education data and systems, particularly in California. Her goal in presenting to the Academy was to equip student leaders with information and advice they could use to make a powerful case when the way things are isn’t good enough.

Some of the tools she shared are little-known even to school board members.

Hahnel calls her presentation The Change-Maker’s Toolkit. It is divided into five parts:

  1. Get Data
  2. Find the Policy
  3. Read the Plan
  4. Seek Promising Solutions
  5. Ask Questions

You can watch her presentation below. Packed with information, it clocks in at just 45 minutes at 1x speed. Students rated it as one of the most useful presentations of the whole conference. She refers to many resources and links, which I’ve copied into this blog post below the video.

1) Get Data

Carrie Hahnel urged advocates and stakeholders to have data “at their fingertips”. But why?

Data allows for evidence-based solutions to back up the change you want to make. She demonstrated some resources and described others. Here are links to the data resources she featured or mentioned:

Data resources highlighted by Carrie Hahnel


A great resource for data about your school and district and how it compares with other schools and districts. It includes deep historical data about how your district spent money a few years ago. Information from Ed-Data is difficult to share and present, so if you collect it, you are doing something new and valuable.


Hard to navigate, but the data can be fresher than Ed-Data and somewhat different. Once you find the information you need, it’s easier to share than Ed-Data.


National data that can provide a broader context.

California School Dashboard

Reports about state test results and other outcomes. School climate surveys are sometimes available here.

Civil Rights Data Collection

Data about resource disparities and educational equity.

2) Find the Policy

A policy is a rule, law, or procedure that has been officially adopted by decision makers. Policies determine how your school is run. Getting information about relevant policies can be tricky, said Hahnel, because policies in education can be set at different levels — school, district, county, state, and federal. But finding them is critical for student leaders (or anyone, really) to be “part of the process.”

Many school boards use a system called GAMUT to hold their policies, which are usually structured into ten chapters recommended by the California School Boards Association. GAMUT allows you to view all the policies adopted by the school board… if you can find it! Hahnel suggested places to look, but it’s generally best to just ask someone (anyone, actually) at your district office. Sometimes there’s a password.

Policy resources highlighted by Carrie Hahnel


School boards often record their policies using GAMUT, an online system of the California School Boards Association (CSBA). Pronounce it “GAMM-ut”.


California laws (including the Education Code) are found here. You can also find information about the status of education-related bills under consideration. Pronounce it “ledge info”.

3) Read the Plan

Every year, school districts are required to create a public three-year plan (the Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, pronounced “EL-cap”) to show their goals, activities, spending plans, and more.

Before advocating for change it is smart to read the LCAP in detail. You might discover ways to frame your advocacy in ways that align with the district’s official goals. Again, you might have to ask around to find the plan, but it is required, so it definitely exists somewhere. The same is true for the required school-level plan (the SPSA).

Planning resources highlighted by Carrie Hahnel


The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) is the school district’s three-year plan. Want something to change? Get it added to the plan! Pronounce it “EL-cap”.


School Plan for School Achievement — an annual school-level plan, usually developed by the school site council, which includes faculty, parents, and students. Pronounce it “SIP-suh”.

Strategic Plans

Schools and districts occasionally develop strategic plans separately from the LCAP or SPSA process. Ask whether your district currently has any task forces, and if they include students.

4) Seek Promising Solutions

According to Hahnel, one of the best places to start when making changes is to “look to what other schools or districts are doing.” It can be much easier to do something different when there is an example to look at for inspiration.

Solution resources highlighted by Carrie Hahnel


“Be a detective,” Hahnel suggests. As every student knows, Google can be a good place to begin.

What Works Clearinghouse

Research papers, reviewed with comments. These are resources you might not find through Google, but most aren’t written for easy reading!


Wested conducts and collects research related to education for school districts, colleges, publishers, policymakers, and more. You might have to contact them for advice to find what you are looking for.


Policy-oriented research for California education leaders.


The Public Policy Institute of California conducts opinion polls about policy issues including education.

5) Ask Questions

Hahnel advised that the art of change begins with good questions. More than protesting or commenting, she suggests, directing questions to a school board can be helpful, because it “puts the ball in their [education leaders’] court.” The board has the power to direct the administration to find the answers.

Resources highlighted by Carrie Hahnel

XQ Superschool

School districts have a lot of authority to make changes in the ways that schools work. XQ Superschool offers good questions to ask district leaders in a series called “That’s a School Board Thing.”

Present data through stories

Hahnel wrapped up her presentation with advice about how to use data. Data is most powerful, she counseled, when it is connected with a personal story. The story helps the administration understand why the data matters and who is affected. In addition, she urged students not to be shy about asking questions and asking for help. Student leaders are the ultimate stakeholders in schools. In principle, at least, the district is accountable to us.

Only a few hundred student leaders attended Hahnel’s presentation. It was exciting to be part of the audience, partly because some of the tools she shared are so little-known — even to school board members. I hope that this post will help more students learn from her. Parent leaders and other community members can benefit, too.

Ben Nguyen is a senior at Canyon High School in Anaheim. He became a part of the Ed100 team in 2020 as an Outreach Ambassador after the inaugural conference of the Ed100 Academy for Student Leaders. He seeks to educate his peers about the education system and get them more involved in the decision making process in the district. He is part of ASB and a student member of the WASC accreditation team for his school. In his free time, Ben enjoys going on hikes, cooking new foods, and Facetiming his friends.

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