New models of instruction and competency- based learning will ensure student success
Over the past four years, President Obama has used both his policy and his pulpit in Washington to support education reform at a level that rivals many of his predecessors. He has allowed Administration leaders such as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement, and Karen Cator, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, the freedom to develop, fund, and promote programs that reward states for making dramatic alterations to their education landscapes. And tonight, he again impressed upon Congress that our students and our country must be better prepared to compete in the developing 21st century workplace if we are to rise above our current economic state and enter into a trajectory of growth.
Unfortunately, as with too many leaders in Washington and in the states, the prescription offered by the President this evening does not go far enough to address the challenges our schools face with respect to reaching all students where and how they learn throughout their academic career. The demands of a 21st century world cannot be addressed merely by tweaking a 19th century education delivery system. Teaching the ‘vast middle’ of American schoolchildren in a time-based system – counting hours in a seat with swiss cheese-like holes in their knowledge evident through skills gaps – is no longer acceptable.
Innovators working on the development of competency-based, online, and blended learning models must be put both in the spotlight and under a magnifying glass to determine emerging best practices if we are to make certain our schools reach and teach every student on their own learning edge so they might reach their full potential and the United States can move beyond our agrarian roots and truly enter the 21st century.
In an era where Yelp determines where we eat dinner and social networks deliver our news, it is unconscionable that we largely ignore the power, efficiency, and accessibility of technology in the hands of great teachers to personalize the education of each student – anytime, anyplace, and at any pace – making data on individual student needs easily accessible for supporting each student’s individual growth. Transcripts and diplomas can and should evidence what a student knows and can do. The global economy requires us to focus on measuring student learning outcomes through competencies and demonstrated skills.
Success is the only option. We can no longer allow kids to pass along with gaping holes in knowledge and skills. The moral imperative of our public school system must move beyond a mandate of teaching all students using a single lesson plan to one of expanding resources and personalizing education for the purpose of reaching and providing all students with world-class knowledge and skills if we are to realize the potential of this generation and those to come.
Every student, regardless of geography, economy, or demography, can and should have access to a world-class education. President Obama was right to say that we must re-imagine our schools if we are to retain our leadership in an increasingly global community. One-size-fits-all schooling utilizing an outdated factory model continues to be the greatest barrier to our – and our students’ – ultimate success as technology redefines our workforce. Personalizing learning and creating competency-based education systems will allow us to ensure real, measurable student achievement now and into the future.