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Your background doesn’t determine your future in Schenectady, New York

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-11-14 08:00

It’s hard to be in high school. Navigating social expectations, overcoming fears for the future, exploring your boundaries at home and in the classroom, applying for college or other post-secondary options, teenage dating – I shudder at the thought of ever having to go back.

But I keep going back, sort of. I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to visit early college high school campuses and remember the potential of that age, too, especially in the face of sometimes insurmountable odds.

The students at Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School in Schenectady, New York, are no exception. They are sharp, funny, and indomitable, and active members of a learning community with high standards, high expectations, and a commitment from everyone involved to support each other on the path to success.

“What our students have at each turn is a familiar, supportive face saying, ‘You can do it. Don’t give up,’” says Diane Wilkinson, president of Schenectady High School. “Early college is an on ramp towards graduation. When they fall off – because they do – we find a way to get them back on and moving in the right direction.”

Your background doesn’t determine your future in Schenectady, New York, thanks to Schenectady Smart Scholars Early College High School.Interested in learning more about Schenectady and students who are making their future a priority? Read our latest early college case study.

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Where in the world is the KnowledgeWorks team?

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-11-11 08:00

From West Virginia to Texas and Colorado to Zurich, Switzerland, our KnowledgeWorks team has been sharing expertise with and gaining insight from education leaders on an international stage. Check out where we’ve been throughout the past few weeks:

Denver, Colorado: KnowledgeWorks Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Matt Williams presented during a policy panel at the Grantfunders for Education conference.

@MattAWilliams @Edfunders @HFChrisShearer @bethanymlittle great joining you!

— Nick Donohue (@NickDonohueNMEF) October 28, 2016

Grand Junction, Colorado: KnowledgeWorks Chief Learning Officer Virgel Hammonds and KnowledgeWorks Assistant Director of Teaching and Learning Lori Phillips traveled to Rockies to lead a leadership session with over 100 leaders from throughout Mesa County Valley School District 51.

Elizabethtown, Kentucky: KnowledgeWorks Director of Strategic Foresight Jason Swanson explored the future of learning with Kentucky’s Innovation Lab Network (ILN) during their annual convening.

@knowledgeworks does it again. Great workshop for KY Innovators. Thank you @JasonSwanson and Katie King. #kyiln2016

— David Cook (@DavidNeilCook) November 3, 2016

Louisville, Kentucky: Matt Williams spoke about early college policy during the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships National Conference.

Excited to be joining our partners @NACEPtweets today to talk early college policy and our new coalition. #NACEP2016 @knowledgeworks

— Matt Williams (@MattAWilliams) October 17, 2016

Hallowell, Maine: KnowledgeWorks Director of Teaching and Learning Robin Kanaan, KnowledgeWorks Network Manager Katie Varatta, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of Operations Debbie Howard, Lori Phillips and Virgel Hammonds visited our friends at Regional School District 2 (RSU 2) to talk with teachers about their personalized learning implementation experiences.

Boston, Massachusetts: KnowledgeWorks Director of State Advocacy and Research Jesse Moyer attended the launch of the Jobs for the Future (JFF) Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative.

Excited to be a part of @jfftweets‘ liftoff of the #SCLRsrchCollab. Also love visiting Boston!

— Jesse Moyer (@jessemoyer) November 1, 2016

Acme, Michigan: Virgel Hammonds and Matt Williams gave keynote presentations during the Michigan Association of State and Federal Program Specialists 2016 Fall Directors’ Institute.

Excited to hear @VirgelHammonds and @MattAWilliams at #masfps16 fall Personalized Learning. @knowledgeworks #CompetencyEd pic.twitter.com/8qohBPUrfc

— Chuck Pollington (@pollingtonchuck) October 5, 2016

Kenowa Hills, Michigan: KnowledgeWorks Teaching and Learning Senior Coach Laura Hilger spent a couple weeks with Kenowa Hills Public Schools to support the district implementing their personalized learning vision.

michigan

Marysville, Ohio: Some members from our communications team visited Navin Elementary and Marysville Early College High School in Marysville, Ohio with Robin Kanaan. There, the KnowledgeWorks team got to talk with leaders, teachers and students, and see personalized learning in action.

Navin welcomes visitors from KnowledgeWorks today! @DianeMankins #PTBM #navinrocks https://t.co/140zg5eaX1

— Navin Elementary (@NavinElementary) November 2, 2016

Hello, @MarysvilleECHS! #earlycollege #ECHS @knowledgeworks @EdPersonalized pic.twitter.com/hxI7bN7knS

— Jillian Kuhlmann (@jtotheill) November 2, 2016

San Antonio, Texas: The KnowledgeWorks team was in full force at The iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium. Virgel Hammonds gave a keynote presentation, and the team presented during seven other sessions. Check out our press release for more information about those sessions.

A very unique #keynote by @VirgelHammonds of @knowledgeworks at #inacol16 @nacol High energy. Good stuff. pic.twitter.com/Sm70EaO8Ct

— Robin Harriford (@robinharriford) October 26, 2016

Charleston, West Virginia: KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of Strategic Foresight Katherine Prince kicked off the Excellence in Education: It’s Everybody’s Business summit with an exploration of the future of learning.

Enjoying taking part in #wvedsummit, exploring collaboration for #FutureEd & democratized opportunity.

— Katherine Prince (@katprince) October 17, 2016

Washington, D.C.: Students across the country gathered in D.C. this week for Education Reimagined’s #SparkHouse event, which focused on learner-centered school. KnowledgeWorks President and CEO Judy Peppler and Virgel attended, as well.

Ready to learn from pioneering learners from across the country. #SparkHouse @EdReimagined @knowledgeworks pic.twitter.com/22kuasxp1Z
— Virgel Hammonds (@VirgelHammonds) November 3, 2016

Zurich, Switzerland: Katherine Prince flew across the pond for the Future of Learning Conference with the Inter-Community School. There, she spent two days with top leaders in international education, exploring the shifting landscape of educational practices.

Today’s the day! Exploring #FutureEd w/ @ICS_School in Zurich https://t.co/2SlQ1xYHbc. @jmikton @tidtweet
— Katherine Prince (@katprince) October 29, 2016

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The future is brighter for students in Cincinnati

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-11-10 15:24

The focus Tuesday night was largely on who would win the presidency, but other important races were taking place at state and local levels. Here in Cincinnati, voters passed Issue 44, which will expand access to two years of quality preschool in public schools and community providers throughout the Cincinnati Public School District.

@StrongCincy @CincyPromise Congratulations! #communitysupport

— Kings Local Schools (@Kings_Schools) November 9, 2016

“We’re incredibly proud and thankful to Cincinnati taxpayers for their support of this levy. On Tuesday, nearly 90,000 voters let us know how much they care about our children and our schools. Despite being a pretty substantial increase, the measure passed with a margin not seen on a Cincinnati school levy since the 1950s and is the largest local investment in early learning we’ve ever made,” said Emily Lewis, Director of Operations for StrivePartnership. “This is a game-changing moment for our children, families, schools, and community.”

