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System-level Strategy

Disruptive Innovation and the "Split Screen" Approach

What if we were to run a “split-screen” strategy, working simultaneously to develop new and different models of school while continuing also to do everything possible to improve the existing schools in the traditional district sector?

Such a strategy would require only that we develop a tolerance for diversity and differentiation, that we think of providing a ‘uniform’ system not as mandating a standardized model of school but as creating the opportunity for each student everywhere to have the kind of schooling she needs.

Those attracted by new-model schools would go there; those uncomfortable with innovation would stay with the traditional. The new will not be imposed on the traditional and the traditional will not block the innovative. Deal.

Most change happens as new and different models develop alongside the existing; the new gradually improving and replacing the old. On this basis the country can develop a far more effective strategy for improving learning and for changing the K-12 system.

Such a strategy will respond to the differences in aspirations and in aptitudes among students. It can be effective, because it is realistic; rational. Efforts to improve marginally are not acceptable and efforts to transform K-12 dramatically through politics are not realistic.