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Aurora Institute

Current to Future State: A Vision for a Future, Student-Centered K-12 Education System

Education Domain Blog

Authors: Dale Frost, Maria Worthen, Natalie Truong

Issues: State Policy, Redefine Student Success, Create Meaningful Qualifications, Develop Educator Capacity, Issues in Practice


In our last blog post, we introduced the threshold concepts we need to understand to embrace a vision of transformation to a future education system that can truly prepare every student for success.

The threshold concepts are:

  • Certifying learning;
  • Assessment literacy;
  • Pedagogical innovations based on learning sciences; and
  • Meeting students where they are.

In this blog post, we are going to discuss our vision for the future transformation of K-12 education, long-term policy issues and changes needed, and identify action steps for policymakers to catalyze the transformation from the current state to the future state.

Towards a Shared Vision for Transformation

Transforming education systems to student-centered learning will not be easy or simple. It will require sustained support, effort and focus over the long-term. Without a long game plan and a vision of transformation shared broadly across stakeholders within a state, any efforts to transform education systems will likely result in only marginal changes, tweaks or minor improvements to pieces of the current system.

It is time to build K-12 education systems based on the core principle that all students can succeed and be prepared for flourishing in the next steps in their learning, the workforce and life.

State policymakers can catalyze this transformational change by:

  • Partnering with stakeholders to craft a vision for the purpose and future of their education systems;
  • Creating space and supports for competency-based, personalized learning models designed with equity in mind; and
  • Building systems for developing the capacity of educators and school leaders to transform learning environments to meet the needs of every student.  

All three of these elements, addressed in a coherent manner, are essential to continuous improvement over time.

State leaders should partner with local educators, stakeholders and communities to create and support a new vision of transformation to student-centered learning because they will have:

  • The best understanding of what their communities need;
  • The biggest stake in the success of the vision; and
  • The responsibility of implementing the required changes and reforms.

It is our belief that the success of a long-range strategy towards an education system where all students can be successful will largely be determined by the extent to which the process engages the educators and leaders who implement new learning models, and the families and communities whose students have the most at stake.

It is particularly important that the views and perspectives of organizations looking out for students from marginalized groups, those students who have been least well served by the traditional education system, are included and respected in developing the vision and the strategy for the transformation to student-centered learning.

A Vision for an Education System that Helps All Students Succeed

What are the essential elements of a system capable of preparing all students to succeed in higher education, flourish in a 21st century workplace and participate effectively as citizens?

Equity must be at the forefront of the future system. We must ensure no student falls through the cracks because of circumstance or background. The goal is to help every student to become a lifelong learner possessing all necessary academic knowledge and skills, habits of success, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills, as well as social-emotional and self-regulatory skills, empowering and supporting them to thrive and succeed.

In the future state of K-12 education, we envision a system that:

  • Is based on a shared belief that every student can and will succeed, reaching high standards, when systems are student-centered, providing the right supports, at the right time, personalized to each student’s unique interests, needs and strengths;
  • Creates instructional systems based on the research on how students learn best;
  • Empowers educators to build personalized, competency-based learning environments, including assessment literacy to exercise professional judgment of student work to consistent high standards;
  • Certifies qualifications, degrees and credentials that are meaningful, awarded based on mastery of the competencies required to succeed; and
  • Is based on a growth mindset, with system goals and policies that are fit for purpose and align to the change we need over time, through continuous improvement of student learning, building capacity in educator practice and supporting all learners.

This is the vision for the future state of education, designed for equity, capable of preparing every student for success.

Issues to Tackle

How can policymakers support a vision of transformation to personalized, competency-based education to help all students to succeed? What are the policy issues to tackle to make this vision a reality?

In Fit for Purpose: Taking the Long View on Systems Change and Policy to Support Competency Education, we highlighted five issues to tackle as part of a long-range strategy for transformation to personalized, competency-based learning systems:

  • Redefining success;
  • Meaningful qualifications;
  • Accountability as continuous improvement;
  • Building educator workforce and professional judgment; and
  • Building capacity to lead change.

In December, iNACOL will publish a new report titled, Current to Future State: A Compendium of Issues and Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning. The report will explore each issue to tackle and identify the action steps policymakers can take to address the issue. Together, these action steps constitute a roadmap for state policymakers to catalyze transformational change in K-12 education towards a future state where each student has the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in higher education, the workplace and civic life.

This is the second article in the Current to Future State series. The following blog posts will highlight each of these issues to tackle and action steps needed to make a reality the vision of a future education system, capable of preparing every student for success. A deeper analysis of the issues will then be released in the upcoming report: Current to Future State: A Compendium of Issues and Action Steps for State Policy to Support Personalized, Competency-Based Learning.

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