This achievement was the result of a strong partnership between United Way of Greater Cincinnati, Success By 6, Cincinnati Public Schools, StrivePartnership and others.

“The people of Cincinnati stepped up to say not only do we want to have a new levy to support public schools in Cincinnati, but we want to add more money to that so we can make preschool available to all three- and four-year-olds,” said Matt Williams, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy for KnowledgeWorks.

Quality preschool provides a strong foundation for children. Children who have quality preschool before entering kindergarten are more likely to enter school prepared, succeed in school, graduate from high school and become productive citizens.

“I’m proud the Cincinnati community rallied behind strengthening quality schools and expanding quality preschool, which are critical to our city’s workforce, neighborhoods and future,” said Greg Landsman, who last December left his job as StrivePartnership executive director to focus full time on this effort.

Donna Porter-Jones and Brewster Rhoads, Co-Campaign Managers for Citizens for a Strong Future, echoes Landsman’s sentiments. “Never before has such a broad based coalition come together in Cincinnati in support of any ballot issue. Our children – and Cincinnati’s future – are the winners.”

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What’s next for education with the new presidential administration?

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-11-10 14:34

The election is only a few days behind us, but the transition team for President-elect Donald Trump is hard at work putting together their plans for the first 100 days in office and the policy team here at KnowledgeWorks is putting the finishing touches on our own set of recommendations to help the next President create an education platform focused on the student. Today Matt Williams, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, and Lillian Pace, Senior Director of National Policy, from KnowledgeWorks sat down with Larry Jacobs to discuss personalized learning and the upcoming presidential transition.

Education wasn’t an area of focus during the presidential campaign. What might this new administration mean for education?

One misconceptions that has played out during this campaign is that if the candidates didn’t talk about something then it wasn’t a priority for either of them.

“In fact, we know that during one of his Town Hall events, [President-elect Trump] said he thought education was one of the three most important functions for the federal government, along with healthcare and national security,” said Lillian. “While it was one comment under the radar, it certainly brings a lot of hope to all of us in the education space.”

Because President-elect Trump didn’t lay out specific plans about education while on the campaign-trail, it means he is not tied to past statements and there is room for discussion and debate.

“I hope that everybody feels inspired to come together and figure out what the right path forward is,” said Lillian.

Vice-President elect Mike Pence is a proponent of school choice. What does that mean for public education?

“The United States has some work to do so I think we need to look at all of our options,” said Matt. “This notion of school choice, of ways to look at education differently, from our perspective at KnowledgeWorks, is a great entry point to really continue to bang the drum as it relates to personalized learning.”

No matter the type of school setting, the focus needs to be on the student. When a system implements personalized learning, they’re meeting students where they are, tying learning to real life experiences and empowering teachers. By personalizing learning we’re not only improving learning experiences for each individual student, but we’re making room to improve the education system as a whole.

“There is widespread agreement that our current approach to education in this country is not serving all students well,” said Lillian. “As a result, we’re starting to see this pendulum swing back from where we had a tightly controlled federal approach to education to a more decentralized approach.”

Our current approach to education doesn’t serve *all* students well. #PersonalizedLearning can.
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Some of this switch to giving states control has already started with the passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“Over the next four years, because of ESSA and because of what potentially might come with other legislation, local communities are going to be deciding, ‘This is how we want to chart a course for our children.'” said Matt. “Fundamentally, that’s a good thing because at the local level you have a greater understanding of what your community needs.”

An example of this type of local investment in education can be seen in Cincinnati with the recent passing of Issue 44, which makes preschool available for all three- and four-year-olds in Cincinnati.

KnowledgeWorks is focused on providing personalized learning opportunities to all students. What will we be sharing with the transition team to help advance this goal?

KnowledgeWorks will be sharing recommendations for the Presidential transition team over the next few weeks that will include strategies for scaling personalized learning across the K-12 and higher education systems. We look forward to working with the next Administration to create an education platform that leverages local innovation to ensure every student is challenged and every student succeeds.

As a society, we need education that provides a brighter future for all students. https://t.co/yxw1iK3DMo#PersonalizedLearning#CBE#ECHSpic.twitter.com/8JdEkCmqQD

— KnowledgeWorks (@knowledgeworks) November 10, 2016

Listen to the full discussion between Larry Jacobs of EduTalk Radio, Lillian Pace and Matt Williams about personalized learning and the presidential transition here:

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The Role of Professional Development in Personalizing Learning

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-11-09 08:00

At KnowledgeWorks, we believe good thought leadership and policy must be grounded in best practices from the field.  That is why, when creating the district conditions for scaling personalized learning, we spoke with over 35 district leaders who were having success transforming their traditional systems to a personalized learning environment. Because we recognize the absolute importance of teaching in a personalized learning system, we set out to determine how these conditions impacted teachers’ practice. The result of discussions with over 80 practitioners teaching in these personalized environments resulted in “The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.”

Professional development, as defined in the district conditions:

Each district should offer a job-embedded professional development program that aligns with the district’s vision for teaching and learning and to student needs. The professional development program should foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement while leveraging technology that creates a customized experience for each teacher that is available at any place and time.

As you might expect, professional development was the most talked-about condition during our conversations with teachers. While many we talked to lead the implementation of personalized learning in their districts, few received professional development dedicated to implementing this transformation. Instead, many teachers took charge of their own development through independent research and visiting personalized learning schools, returning to their own schools and districts to share what they learned with colleagues.

Just as a personalized learning system provides customized supports to students, teachers and leaders should be engaged in identifying their needs and creating their own development activities. A variety of approaches to professional development were raised during the interviews including coaching, teacher-to-teacher and teacher-to-leader collaboration and interest-based learning communities. It is important to encourage continuous improvement through professional development by creating customized pathways aligned to professional teaching competencies. These competencies should also align to the districts vision for teaching and learning.

 Personalized Learning According to Teachers.’For more on implementing professional development in a personalized learning environment, including interview excerpts and school and district examples, read ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers.

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Achieving College Success in High School

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-11-08 12:09

For many students across the country, attending college starts their first day of high school. In Canton, Ohio, students at Timken Early College High School (TECHS) are able to get on the fast track to college in partnership with Stark State College.

“We have so many different students who have different end goals,” said J.P. Cooney, executive director for admissions and enrollment strategies at Stark State College, in an article in Akron Life. “Some want to come here for two years, get their associate’s degree, then transfer to a four-year university.”

Early colleges like TECHS provide higher education opportunities for students coming from first-generation college or low-income families, as well as racial or ethnic minorities. These programs would not be successful without close ties to their higher education partners. In Canton, students of all ages and background are fortunate to have the access and support that make obtaining a college degree a possibility.

