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The Education Playbook

It’s time to raise the level of education debate in this country. It’s time to discuss how to best educate our students for life beyond high school as they enter an ever-changing, increasingly innovative, interconnected workforce where many of their future jobs have yet to be created.

It’s time to think forward. It’s time to close achievement gaps and help all students succeed. It’s time for America’s students to once again compete on an international stage.

And it’s time we ask our leaders to rise to the challenge.

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We know we aren’t the only people craving a deeper education debate. We realize the need to ask the right questions. And a presidential campaign provides a perfect platform to imagine a new vision for education for our country.

The following visions and actionable recommendations will help transform the education system by advocating for and ensuring all students have access to high-quality learning that prepares them for the jobs of tomorrow.

The reason for this shift is clear: To move the country forward, we must make sure our education system is keeping with the times and preparing all students for success.

We talked with hundreds of teachers, administrators, district leaders, non-profit organizations, state education agencies and policymakers. We listened to parents and community members. We conducted research and consulted our education futurists about what learning may look like in 2025.

The reason for this shift is clear: We are already behind. Our conversations can no longer be about keeping up. We must focus on getting ahead.

We must make sure our education system is keeping with the times and preparing all students for success.

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One size does not fit all. Engage students and personalize learning. Tweet this

Our jeans are not one-size-fits-all. Why should learning be?

If we personalize learning, we allow all students to learn based on their unique skills, interests and readiness. Growing numbers of school districts, administrators and teachers are interested— but federal policy traditionally has stood in the way.

Personalized Learning

Fortunately, through the most recent Every Student Succeeds Act, there is now some flexibility for states to apply to the U.S. Department of Education to build personalized education systems. Our next president must continue supporting forward-thinking states and districts that innovate to best support students.

We recommend

the federal government continue to provide flexibility to help states innovate and districts build personalized learning environments that put all students at the center of their own education.

When states receive flexibility from federal policy barriers, they have space to innovate. If states have flexibility, districts will also have room to personalize learning for students in their communities. The U.S. Department of Education can partner with states by defining and monitoring quality while also helping scale state practices proven to meet and exceed guidelines for student success.

  • For example: In spring 2015, New Hampshire received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to pilot a new assessment system. The innovative performance-based assessments are not traditional high-stakes, end-of-year tests, but instead check in to see how students are progressing throughout the year. Plus, they are locally developed and aligned to state standards. Because of this flexibility, competency-based education – one form of personalized learning – is a reality for New Hampshire students.

It takes the entire community. Let students learn outside the classroom. Tweet this

Students learn in different ways, at different speeds, and through different means. By involving the entire community in the learning process, students would be able to learn and earn credit outside the classroom — in museums, at the library, in parks or with local organizations.

Digital Registry of High-Quality Learning Opportunities Aligned to Standards

But to define, measure and track these experiences, states and school districts need a way to ensure students are truly benefiting from these nontraditional educational opportunities. Learning experiences need to be aligned to state standards to help prepare students for postsecondary opportunities and the workforce.

We recommend

the federal government provide start-up funding to help states establish digital databases of high-quality informal and formal learning experiences.

As part of this process, states would partner with local businesses, community colleges, trade schools and universities to identify local learning experiences aligned not only to state standards and competencies, but also to college- and career-ready outcomes.

Check this out: City of Learning in Pittsburgh is creating educational experiences for students throughout town. What is Pittsburgh City of Learning?
What is Pittsburgh City of Learning?

Raise educators to a valued profession. Being a teacher shouldn’t suck. Tweet this

Teachers are the most important part in preparing students for an ever-changing, innovative workforce. But with never-ending hoops to jump through, and preparation and professional development that focus on an outdated system, our talented educators are sometimes exhausted after only a few years in the classroom.

Imagine, instead, if we empowered teachers with the resources needed to continue learning and growing for a new system that not only personalizes learning for students, but also focuses on valuing every educator’s effort and contribution to student success.

