Our Call to Action Starts with One Question: How Are the Children?

Topics: Systems Change

“How are the children?”

Jonathan Raymond, President of the Stuart Foundation, suggests that all of us in education use that question as a guiding principal for all of our work, and that was a central theme in his talk at EdSurge Fusion 2018.

While I may have phrased the question in other ways, my career has been spent asking, “How are the children?”

During my 34 years in higher education, I’ve witnessed the shift from education as the great leveler of economic opportunity to a driver of inequity for those who cannot be ensured access. We worked to meet many challenges, including:

  • College costing too much, ranking second only to healthcare in price increases to consumers
  • Student debt hobbling prospects, surpassing consumer credit card debt and soaring past $1.5 trillion
  • College taking too long: The longer it takes, the less likely a student is to finish, especially for underrepresented and first-generation college students
  • A widening skills gap between the requirements for talents and the measurable competencies produced by a college degree, with many companies not requiring the credential but demanding the skills

I join the KnowledgeWorks team having worked throughout my career to improve college access and affordability, setting an equity-driven college completion agenda to close gaps for students who are most at risk.

At the University of Central Missouri (UCM), we built the Missouri Innovation Campus, a community based educational eco-system defined by a P-16 accelerated pathway model linking high schools, community college and university programs with 50 private sector partners. Experiential, competency-based learning is producing graduates in half the time, half the cost and with no skills gap or debt.

If this traditional Masai greeting were asked in that community, “How are the children?” they might reply, “Some of the children are well.”

The Missouri Innovation Campus was just one example of many very localized efforts. Nationally, we have an opportunity to reset our collective narrative, refocus on students and help our schools and educators transform to meet the rapidly changing needs of the 21st Century.

At KnowledgeWorks, our conviction is that the requirements to produce different outcomes are shared from early childhood through a seamless learning continuum that now goes beyond P-16 to the requirements of lifelong learning.

Reimagining education is at the intersection of empathy and the pursuit of learning. As I consider early drafts of KnowledgeWorks Forecast 5.0, I am again struck by the intentionality and purpose of strategic foresight in setting a vision of learning. We can never know how the future will unfold, but we can expand our ideas about what might be possible and necessary for learning. We can also identify where we must intervene, harness or adapt to shape a future of learning in which all students can thrive and to help steer society’s transition from one era to the next.

Exploring the future of learning today is an act of stewardship to our future communities and to the young people who will live in them.

In our fifth comprehensive forecast into the future of learning, you will discover how current trends could impact learning ten years from now, and consider ways to shape a future where all students can thrive. Sign up now to be among the first to receive Forecast 5.0.

As I continue my listening tour across the country, I’m struck by the breadth of solutions to overcoming persistent inequities and a lack of readiness, through passion and focus on innovating instruction, transforming our schools and meeting the needs of each student in our diverse communities.

KnowledgeWorks is a leader of innovation and transformation and we know that competency-based, personalized learning is the way forward.

We don’t have all the answers. In fact, I welcome your input regarding questions that I continue asking myself: How audacious should we be in defining outcomes that have a direct benefit to every student? Can we create a stronger alliance of partners needed to execute transformative change across all educational sectors, business, government and between children and their parents? What are the societal costs if we do not consider the urgency of this moment and our responsibility to respond?

I will continually ask for help from members of our KnowledgeWorks team and the many new relationships that will be formed over the coming months in refining our strategy.

We at KnowledgeWorks need to help shape the conversation to help all students take control of their education to be ready to prosper as lifelong learners that can adapt alongside the changing world.

In every school, district and state across the country.

How are the children? Until the answer is, “all are well and thriving,” we have work to do.

At KnowledgeWorks, we believe in personalized learning not only for students, but also for educators and leaders. This belief is at the heart of our work to help school districts implement personalized, competency-based learning.