The current principal of TECHS is Kenneth Brunner. He encourages students and staff not just to “dream big,” but to “make it a reality.” And they are.

Learn more about Timken Early College High School in Canton, Ohio.

 

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Why early college? For graduate Jac’Quir Pearson, it gave him a better chance in life.

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-11-07 08:00

When Jac’Quir Pearson was in middle school, he was on a path to attend Timkin Early College High School in Canton, Ohio, with guidance and encouragement by his aunt, Jackie Evans.

The result?  In the spring of 2016, Jac’Quir earned a high school diploma and two associate degrees from Stark State Technical College. At the same time. And today, he’s freshman at The Ohio State University studying chemical engineering.

Andrea Mulkey, National Director of Early College for KnowledgeWorks, interviewed Jac’Quir and his aunt Jackie at the Stark State graduation this past Spring to learn about his early college experience and what it means for his future and his family. Here’s what we learned:

As the first person in his family to graduate with a college degree, Jackie thinks her nephew Jac’Quir is setting a great example for his siblings.

“It makes me feel very great and happy for him, because he accomplished what his family didn’t accomplish,” said Jackie. “Some of them didn’t finish school. But he’s making a great example for them, and his brothers, and sister.”

Early college gave Jac’Quir access to invaluable opportunities and supports.

“What early college means to me is opportunities to excel,” Jac’Quir said while proudly wearing his cap and gown. “And more than just opportunities, invaluable opportunities with all the supports and internships that can be offered to any student who wishes to participate. Due to early college, I’m able to receive two associate degrees while I’m 18 years old, while graduating from high school. So that really means a lot, along with all of the support and resources that are available to me as a student.”

Jac’Quir explained to Andrea that at Timken Early College High School, they don’t just throw you in to the program to fend for yourself. “The teachers and the staff really are there to help you and support through your journey through early college. If you need help you can go and get it, and the help is always available to students.”

Jac’Quir encourages other students to explore early college
“I would highly recommend early college program because of all the resources, support and the leg up that you’ll get,” said Jac’Quir.  “You’ll have a better chance.”

Watch our video to hear our interview with Jac’Quir and Jackie:

Learn more about Timken Early College High School in Canton, Ohio.Learn more about Timkin Early College High School.

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The Future of Education Has to Be Made for Students

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-11-02 08:00

Guest post by Taylor, a ninth grader in Pittsburgh

I’m an active ninth grader. I run track for my high school, am a spoken word artist and want to be a public speaker in the future. I am a member of Sisters e STEAM, an organization that empowers young women with hands-on science lessons that use different areas of STEAM: science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Sisters e STEAM has changed school for me. It has shown me and the other women what science education can be and how learning can be fun. It takes what I love to do and matches it up with classes in a way that makes them interesting for me. That’s what personalized learning is to me. It means that what I learn in fits who I am as a person and what my interests are.

Another group I am active with is Youth Leading Change, which was started by Dr. Temple Lovelace. This is a program that has let us create spoken word that talks about things that are important to young people and to young girls. Working with Miss Temple Lovelace has been fun. We get to do a lot of things that allow us to share how we feel with other people. Youth Leading Change gives us what we need to learn about lots of ways to share your voice. There is podcasting, photography, music, spoken word and making movies. Ms. Temple wants us to share the things that we care about and to think about how we would fix problems at school or in our community.

It is because I work with them that I got to join Remake Learning Days last Spring. At the event, I was able to work with students from other schools and share ideas about what we would like to see school be in the future.

Just like Youth Leading Change teaches us how to be heard, Remake Learning Days made sure students were part of planning ahead for our community.During Remake Learning Days, we talked about the past, present and future. We were able to talk about things that were important to us now, things that happened in the past that were really important and how we ended up where we are today. Then we talked about how the past and the future are linked. How certain events in the past related to the events in the future. We also talked about what we would like to see changed about education in the future.

Just like Youth Leading Change teaches us how to be heard, Remake Learning Days made sure students were part of planning ahead for our community.

When I think about the future of learning in Pittsburgh, I hope we focus on new ways of learning that are fun and less on testing. Because I like spoken word, Youth Leading Change let us do spoken word in our classroom. Learning that way matched my interests.

I think that the future of education will be focused on students and what we like to do. The future of education will have classes that mean a lot to us and that help us to find our passion. The future of education has to be made for students and who they are and who they want to be.

Exploring the future of learning with students:

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

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The Role of Assessments in Personalizing Learning

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-11-01 08:00

The big idea behind ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers,’ was to expose teachers to the districts conditions necessary for scaling personalized learning and begin to understand how these conditions impacted their practice. One of the district conditions is a comprehensive assessment system.

As defined in ‘District Conditions for Scale: A Practical Guide to Scaling Personalized Learning’:

Each district should implement a comprehensive assessment system that is aligned with the district’s vision for teaching and learning. Assessments should include formative, interim, and summative assessments. Instant feedback from ongoing embedded assessments—including, but not limited to, portfolios, capstone projects, performance-based assessments, and curriculum-embedded assessments—should be used to monitor student progress and adjust day-to-day learning activities. Summative assessments should be offered multiple times a year, when students are ready to take the exam, and students should have multiple opportunities to show mastery of the assessment.

While few of the practitioners we interviewed while researching this paper called it out explicitly, many of the ideas that emerged from the interviews reflect the intent of a comprehensive assessment system. A theme from the research was the significance of collecting, and responding to data, in order to craft a personalized education for each student. The teachers we spoke to emphasized the importance of leveraging frequent, embedded student assessments that are closely aligned to instruction so that results can quickly translate into supports for students. Teachers also spoke of demonstrating the purpose of assessments, creating an understanding among students and parents of the need such assessments.

While the role of end-of-year summative assessments are still prevalent in a personalized learning system, many teachers talked about the importance of de-emphasizing the punitive nature of these assessments. Instead, these teachers focus on the use of embedded, formative assessments to drive instruction, secure in the knowledge that this will lead to better student performance on standardized, summative assessments.

For more on implementing a comprehensive assessment system in a personalized learning environment, including interview excerpt and school and district examples, you can read the full paper here.

 Personalized Learning According to Teachers.’For more on implementing a comprehensive assessment system in a personalized learning environment, including interview excerpt and school and district examples, read ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers,

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Reflections on Education Policy and the Upcoming Presidential Election

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-10-31 08:06

Last week, I had the opportunity to engage with 3,500 inspiring educators in San Antonio at my first iNACOL conference. Over the course of several days, I caught up with dozens of friends and partners from all over the country and helped facilitate a session on the future of education policy with my colleague Jesse Moyer and thought partner Maria Worthen from iNACOL. While all of my conversations were diverse, many shared a common curiosity about the outcome of the presidential election and its impact on our collective work to advance personalized learning for all students.

Since Election Day is just days away, I wanted to share some of my top reflections for education policy and the upcoming presidential election.

