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Aurora Institute

The Work of Transforming K-12 Education

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Lead Change and Innovation

Our education leaders need:

  • Political courage and a will to change.
  • Knowledge and skills to lead.
  • Educational innovation.

There are implications for systemic changes that must be addressed if we are to transform the education system in America from one of sorting and labeling, to one where deep learning and discovery are available to all students.

This is the orientation of learner-centered models, and it is indeed a radical departure from the industrial-age school model that dominates most schools today.

Schools all over the world have implemented these “stage, not age” approaches for learners, but the United States struggles due to education policy that assumes age-based groupings.

This work is not about meeting the demands of an efficiency-oriented accountability system for its own sake; it’s about ensuring all learners have equitable access to learning opportunities that foster agency and prepare them for life in the world.

We must do this because we recognize that our country’s economic, political and civic engines depend upon a strong, adaptable and capable citizenry, and that our schools play a central, democratic function toward this end.

The economy is changing rapidly and the future of jobs require people to have a strong capability to take agency and learn how to learn new skills and develop aptitudes that are largely absent from our content-focused curricula. Literacy and numeracy are necessary but no longer sufficient. A system designed with content acquisition as its main goal is outdated in the modern world. If we’re serious about public education in this nation, we have to make sure all students gain essential skills, mindsets, and practices that will not be rendered redundant in the near future.

It is critical to transform K-12 education toward a system that is fit for the overall purpose of public education in the 21st century: for all students to graduate high school with the academic, core competencies and lifelong learning skills to be leaders in their communities and agents of their own success — whether in college, career, future workforce and our communities — as well as navigate the opportunities and uncertainties they will encounter in their lives.

Our society is changing very fast and we have to adapt to these changes.

The traditional, one-size-fits-all system of K-12 education is simply not designed to produce the goals our children, communities and nation need and deserve. Communities across the nation are coming together and asking important questions about the purpose of K-12 education today, and developing richer, deeper, more meaningful definitions of student success that give their students the skills and dispositions they need to flourish in a rapidly changing, globalized world – which must focus on adaptability and lifelong learning.