A Practical Action Plan for Transforming Education #blog4reform
Happy New Year! As we enter the decade of educational transformation (d.e.t.) http://goo.gl/yemgX here is my proposed action plan for working to transform education. It is a practical plan, but not an easy plan. There are many institutional and financial forces in play that will oppose this plan. That in and of itself is a good indicator that the plan is on the right track!
Get all the stakeholders to the table
Get everyone involved and invested in education to the table. Not for a panel discussion or a brain dump or a free-for-all….but for decision-driven examination of the following issues listed below: public officials, private interests, parents, students, educators….everyone at the table and not in their traditional roles, because all their roles are changing. Who should call this gathering of stakeholders? Whoever has the vision and gumption to speak up first. Who should set the agenda? The group will set the agenda at the table. Whether it starts at the national level, state level or locally, it has to start somewhere, if it hasn’t already.
Put children first
The single focus of stakeholders at the table must be meeting the needs of our children. Children need to be rested, nourished, healthy, safe, secure, loved, supported, challenged and engaged to be successful. In addition, children must be empowered to learn using all the information and resources they have at their disposal. They should not be held back by the limited vision, expertise and resources of a teacher, school or district. When children have their needs met, they flourish.
Don’t even bother to come to the table unless you are willing to rethink everything you’ve ever learned about being a teaching professional, because when this action plan is implemented your job will be markedly different. If you got into education to help children learn and grow, you will be able to shift your thinking. If you do not want to have this discussion, perhaps you need to revisit why you are in education. Teachers must become flexible facilitators, possessing the skills and experiences to support students in learning and growing as each child is ready to do so.
Adopt a campus model
Take your technology budget and turn it on its head. Plan to move to an open campus model where students bring their own technology to schools and hop onto your network for access to resources and information. Phase out break/fix services and hardware budgets and reallocate those funds into a robust wireless environment that welcomes portable technologies while maintaining user safety and data security. I know there are lots of logistical questions. I understand this is not the model K-12 has used heretofore, but that model can no longer be justified fiscally or instructionally.
It is all about student learning. Not achievement scores. Not closing statistical gaps. Not putting technology in their hands in the name of some digital utopia. Learning here and now, accepting for the first time in western education that every student deserves a personal learning plan with the resources provided to ensure success. It’s time to put aside the standardized classroom model and put in place individualized learning for every student. We know enough about individual cognition and learning styles to tailor learning for each child, and the tools are available to make it happen.
Learning doesn’t just take place between 8:00 AM and 3:30 PM, and educational access issues do not only exist outside of school. Instead of viewing a “school day” and time out of school as mutually exclusive portions of a student’s life, we must redefine learning time so that it recognizes learning taking place seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. We are at a point where we can no longer ignore all the learning going on outside of school hours, both locally and globally. We either open the schoolhouse doors and welcome in the 21st century, or public education is doomed to irrelevance.
K-20 Competency-based Learning Continuum with no age/grade benchmarks
The ultimate goal is to provide learning experiences for students that span their formative years and provide a strong bridge into adult learning and productivity. No grade levels. No age levels; students moving along as they master specific skills and information and are ready to learn. K-12 nicely aligned with higher education and the workplace, making each connection a natural transition for students to realize their full potential. Project-based learning and problem-solving experiences embedded in every student’s learning plan. Finally a system of education that allows all children to be successful; no one settling for meeting minimum standards or being held back from reaching their full potential.
These are the action steps that need to be taken. The details of union involvement, teacher contracts, restructuring finances and redesigning facilities to meet this new model will all need to be meted out, but they should not be used as excuses for not being able to move forward. I have every faith that current decision-makers are capable of working out these details once they are no longer acting as guardians of the status quo. They have learned how to work the current system to sustain their staffs and facilities. It will be an entirely different proposition to rethink funding formulae, staffing positions, school law, and the like. But I have every faith that those who choose to be part of the transformation can get the job done. To the rest? Our children will have 15 or more different jobs in their lifetimes. Perhaps it’s time you consider a career change too.