  • Education is a Priority for Both Candidates – Even though education issues have not dominated the presidential campaign, both candidates share a belief that education is an important function of the federal government. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly referenced her commitment to education issues ranging from her young days as an employee for the Children’s Defense Fund to her time championing child welfare issues as First Lady of Arkansas. Donald Trump also spoke in favor of education at a recent town hall event, stating that education is one of the top three priorities for the U.S. government.
  • The Benefits of Flying Under the Radar – While many, including myself, wanted to hear more about education on the campaign trail and during the debates, the reality is that we are better off without the baggage of campaign promises. The more concessions a candidate has to make to appeal to particular constituencies, the less flexibility he or she has to craft a strong policy agenda once elected with the potential for passage.
  • K-12 Education Will Get Airtime – Some have speculated that K-12 education will get little attention under the next Presidential Administration due to increased interest in higher education policies. There is no question that higher education will be a key focus area, but K-12 education cannot be ignored. The next President will inherit implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which will require a significant amount of time and resources. The U.S. Department of Education will have to approve state plans, consider additional regulatory clarifications, and identify strategies for supporting states with areas of the law that could benefit from greater attention.
  • A Regulatory Strategy Will Be Important – Regardless of which candidate wins, both will face a steep challenge convincing Congress to act on the candidate’s policy priorities. Hillary Clinton will have to bridge the political differences between her Administration and a likely Republican Congress (albeit with smaller majorities). Donald Trump will have to bridge divisions within his own party to advance an agenda with Congress. If congressional gridlock proves too challenging to overcome, the new President will have to identify strategies for advancing an education agenda through regulatory actions alone.
  • Congress Will Lead Too – The current congressional session witnessed a lot of momentum on reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and the Higher Education Act. Although both pieces of legislation have stalled, we can expect that congressional leaders will be eager to pick up where they left off and advance these priorities in the next congressional session. If the bipartisan reauthorization of ESSA is any indication, education is one issue that can advance even in a divided political climate.

My colleagues and I at KnowledgeWorks are watching this election very closely and will be prepared to help the next Presidential transition team craft an education agenda that continues to empower leaders across the country to build and scale a personalized education system. Education can be the uniting issue this country so desperately needs.

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How One District Changed the Way They Do Business, to the Betterment of All

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-10-27 13:07

If you could totally overhaul the administrative structure in your school, would you?

When he returned from the two-day convening of educators that led to our most recent publication, Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide, Steve Schultz, Superintendent for the Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Colorado, had to ask himself that question.

If you could totally overhaul the administrative structure in your school, would you? #FutureEd
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“At the time, w A Strategy Guide, Steve Schultz, Superintendent for the Mesa County Valley School District 51 in Colorado, asked himself, "If you could totally overhaul the administrative structure in your school, would you?"e were actively transforming our district of 21,000 students – 44 schools – to a competency-based model,” says Schultz. “And I’d been thinking about how I might reorganize the district’s organization to be more effective, too.”

Schultz had been reading about Holocracy, and wondered if this method of organizing decision-making around teams rather than traditional hierarchies could benefit his school administration. He and his staff got together to collaboratively identify teams, and discuss how they could adapt their skills to fit into new roles.

“We organized around the work, not the people,” says Schultz, whose new teams focused respectively on school leadership support, family and community connections, technology, human resources, and advocacy and support. “The traditional functions are still there, but instead of a job description, each person has multiple, clearly-defined roles and the autonomy they need to do what they need to do. It completely mirrors what we want kids to do in competency-based education.”

By taking this bold step, Schultz and his staff are now able to be more responsive than ever before, meeting the needs of teachers, students, and community members, while also creating a forum for staff to voice what they really need to do their jobs well.

“Everyone’s communicating,” says Schultz. “Everyone’s in the same room, hearing the same things, and they don’t have to wait for permission to do what needs doing.”

 A Strategy Guide explores five foundational issues facing education and suggests strategies for responding to them, with spotlights on K-12 school-based education, informal and community-based learning, and higher education.Interested in how a flexible approach to administration could benefit your district? Download our latest resource, Shaping the Future of Learning: A Strategy Guide today.

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Q&A with Virgel Hammonds: One path to a career focused on personalizing education

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2016-10-26 08:00

At KnowledgeWorks, we’re focused on giving more students access to a personalized, competency-based education, which prepares students for college and career by ensuring that they proceed through course material at a pace that is right for them. Leading that work is our Chief Learning Officer, Virgel Hammonds. We sat down with him to learn more about how he developed his competency-education-focused career.

How did you decide to pursue education as a career?

I sort of fell into it. While I was in college, I was running cross country and track, but had to miss a season due to some health-related issues. My head coach at the time asked if I’d be interested in coaching at a local high school to stay involved. At 20 years old, it was my first time coaching and I loved it. I enjoyed helping scholar athletes and the rest of the student body in their studies, and really fell in love with the idea of teaching. It was at that point that I made the commitment to becoming a teacher.

I started my career in a couple private schools, and those were great opportunities for me. The staff was amazing and the families were great and the kids were phenomenal. But the idea to be able to support a population of kids who perhaps needed more support and who had greater challenges; that’s what I realized was my passion. After I moved back home to California, I was committed to finding the right public school where I could be a support. I landed, fortunately, in Lindsay and learned how to support migrant students, much like myself, and provide what they needed to succeed academically and socially.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?

People often ask which position I’m most proud of – Lindsay High School principal, RSU2 superintendent or now my position at KnowledgeWorks – and my response is always the same. I’m proud of the progress all of our kiddos and staff have made throughout my years and positions. Each learning community has established supports to help each learner be successful in the goals they set for themselves. To see all kids are, can or have the opportunity to reach for those goals has been extremely inspiring. And because of that work and those successes, we know we’ve opened the door for all kids to make their dreams a reality.

What has been your greatest challenge?

Aligning all the structures, including higher education, the wider community, the voice of the learner and each individual educator; that has been the biggest challenge. How do we align all of those structures to support the need of every child, every educator, and the desired vision of the community? It’s not an impossible process, but it certainly takes commitment from all stakeholders within the learning community. It takes time and it takes nurturing. When you’re talking about students who are already in the system, every day that goes by is lost time with them. We need to figure out how to align structures but expedite the conversation. And that’s not easy.

Virgel Hammonds has dedicated his career to bringing competency-based education and personalized learning opportunities to students.

What is the difference between personalized learning and competency education?

To me, the greatest way to achieve personalized learning is through competency. It’s possible to do competency without being personalized, and quite frankly that’s exactly what states have been trying to accomplish for decades now. But the reality is, we haven’t been helping kids reach mastery. We’ve been getting as far as we can in the time we have, and then pushing them through graduation.

When people talk about personalized education, we’re talking about empowering kids to excel through competencies in personalized ways that are highly motivating. If we only focus on the competencies and don’t personalize it, then we’re only doing school – school as we’ve known it for the past 50 years.

