Education, KnowledgeWorks and the Future of Learning with Steve Dackin

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Topics: Early College High School, Education Policy, ESSA

Guest post by Mary Tighe

Steve Dackin joined the KnowledgeWorks Board of Directors in March, bringing to the table experience in improving student achievement throughout the preschool to college educational continuum.

As former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools in Ohio, he has experience working with KnowledgeWorks and a local early college high school. He also worked with KnowledgeWorks to implement STEM education curriculum in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms in Reynoldsburg. Today, Steve serves as superintendent of schools and community partnerships at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio.

We asked Steve a few questions about education, KnowledgeWorks and his goals for the future.


Why did you decide to join the KnowledgeWorks Board of Directors?

When presented with the opportunity to join the board, there was no hesitation in accepting.  KnowledgeWorks has been a leadership staple in the educational landscape for decades. My familiarity with the organization dates back to 2001 when I served as the Interim Director of the Office of Regional School Improvement Services with the Ohio Department of Education. I worked closely with KnowledgeWorks as they implemented the Ohio High School Transformation Initiative as well as their work on Early College.

It was during this time that I learned about the value of the organization and the impact their work had on education in this state. During my tenure as the Reynoldsburg City Schools superintendent, I saw, first-hand, the quality professional training and curriculum development of the KnowledgeWorks’ staff as they worked side-by-side our principals and teachers to develop our STEM programming. Being a part of an organization so highly regarded is both humbling and an honor.

Why are you passionate about this work?

It’s about steve-dackin-quote-2 >difference-making. There are few things I can think of that rival the importance of educating our youth. In the information economy, it will be critical to ensure that we prepare our young people in such a way to fully enjoy the fruits of a productive life. We will only be successful to that end, if we have the collective will to leverage our resources in such a way as to ensure that ALL children have access to a great school.

What does education in the future look like to you?

I have often remarked, that school is no longer a noun, but rather it is a verb. In my day, in order to learn, one had to literally travel to a place (library, school, etc.) or visit with a person to access knowledge. Today, technology affords us an opportunity to make learning truly a ubiquitous endeavor. This doesn’t remove the importance of adults working with young people, but rather puts a premium on a different kind of interaction that will contribute to their learning.

Perhaps, in the future, for our older students, there will be more of a “brokerage/advocacy” interaction between students and adults. In that system, adults would assist students in customizing an educational plan, which includes a significant work-based learning component, aligned to their personal aspirations. Students would demonstrate competency through an accumulation of credentials that are recognized and embraced by the workplace. An ambitious goal of our system would be to assist ALL young people to “find their way” and to ensure they have the capability of providing value (goods and/or services to make a living wage) and to be contributing members of our society.

What are your hopes for KnowledgeWorks?

I would like for the organization to continue to be dynamic and responsive to the evolving nature of the educational landscape. KnowledgeWorks has a demonstrated history of being at the forefront of the next change by contributing to the literature, working with schools, and providing leadership in important policy decision-making. I hope, in some small way, I can contribute to that legacy.

What, in your opinion, is the most important issue in education today?

We need to develop a collective urgency to address the increasingly complex and evolving state of our educational system. In large measure, the system we have is performing better than ever; however, the needs of our society have changed.

steve-dackin-quote-1 We need a system that ensures ALL students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to compete in a global economy. Today, too few children are reading at or above grade level. Too few children are competent in numeracy. Too few students graduate from high school with the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful.

Our system is monolithic, slow to respond to the rapid changes in the knowledge base of our culture. Incredibly, we have an abundance of caring, committed adults who desperately want to be the difference that they seek, yet they often find themselves trapped in a system that inhibit their talents to help children to reach their fullest potential. We must be willing to transform our system to respond the new realities that we face.  In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the country to be the first to reach the moon. That challenge unleashed an unparalleled investment of resources and political capital to accomplish the goal. If we have the will, we can do better. Our children deserve better.

Read more about the KnowledgeWorks Board of Directors.