“The arrogance of success is to think that what we did yesterday is good enough for tomorrow.” ― William Pollard
Education is in a transition. We hear about it, read about it, and most of us live it daily. The transition is going in many different directions. They include Common Core, on-line assessment, big data analysis, new evaluation systems for teachers and administrators, and technology infusion, just to name a few.
With all of this change many would ask how broke is our educational system? The answer to this question involves too many variables and is too complex to answer in a blog post like this. It is also important to remember that, some of us are not a statistical expert in the field, nor do we have access to the data to offer a quantitative analysis and answer to the question.
However, what we can say is that we are in an educational transition that requires change. The above quote by William Pollard, from the 1800’s, clearly articulates feelings about our current state of education. We have experienced some successes in our educational system but we need to look ahead. We can no longer use the same techniques, ideas, and foundational structures to educate our students for the future. Here in Maryland for example, change is required within the Maryland State Board of Education and the way it conducts business with it’s partner organizations, staff, children and the general public.
The reason why we are advocating for change in governance structure as articulated before is that, selected board tend to be less willing to fight against the people who gave them those positions in the first place. Sometimes their loyalties are marshaled to the appointing authority such as the governor of the State or the person or persons who recommended them for the position. We want a State Board of Education in Maryland and other local school boards in the whole State to be more demanding and transparent. We want school boards that are demanding more because that is what is good for our children.
Our future will not look like our present!
In order to address an unknown future we need to think about the skills students need to learn now that will carry them into the future, no matter what that future looks like. As educators our students deserve to be introduced to, learn about, and master these skills before leaving high school:
- Reading and Writing – These will never become obsolete skills. But beyond basic reading and comprehension skills students need to be technical readers. They need to learn how to comprehend complex text and be able to write it too.
- Technology Integration – Our world is driven by technology. Everywhere you look there is a piece of technology running something in our lives. Students need to know how to properly integrate technology and the devices that run it so that they can be more productive and efficient. Many of us in the reform movement do not fully support the view that just because students were born into this era they know how to properly use technology. Within this integration students and adults need to learn to be Digital Citizens. Notice we didn’t say “good”. The expectation is that we use it positively for everyone’s benefit.
- Coding – We have seen graphs, charts and data that indicate the need for this skill in the work force far exceeds the number of people who can provide the skill. For those that have the skill the supply to demand ratio makes them the most wanted. Beyond that the skill of coding is a problem solving experience that all of our students need. It also involves math skills, which are as essential as reading and writing (therefore, we will not list math separately since it is included here). Giving students the ability to code will also teach the items listed in point number 2 above.
- Collaboration – Being able to collaborate with people is essential. Technology allows us to collaborate with people we have never met before or may never see again. The ability to work together and produce a product, take an idea to the next level or share ideas needs to be a part of daily learning for students. This is how social media has become so popular and the way many companies now do business. Let’s teach our students that collaboration goes beyond classroom projects and has real world applications that will help them be better citizens.
- Problem Solving – What are lessons in education and the events of the world we live in? They are a series of problems requiring solutions. Our students need the skills and cognitive abilities to solve problems. Simple problems become complex and complex problems become crisis. Giving our students experiences throughout their educational careers to develop this skill improves our society.
- Self-Reflection – A lost skill for many, self-reflection helps students look at who they are, and how their actions affect others. If we expect students to be collaborators and problem solvers then they need to be self-reflective. It’s essential that we look at how we interact with others, how others respond to us and how our actions either assist or hinder others.
Moving forward our educational system needs to change. We can not imagine the world in which our students will live and work. Therefore, we need to provide them the skills that will allow them to adapt to their environment. Just because how we taught yesterday worked doesn’t mean we can teach that way for tomorrow’s world.
Finally, Boards of Education like Maryland state Board of Education and other local boards in the state needs to change for the better and create accountability mechanism. It is essential that our administrators inspire and find methods that demonstrate the end results are worth the work. It is just as important that our school boards are both knowledgeable and supportive. And that requires training…