But, when we combine the two, that’s when we are able to truly engage individual children to reach their goals. To do that, we must use leverage what we know about the art and science of teaching while also establishing the conditions for learners to be the drivers of their own education.

If you could give advice to a school or community leader who is starting personalized, competency education in their school or district, what would it be?

In Lindsay when we embarked on this journey, we had a new educator come on board who hadn’t taught in a competency-based school before. She was all-in, but asked if she could use the first month of the school year to get to know each of the students, to find out what makes them tick, and to learn about their goals, aspirations and struggles – and then set learning outcomes for the year.

Of course, my first reaction was, ‘A month?! We don’t have a month,’ but the message was great. We need to invest the time to get to know each child. We need to learn what they aspire to become, what they struggle with, what their hopes and fears are. When students know and feel you care and want to support them in achieving their goals, then you can really focus on personalizing instruction to ensure each of those kids achieves mastery and meets their goals.

What does the future of education look like to you?

I wish kids, like consumers, could shape their own product. Much like Amazon, once you start purchasing things, they give you recommendations for other products you might like. Imagine if kids were able to become greater consumers of their own learning structures. Imagine if, based on a student’s feedback to a learning opportunity, a learning community was able to provide different experiences for future learning.

In most learning communities, kids are more used to being passengers as opposed to drivers of their own learning experiences. In the future of education, students will be empowered to take charge of their own learning, in and out of the classroom.

For more insight and inspiration from Virgel, follow him on Twitter at @virgelhammonds.

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ portfolio of innovative education approaches designed to help schools create environments that allow each student to thrive.

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Students represent the future, so they need to be included in discussions looking forward

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-10-25 08:00

Guest post by Temple Lovelace, PhD, BCBA-D, founder of Youth Leading Change and an Associate Professor of Special Education for Duquesne University.

Students are often asked about the future. Where are you going to college? What do you want to be when you grow up? They are not asked how the choices they make today, even as producers of change, can make a long-lasting impact even at the systems level.

Looking to the future is such an important action for society as a whole. Young people have ideas for how to fix some of the biggest problems we face and matched with their ability to have a no limits approach to how education and their larger world can be better. We just have to ask.

This past Spring, we partnered with KnowledgeWorks for Remake Learning Days. We brought in students from Youth Leading Change and took time to ask them about the future of learning in general, and the future of learning in Pittsburgh, specifically.

As an educator, the concept of focusing on the future of learning is new. My biggest insight in working with KnowledgeWorks is that it is necessary to the process. The classroom is a space of innovation and inquiry, both of which are necessary ingredients for preparing students for the future.

Young people have ideas for how to fix some of the biggest problems we face and matched with their ability to have a no limits approach to how education and their larger world can be better. We just have to ask.Getting students rooted into an orientation that looks at the future, and their place in the future, allows for amazing experiences in the present that begin to slowly transform the very things that we need to change about our humanity. At the root of social justice is the idea that we want to change the future for our most oppressed in society. By turning our student and educational spaces towards the future we can truly change our lives for the better.

As a result of the group work that occurred during Remake Learning Days, the KnowledgeWorks team was able to produce The Future of Learning in the Pittsburgh Region, an adaptation of the Forecast 4.0, The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code that was specific to the Pittsburgh region.

This localized forecast is helpful in understanding what is available for families – and what the future of learning looks like in the Pittsburgh region. As a teacher educator, I believe in the power of community – school – home partnerships that advance learning for all students. The map showcases programs, such as Youth Leading Change, that are at the forefront of learning and show the possibility that is the future of learning.

The map serves as a tool that teacher and families can use to further the learning that happens in school and out of school.

The future of learning is bigger than just learning. It is the future. So much of our educational experience as educators and students is about the past and the present. We are steeped in old traditions in education that do not fit in with a new generation of students. To not focus on the future is a misstep.

Students represent the future and placing them in the driver’s seat for communicating with adults about the future of learning is the right first step for transforming education.

Exploring the future of learning with students:

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

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What I learned about personalized learning from Ms. Roy’s kindergarten class

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-10-24 08:00

What I learned about personalized learning from Ms. Roy’s kindergarten class

This spring, Grace Mills was pretty close to wrapping up her kindergarten year at Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School in Monmouth, Maine when a group from KnowledgeWorks came for a visit. With pigtails and runny noses, Grace and her classmates may appear to be part of a typical kindergarten classroom.  However, how they are learning is unfortunately anything but typical.

We visited Maine to learn more about how students in Grace’s district, Regional School Unit 2 (RSU 2), are experiencing learning.

From kindergarten to 12th grade, the district has implemented a competency-based education approach. This means each student gets a clear set of learning targets and gets the support they need to master each topic before they move on to the next.

As a mom of a boy the same age as Grace, I was especially curious to find out what a personalized learning approach like competency education looks like in kindergarten. Here’s what I learned from Grace and her teacher, Marie Roy.

As early as kindergarten, kids know what need to learn and how to work independently.

“Most of my kids know pretty much where they stand,” said Ms. Roy. “If you ask them what they are working on in literacy they can say, ‘I’m doing syllables right now,’ or ‘I don’t need to do my letters anymore because I know them already.’”

“So me and my friend Quinn are in this group and the ‘Ds’ are in this group,” Grace said as she pointed to different sides of a folder from a literacy station in her classroom. “And those are the papers that we are working on.”

The classroom environment facilitates independent and group learning focused on individual learning goals.

“We do a lot of stations. We do literacy stations and math stations,” Roy explained. “And in that they have a group with me, and those are fluid groups that I move around quite often. They have a target time where they work at their own individual learning targets. And then they have a practice time around the room where they do kind of spiral activities to keep old content fresh.”

“We have choices that we can pick out at target time. We have this really fun game like building your caterpillar. These are words and these are word families…” Grace explained as she dug around for work inside her personal target bucket in the classroom.

“They know exactly what to expect, and where they need to be, and where they need to get their materials from,” said Roy. “So they are able to grab onto it and move through their targets at a pretty independent pace.”

Kids get excited about their learning, move on to the next lesson only when they are ready, and no one feels bad about where they are.

“When I reach my target it makes me really happy,” said Grace.

“It’s just so much fun to see the kiddos get excited about their learning,” continues Roy. “And one kiddo might be excited because they finally learned the letter M, whereas you have another kid who’s excited because they wrote three sentences. And they can be excited at the same time in the same classroom and that’s just so neat to see. Because no one is waiting. But yet nobody also feels bad because they are behind.”

Watch our video to get to know Grace and Ms. Roy’s kindergarten classroom at Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School:

Learn more about KnowledgeWorks’ portfolio of innovative education approaches designed to help schools create environments that allow each student to thrive.

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Youth Leading Change Remake Learning for the Future

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-10-21 08:00

“I want to see a show of hands. How many of you have had a class on history?” I surveyed the room, and every single hand was up as expected. “Now, raise your hand if you have had a class on the future?” Surveying the room again, not a single hand as raised.

