Waiting for the Transformation

Great article at Edweek, part of their ongoing series looking back at A Nation At Risk. In his commentary, Levine writes:

“…revolutionary change will necessitate an individualized, time-variable system of education. In such a system, a student would progress by achieving prescribed learning outcomes. The teacher would serve as a diagnostician of how each student learns and what the student needs to learn, the prescriber of the program each student should follow, and the assessor of the student’s progress. Pedagogy would be geared to a student’s particular learning style and could include a raft of instructional possibilities such as formal classes, tutorials, mentoring, peer learning, digital learning, and much more. With so many pedagogies to choose from and a time-variable program, student progress would need to be measured based on competencies achieved, rather than on grades in classes taken, and a transcript would have to become a record of those competencies.

It would make more sense to have an education system that focuses on what students learn, rather than what they are taught.

The nation is not yet ready to move in this direction. The learning outcomes that states currently set as graduation standards are spotty, and assessment of student performance is still in its infancy. Brain research teaches us more every day about how humans learn, but we do not yet have an adequate body of knowledge to build an education system based upon student learning styles, nor do we have the software to support it. We also are not yet preparing teachers to lead such an education system.

The new system of education will be introduced over the decades to come …

… there will be models of the new school, improved by successive iterations. Over time, the number of new schools will grow, and the number of traditional schools will decline. In the end, government and educators will ratify the change by funding, regulation, and practice.”

His outline of coming changes is certainly encouraging – but how will that happen? Who will bring it about? Levine describes two groups: the traditionalists and the reformers. The traditionalists are the current practitioners and policy makers, trying to change the system from within. The reformers are pushing the current system from the outside, as exemplified by organizations such as Teach For America, New Leaders for New Schools, and Green Dot. Levine argues that both groups are necessary:

“… they are not rivals, but are taking different paths to same goal: sustaining our schools until we can replace them with the schools we need for the future. Neither the reformers nor the traditionalists will carry out the systemic change they desire.”

Interesting – and certainly poses the question: in which group do I belong?

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