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Aurora Institute

GS Essay Contest for Innovation in US Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

If you haven’t seen it, Goldman Sachs is hosting an essay contest highlighting ideas to boost innovation in U.S. education.

Essays have run the gamut from “birth to three education” to “unified reform theory”.

Take a look at the finalists:

1) Community Schools

2) Focal Points for 21st Century Education Reform

3) Schools for the Future

Both #2 and #3 (author names are not public) touch upon what I and a growing number of others around the country feel is the most important change necessary for our schools to serve teachers and students in highly personalized environments based not on age or time in a chair, but rather understanding and demonstration: competency-based programs.

Competency (or mastery) allows students to learn at their own pace and “show what they know”. It also allows teachers and schools to educate children as individuals and know exactly where they are along the learning continuum at all times.

That’s the real game-changer.

To show my hand a bit here, while both #2 and #3 focus on mastery, #3, Schools for the Future, is unique among the finalists in its honest take on policy barriers. #1 and #2 outline nice system designs but don’t acknowledge the incredible uphill climb their recommendations would face on the way to implementation.

Entrenched policies are the greatest obstacle to education reform, and any plan to shake up the status quo must incorporate this fact into its transformative roadmap.

With John Danner, Michael Horn, Deborah Stipek, and Randi Weingarten counted among the  judges, you can be sure there were some interesting conversations leading up to the finalists.

Now it’s up to the public. The voting period ends today (3/28). Take a look and see if you are moved to support one:

Contest site