It was with these two questions that we began our workshop with Youth Leading Change, a “student-led, teacher powered” group of middle and high school students from some of Pittsburgh’s most marginalized neighborhoods who act as reformers and change agents in areas such as education, environmental justice, incarceration, and drug offenses. The workshop was part of Remake Learning Days, a weeklong celebration of events and activities that showcased how the Pittsburgh region and the Remake Learning Network have been shaping the future of learning.

The purpose for our workshop was to introduce foresight to students and to have them imagine the future of learning.  To do so, we partnered with our colleagues at Teach the Future to develop a set of activities that would introduce the students to a few methods for thinking about the future and support them in creating images of what the future of learning might be like.

The students created this 30’ x 4’ banner containing trends, past and future events, and their ideas about the future of learning.
The students created this 30’ x 4’ banner containing trends, past and future events, and their ideas about the future of learning.

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Shaping our current reality…

The first step of the workshop was to develop a sense of causality. To do this, we asked the students to think about the past by identifying past events and trends that they viewed as having been important in shaping our current reality. The students brainstormed events across three levels:

  • The global level: Includes events at the national and international levels
  • The local level: Includes events at the state, city, and neighborhood levels
  • The personal level: Includes events that have happened to the student, their family, or their friends.

Next, we did a bit of mental time travel, asking the students to pick a cluster of events and trends that they were interested in and to write a short story describing what life might have been like during that time. Below are some of the narratives describing what the past might have been like.

Moving towards the future!

With the past behind us, we began the hard work of thinking about the future. As reflected in answers to my opening questions, for many in the room (adults included) this was to be their first introduction to the world of futures thinking.

To get the students into the mode of thinking ahead, we asked them to think about what events might happen that could shape the future. Using the same levels (global, local, personal) as before, we asked them to brainstorm and record future events as if they were headlines that had happened, as well as to consider the future trajectory of the trends they had previously identified.

Next, we again asked the students to do some mental time travel, this time into the future. In writing short narratives about what the future might be like, they imagined a future where:

  • A student becomes a rock star.
  • School is no longer a requirement.
  • A personal learning robot helps learners get exactly the lessons they need.
  • Meat is no longer eaten due the overharvesting of animals.
  • The human population decreases because air is no longer free.
  • Half the prison population has been released.

Remaking learning for the future

Lastly, we asked students to remake learning based on the images of the future they had imagined. To help them think through what learning might be like as part of the futures they envisioned, we gave them some guiding questions to consider:

  • What type of building, if any, does your school use?
  • Who might go there?
  • What is your school or system of learning preparing students for?
  • Who might work there?
  • How might you tell if a student has learned something?

The students came up with some great ideas for how they would remake learning in the future! Some of them included a community-based classroom, a school that taught life skills as the main curriculum, and a headset that assisted students with learning.

“Don’t waste our time.”

Across their ideas, one major themed emerged: don’t waste our time! Each and every image of the future that the students shared remade learning into something they felt to be more relevant to their interests than school is today and reflected the realities of the changing world. Many emphasized the importance of being able to pursue customized experiences or pathways in preparation for life after high school.

There is a prevailing and unfortunate myth that many poor and marginalized learners need to be taught how to learn and that they are either unable, or do not want, to take ownership of their learning. The images of the future that the students from Youth Leading Change created pose a direct challenge that myth. They don’t need to be taught to learn, nor are they unable to learn, nor do they lack the desire to do so. Rather, they need learning to be remade to meet their needs, interests, and goals. To put it more concisely, they need learning experiences that they feel don’t waste their time.

Exploring the future of learning with students:

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

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ESSA: Uncovering the Many Possibilities for Better Assessment Design

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-10-20 09:00

Since the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) the KnowledgeWorks policy shop has shifted into overtime preparing resources to help education stakeholders make sense of the new law. It’s been exhausting at times, but we keep pushing ahead because we believe this law is full of opportunity to advance personalized learning if states are thoughtful in how they craft their new vision for ESSA implementation.

While there are many things to get excited about in ESSA (click here for our full list), assessment appears to be the big winner. States now have the opportunity to redefine the national conversation about testing. Students no longer have to take meaningless tests that don’t do a good job of determining their knowledge and skills. They can build better assessments that are both relevant and timely.

To help states in this effort, KnowledgeWorks and the Center for Assessment just released a Visioning Toolkit for Better Assessment through our website www.innovativeassessments.org. The goal of this toolkit is to help stakeholders better understand the full range of options under the new ESSA law and to begin translating that into actual assessment designs. It includes an infographic of the assessment opportunities under ESSA, answers to frequently asked questions, enabling state policy conditions, 15 examples of innovative assessment models permissible under the new Demonstration Authority, and a guide to developing a theory of action for innovative assessments.

Where to start? Check out the infographic below to consider the possibilities in next generation assessment design.

 View a visual overview of four critical opportunities available to states under ESSA for building next-generation assessment systems. View a visual overview of four critical opportunities available to states under ESSA for building next-generation assessment systems.

View the Visioning Toolkit for Better Assessments.

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How can school leaders help implement personalized learning? Embrace a continuous improvement mindset.

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2016-10-18 08:00

Cultivating a continuous improvement mindset among teachers who are implementing personalized learning is essential. But, continuous improvement isn’t just for classroom practitioners. As we learned from the research that informed ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers,’ continuous improvement is a skill-set that is important for school leaders as well.

“As the school leader, it’s hard to expect a teacher to implement personalized learning if I’m not aligned with teachers in the building. I need to know 
them as individuals. My teachers work very hard in this setting to do the best they can do for our students. Because of that, I want to know about them personally, what’s going on, how I can help, who’s being given trouble. I don’t want there to be distractions to the work they’re here to do. They don’t have to worry a whole lot about disruptions in the classroom: we handle them. They don’t have to worry about not having resources. They don’t have to worry about not being able to find real world application.”

In a traditional system, the building leader’s role is to hold teachers accountable and intervene when teachers are struggling. In a personalized learning system, a principal’s role shifts to supporting teachers. By monitoring building-wide data closely, building leaders can identify barriers that prevent teachers from implementing personalized learning and enable teachers to overcome these barriers by provided personalized professional development and other tailored supports. By doing this, principals foster a collaborative environment that encourages teachers to work through challenges, using temporary failure as an opportunity to reflect, accept and implement feedback, and make improvements.

 Personalized Learning According to Teachers.’In our research for ‘The Shifting Paradigm of Teaching: Personalized Learning According to Teachers,” we interviewed teachers, instructional coaches and principals from across the country who lead personalized learning implementation in their communities across the country. Read our findings.

 

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We’re Going to Mars, and Competency Education is Leading the Way

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2016-10-17 08:00

When President Obama announced on Tuesday that we will be going to Mars, I was over the moon.

