Key Ideas from Innovation-Based Systemic Reform Paper

  • Innovation came to the K-12 system 20 years ago, with choice and chartering. Now it’s time to innovate with school; to move beyond the traditional.
  • Traditional ‘school’ is a fixed time and place. It is age-grading and courses and classes — “batch processing”. It is the teacher “delivering education”, the technology is teacher-instruction.
  • Developments in information technology now make it possible to shift the paradigm from teaching to learning; to individualize and customize student work so those who need more time get more time and so those who can go faster do go faster.
  • As learning individualizes ‘teaching’ will change. Teachers’ work will upgrade. Teaching will become a better job and a better career.
  • It will be useful also to vary the outcomes sought. We need to take seriously the “21st-century skills” along with the traditional academic skills and subject-matter content.
  • It never did work to ‘transform’ the K-12 system through political engineering. Change needs to come in this system as it comes in other systems: voluntarily, gradually. Those who prefer the traditional should stay with that — but must not suppress innovation for those who do want the different.
  • Accountability is real only where responsibility and authority are combined. The school is the place to do that; focusing on the teachers who know the students actually enrolled.
  • It is very much in the interest of teachers and their unions now to say: “Teachers will accept the responsibility for school and student success if teachers can control what matters for school and student success”.
  • And it is very much in the interest of the public to cut that new deal with teachers.
  • There is an economic dimension to all this. In its traditional form the K-12 system with its traditional model of school is not sustainable. Innovation as radical as this paper proposes is the only way out financially for states and districts and for the nation.
  • To continue to work only with traditional concepts of school, teaching and learning represents an unnecessary and unjustifiable risk.
  • Policy needs to work toward multiple goals simultaneously; needs to think not in terms of “the right way” but in terms of a ‘split-screen’ strategy; multiple pathways to multiple goals.

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