Walter McKenzie

Association Staff

Woodbridge, VA

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 7 Years ago
  • 8.3k

A Practical Action Plan for Transforming Education #blog4reform

Happy New Year! As we enter the decade of educational transformation (d.e.t.) 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.

Redefine teaching

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.

Individualize learning

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.


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05 Jan 11, 07:11 AM

Mark yes I had addressed the report via my blog when it came out. Are you saying you are looking for case studies? If so, ASCD is working with a number of schools adapting these tenets to their unique programs via Whole Child and Healthy School Communities. Have you spoken with Molly or Sean?

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04 Jan 11, 09:31 PM

A very good roadmap. Many of these points are made in the recent report produced in collaboration with ASCD (along with CCSSO and SIIA): "Innovate to Educate: Systemic Redesign to Personalize Learning" See for the report along with an archive of the August 2010 Symposium, including session videos, presentations and summaries. The report outlines 5 essential elements and 5 key policy changes agreed to by the education leaders participating in the event. It calls for fundamental redesign around the student. Looking for case study examples of schools and districts implementing such a model.

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28 Dec 10, 09:53 AM

Right on the money Walter! I agree that, in order to truly transform schools and the process of education (i.e to have institutions to best prepare children for their futures), we need to rethink *everything* - from time structures and time limitations to professional development and expectations for educators to technology to leadership. Everything needs to be on the table.

If we were going to create a school from scratch and could do whatever we thought was important, what would we come up with?

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27 Dec 10, 04:14 PM

Couldn't agree more Walter! I particularly agree with you about your model for technology. 1-to-1 computing with mobile devices will soon be a reality in my opinion. However, the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) makes much more sense that providing a device for each student. Most of our students already own mobile devices and would gladly bring them to school if we provided the infrastructure for them. We could also provide devices for those students who were unable to afford to purchase their own device. This would allow schools to invest resources in infrastructure and professional development for teachers in how to use the devices to accelerate student learning.

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27 Dec 10, 11:37 AM

as usual, right on the points! good job, my friend.
will share with the stakeholders here.....
smiles, cyndy

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27 Dec 10, 10:42 AM

Agreed Alan!

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27 Dec 10, 10:41 AM

YES!!!! Let's get everyone around the table. We cannot wait.

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27 Dec 10, 09:29 AM

Thanks David! It's not going to be easy, but there's no time like the present....

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27 Dec 10, 09:23 AM

Good road map for kick-starting an action-minded reform movement. I especially like your points about a 24/7 and K-20 learning model.

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