But what struck me most about the op-ed President Obama wrote for CNN was his call to convene “some of America’s leading scientists, engineers, innovators and students… to dream up ways to build on our progress and find the next frontiers.” The emphasis is mine because, how cool is that? Our President must know a little something about personalized learning if he can recognize that student voice not only has a place in determining the course of their learning and their future, but that it can’t be done without them.

He goes on to write more that highlights how critical student investment in their schooling, and the future of space exploration, will be:

“The reporter who covered the moon landing for The New York Times, John Noble Wilford, later wrote that Mars tugs at our imagination ‘with a force mightier than gravity.’ Getting there will take a giant leap. But the first, small steps happen when our students — the Mars generation — walk into their classrooms each day. Scientific discovery doesn’t happen with the flip of a switch; it takes years of testing, patience and a national commitment to education.”

Learning doesn’t haWhen President Obama announced that we will go to Mars, he included scientists, engineers, innovators and students as the brainpower behind the project.ppen with the flip of a switch, either. When students walk into their classrooms, they need to feel a sense of ownership, whether they’re determining classroom policies together or being given the opportunity to connect what they’re learning in meaningful ways to what interests them. They need to know why they’re learning what they’re learning, with clear goals understood by teachers, students, and their parents. They need teachers who have been given the space and resources required to support their unique needs. And students need to do more than take tests: they need to be empowered to make choices about how they demonstrate what they are learning.

Personalized learning, realized through competency-based education, puts students at the center – and ensures that every learner gets what they need to achieve success. We’ll need young professionals with a myriad of skills for that mission to Mars, and with competency-based education, they’ll be ready.

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Planning for the Future in in Pittsburgh: Localizing the Future Forecast 4.0

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2016-10-14 08:00

Guest post by Sunanna Chand. Sunanna is Learning Innovation Strategist for the Remake Learning Council. The Remake Learning Network is comprised of 250+ organizations collaborating to bring engaging and relevant learning experiences to all kids in the Pittsburgh region. 

We know that our lives are changing more rapidly than ever. Here in Pittsburgh, where once-reliable steel mill jobs ruled the city, we now have self-driving taxis criss-crossing our region. In five years, who knows where we’ll be: Will we even need our own cars? What skills will help program those cars? What’s next?

We talk a lot about “21st century learning” in Pittsburgh. We want kids who are “digital natives” to feel connected to education, both in and out-of-school. But we are in a time of exponential change. Not only are we already nearly a fifth of the way through the 21st century, our civilization is also doubling knowledge every year – a head-spinning pace. If we’re only thinking about the next year, we’re already close to being far behind.

How do we prepare kids for the future, when the only thing we know for certain is that it will be shaped by constant uncertainty?What this means is that the future is more opaque than any time in human history. The challenge we often face is: How do we prepare kids for the future, when the only thing we know for certain is that it will be shaped by constant uncertainty?

We can’t live in that reality and think that education can proceed the way it has been for hundreds of years.

Remake Learning recently collaborated with KnowledgeWorks on the creation of a map exploring the future of learning in the Pittsburgh region. That work is helping us think forward.

Limited predictive ability about the future of learning, work, and life in general can be intimidating. KnowledgeWorks helped us realize, though, how what we are doing now is setting us on the right path.

The Pittsburgh region is fostering learning environments in which kids can build systems that impact their communities. They can choose niche programming tailored to their interests. They can experience, to an increasing degree, the “community as a campus” idea in the region: that no matter where they go, whether schools, museums, libraries, afterschool programs, YMCAs, and more, students can benefit from engaging and relevant learning experiences that prepare them for a rapidly changing world.

Remake Learning, the network of organizations I work to support, brings innovators and educators together to recreate learning experiences that are engaging and relevant, not just to a kid’s interests, but to their culture, context, and the 21st century economy. Within the Network, it’s not uncommon for school districts to work together, for ed tech companies to playtest in museums, or for learning scientists to be embedded in Kindergarten classrooms. It’s all about crossing between organizational walls, with the understanding that innovation and deep, meaningful learning comes from collaboration, both between students and adults.

Remake Learning recently collaborated with KnowledgeWorks on the creation of a map exploring the future of learning in the Pittsburgh region.What we’re doing lines up well with what the KnowledgeWorks Forecast 4.0, “The Future of Learning: Education in the Era of Partners in Code,” outlines.

My biggest insight from the Forecast was about the exponential rate of change. It’s a very natural thing to think linearly about the future. What the Forecast helps you do is intentionally think about rapid change in order to help us as a Network better prepare. It pushes the thinking of even the most forward-thinkers of the Network, giving us the chance to ask more tough and provocative questions of our own programs, projects, innovations, and collaborations.

Reading the Forecast on its own can be scary and overwhelming. Mapping it to our own hyper-local context, though, made us realize that while we still have a long way to go, we are moving in the right direction.

I encourage everyone to read the Forecast and ask tough questions of their own conceptions of learning. What more might be possible that we haven’t even considered yet?

Exploring the future of learning with students:

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

Are you interested in exploring the future of learning in your community? Contact the Strategic Foresight Team at KnowledgeWorks to learn more.

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Meredith Meyer: Learning from a Career the Education Sector

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2016-10-13 11:50

More than eight years ago, I trotted into KnowledgeWorks confident that I knew something about something, after years spent managing big budgets and initiatives at a major corporation. It took just a few months to understand that trying to change a deeply entrenched social system was a challenge of much different proportions than anything I had encountered in the private sector.

The past decade in U.S. education has been filled with debates over testing, common standards, teachers’ unions and technology. But despite all the innovation and data and systems put in place, learning is still a very human business. And since I claim to be an expert in neither pedagogy nor education policy, I would like to close my time at KnowledgeWorks by making some simple human observations about my experience in the education sector.

Students rise (or fall) to the level of expectations we hold for them.

One of my favorite stories about expectations comes from Ron Berger at Expeditionary Learning, who travels the country with a suitcase full of examples of extraordinary student work produced by “regular” students. In one memorable example, an urban first grader named Austin was asked to draw a scientifically accurate picture of a butterfly. He produced an acceptable rendering of a butterfly – what one might expect from a first grader. But his teacher did not stop there – this teacher and Austin’s first grade peers gave Austin feedback and advice on how to make his drawing more accurate. He produced another, better drawing. They repeated the process several more times. With clear feedback and encouragement, little Austin produced this drawing of a Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly.

 The story of Austin's Butterfly.Watch the full video that explains the story of Austin’s Butterfly.

Students rise (or fall) to the level of expectations we hold for them.
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Sometimes we put up false barriers for students without even knowing what we are doing, barriers grounded in our own limiting beliefs. Cross this with issues of race and socioeconomics, and even well-meaning individuals can convince themselves that the education and achievement of students in challenging situations is “good enough,” given their circumstances.

