For decades as the country industrialized the goal was universal access – giving every student in the country a free comprehensive public education. Beginning around mid-century and accelerating in recent decades the task has shifted to universal high achievement, expecting top performance from everyone to meet prescribed benchmarks.
These are really quite different objectives. To accomplish the first goal – over time expanding access to more and more citizens regardless of race, gender, income, or geography – a system was built out that made the most of the technology at the time: teacher-lecture, large classes, economies of scale by having everything on one place. This model of traditional school, administered by local districts, has achieved the goal of universal access remarkably well: no other country of this size has built such a system across such a large and diverse country.
Universal achievement however, by definition, requires personalization because different students learn in different ways. This approach requires an evolution of how learning is organized in terms of pedagogy and school design: project-based learning, technology-based programs where learning is facilitated (and personalized) through digital Learning Management Systems, apprenticeship-based programs – or any combination of these and others. The most profound, exciting forms of school probably haven’t been invented yet, but when they are they will make intuitive sense because they will mirror the sorts of personalization occurring throughout society enabled by better communication and technology. Despite the amazing potential of digital, personalization doesn’t always require high-tech approaches – project-based learning can and has been done entirely without digital electronics (though they make it easier.)
The country needs an innovation strategy for public education. The opportunity for education leaders is exciting. We want to be leaders here to help define the future.
We are at the cusp of a new phase in evolution of American education and need to support innovation right here in the Monona Grove School District.