While it is easy to spout off ideals about holding high expectations for all students, it is much harder to put the supports in place to ensure that all students actually can succeed. One of the most important concepts I’ve come to understand during my time at KnowledgeWorks is the difference between equity and equality. Equality means that everyone gets the same thing. Equity means that everyone gets what they need to succeed. It is unfair and frustrating to hold students to an expectation that they don’t have the tools to meet. I don’t believe that every student can be a neurosurgeon (I know that I couldn’t be such a thing), but I do believe that every student deserves the opportunity and supports to get on a path to go to medical school if he or she has the capability and willingness to do what it takes to get there.

An incredible example of pushing past these limits to empower underprivileged students are KnowledgeWorks’ early college high schools. These schools enable students, many of whom are first generation college-goers, to complete their first two years of college while they are still in high school. Most students enter these schools several grade-levels behind in Math and Language Arts, but with intense supports and focused, accelerated learning experiences (and a lot of hard work on the part of the students), they begin taking college courses while in high school. Nearly 1/3 of these students graduate high school with an Associates degree and 87% persist to a 4-year college degree. This work is grounded in incredibly high expectations for what students can accomplish, regardless of their zip code.

School success, just like the success of any organization composed of humans, starts with a strong culture.

When people ask me what the most important factor is in developing an effective school, I share my belief that everything starts with a strong culture of learning. When I walk through schools with this sort of culture, I consistently hear teachers and leaders using words like “respect” and “personal ownership” and once I even heard students and teachers referring to their school as “our house.” Students at these schools are very clear about what they are learning, why it’s important and how the culture of their school empowers them to learn.

My first visit to a New Tech Network school, formerly a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, had a deep impact on me. New Tech schools combine meaningful project-based learning, relevant technology and a culture of strong student ownership. Within New Tech schools, project-based learning happens in teams and teachers team-teach, and this structure necessitates deep interaction with other people. Teachers can’t shut their door and teach in a vacuum and students can’t keep their heads down and withdraw into themselves. Student’s opinions are solicited when the school makes strategic decisions. They are allowed to push back on teachers and report in to the director when teachers aren’t collaborating effectively. These students have agency. I especially love this thought from a former Principal of New Technology High School in Sacramento: “I never hire anyone without kids – they are the client. I like someone coming into the school to see where the values are right away.” This sort of empowered culture creates both opportunities and challenges, but in the end it creates a fierce, supportive culture of learning.

I also have had the opportunity to visit several schools employing a competency-based learning approach, a space in which KnowledgeWorks is investing more deeply. Within this approach, students progress at their own pace based on their individual mastery of the concepts rather than time spent in class. Schools create a common set of clear learning targets and goals and share them with students so students know what they need to do to succeed throughout their K-12 education. There is nothing like having an elementary school student explain a learning target to you and how they plan to achieve it in a creative way that is relevant to them. This structure allows students to “peek behind the curtain” and actually partner with teachers on developing the right learning pathway and assessment strategy for them. This creates ownership of the learning process in a way that contributes to a culture of learning.

We expect things from teachers that we would never expect from a similarly compensated employee in another environment.

Think about it – a teacher must have competencies that would be shared among a team of 3-4 different employees in a business setting: content expert, coach, project leader, facilitator, black belt in continuous improvement, technology expert, data designer, therapist, social worker, community engagement expert. Working as a business or non-profit leader, you might give a big presentation or facilitate an important meeting a few times during a week. For a really big presentation, you might spend weeks preparing for it. A teacher presents and facilitates all day, every day, except for that one-hour planning period during which they must not only prepare to be “on” for the rest of the day, but hone his or her skills as a technology expert, data designer, etc.

Over the past eight years, I have lost all patience for hearing about how teachers get summers off, so much vacation during the year, etc. Most of the teachers I have met don’t even have time to go to the bathroom. And the best teachers are working 60-70 hours/week during the school year to create engaging learning experiences for students and then spending their summers learning new things. And this is on top of the layers of testing and standards that a teacher must navigate. Being a teacher in today’s environment is really, really hard.

It’s time to start thinking about new models for how teaching happens in schools – we will never get and keep the best and brightest people in this profession if we expect them to be martyrs. The way the profession is structured has not kept up with what we know about organizational design and the need for focused expertise. Check out KnowledgeWorks’ thought-provoking white paper that imagines new, focused roles for educators that maintain some context experts, but also include “learning pathway designers” or “micro-credential trackers” and consider how this profession could change in the future.

The world is changing faster than ever before, and without very intentional interventions, underprivileged students will be left behind.

Some of the most fascinating work that KnowledgeWorks has been engaged in over the past decade has been focused on forecasting the future of learning and the forces that will shape education. A consistent theme has been the exponential nature of change in our world over the past fifteen years, due to rapid advances in nanotechnology, information technology and the bio-medical fields. A few years ago, innovations like driverless cars, wearable devices and sensors, and 3D printing would have seemed like science fiction.

In education, these advances are changing the learning experience – for some students. Every day there are more learning resources created that can be accessed with technology and the knowledge of where to find them, students are collaborating with teachers and other students across the country and across the world to get new perspective, students are even taking performance enhancing drugs to help them concentrate better. As the number of resources grows, so does the gap between what students in underprivileged communities can access and what is available to students with more resources.

To narrow these gaps, we must work together in new ways, as the StrivePartnership is doing in Cincinnati and 65+ StriveTogether communities are doing around the country. These partnerships set a new leadership table for education in a community, bringing together leaders from all sectors to set a vision for education, face the reality of local disparities in a data-based way, and take responsibility for changing student outcomes and ensuring that all students are connected to the resources they need, together.

When I joined KnowledgeWorks, I was given a copy of a slim volume with the title Foresight as the Central Ethic of Leadership. Coming from a world of bottom lines and quarterly reports, I found this concept to be a revelation. For leaders, thinking about the future is a moral imperative, maybe even more so for those of us in the social sector. A changing world can marginalize those we are trying to serve – or it can be a transformational opportunity. But only if we are preparing for the change.

“For leaders, thinking about the future is a moral imperative.” – Meredith Meyers
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KnowledgeWorks has four core values: Passion, Courage, Empower, Partner. I always have been struck by this value of courage. It is defined by the willingness to persist in the face of challenges and advocate for what is right. The last eight years have been messy and imperfect, but I have always felt that the people of KnowledgeWorks and those I have had the pleasure of partnering with in the education sector are relentlessly courageous. Courage looks like showing up each morning in our toughest schools and maintaining the belief that all students can learn and achieve. Courage looks like spending years crafting and advocating for policies that create better learning opportunities. Courage looks like calling out issues of equity and highlighting challenges that some would prefer not to face. Although much progress has been made, we still have a long way to go before every student is receiving a rich and meaningful learning experience in our schools. And it will take plenty of courageous humans to make that vision a reality.

The post Meredith Meyer: Learning from a Career the Education Sector appeared first on World of Learning.

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