Just as STEM skills and careers are highly valued, so should being an educator.
Digital Registry of High-Quality Learning Opportunities Aligned to Standards

We recommend

the federal government work with states, colleges, universities, alternative certification programs and school districts to encourage more future educators to pursue their dreams. We can do this at all levels of the system:

  • States should update certification processes to ensure teachers are prepared for new learning approaches, such as personalized education.
  • • Colleges, universities and alternative certification programs should design more flexible, personalized training programs that align to new state certification requirements. These updated programs would also personalize learning for teachers, as we hope to do for students.
  • Throughout the country, there are already examples of school employees working to coordinate community resources for teachers, mentor students and parents in choosing the right educational path, and organize hands-on learning through community gardens and food banks. School districts should embrace and create more of these non-traditional educator roles to more fully support students and teachers.
Within the first 5 years of teaching, nearly 1 out of 5 new teachers will transfer to a new school or leave the profession altogether.

Nearly 1/5 new teachers will transfer or leave the profession altogether within their first 5 years.(1)

Laying the Foundation for Competency Education
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College is expensive. FAFSA should be more than a five-letter word. Tweet this

So far, presidential debates have covered community college access and the ever-growing amount of student debt. But, the college conversation doesn’t go far enough.

The truth is: today’s typical college students aren’t only the recent high-school grads who register for a full course load. More and more college goers are working, raising a family or returning to school later in life as a first-step in a career change. And a growing number of younger students – in middle and high school – are taking college courses to get a jump start on their degrees.

College is expensive. FAFSA should be more than a five-letter word.

But current financial aid, federal loans and grants aren’t as easily available to non-traditional students, creating barriers for learners that are nearly impossible to break through.

We recommend

the federal government overhaul current financial aid and rebuild a new system that reflects the nation’s true college-going population. Students, both younger and older than traditional college-aged students, should be able to access federal financial aid based on learning and financial needs, rather than arbitrary guidelines around credit hours.

Under this approach, our country would empower its citizens to be lifelong learners.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) = the form used to determine the amount of money a family is expected to contribute to the price of attending a post-secondary institution.

Only about 1/3 college undergrads are considered 'traditional' students.

Only about 1/3 college undergrads are considered 'traditional' students.(2)

Technology is getting smarter. Ed tech needs to innovate faster. Tweet this

It’s no secret that our technology is getting smarter with algorithms, artificial intelligence and encryption. Technology is revolutionizing lives and making certain tasks much more efficient (consider iTunes, Uber, SmartHome and Amazon, just to name a few).

But education technology is outdated, continuing to fall further and further behind other sectors. Imagine if we used the same technological advances to ease important, but tedious, daily tasks for teachers and administrators, such as attendance. Imagine if we could maximize advances from Silicon Valley to accelerate learning.

Technology is getting smarter. Ed tech needs to innovate faster.

We recommend

a federal design challenge, of sorts. By applying innovation and entrepreneurship, a grant program would encourage promising ideas in education technology and build a research base of best practices.

We should reach beyond simply digitizing textbooks and using more smart boards and tablets. This competition would spur innovators to create, justify and test new technology-based approaches to teaching and learning. And by also including schools and educators in the design process, we could see what really works for students.

Nearly 1 in 4 school districts don’t meet the minimum Internet access goal, leaving 21 million students without adequate connection.

Nearly 1 in 4 school districts don’t meet the minimum Internet access goal, leaving 21 million students without adequate connection.

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What is personalized learning?

Personalized learning is a teaching and learning framework in which:

  • Instruction is aligned to rigorous college- and career-ready standards, and the social and emotional skills students need to be successful in college and career;
  • Instruction is customized, allowing each student to design learning experiences aligned to his or her interests;
  • The pace of instruction is varied based on individual student needs, allowing students to accelerate or take additional time based on their level of mastery;
  • Educators use data from formative assessments and student feedback in real-time to differentiate instruction and provide robust supports and interventions so that every student remains on track to graduation; and
  • Students and parents have access to clear, transferable learning objectives and assessment results so they understand what is expected for mastery and advancement.

What is competency education?

Competency Education is defined by the following elements(3):

  • Students advance upon mastery, not seat time.
  • Competencies include explicit, measurable, transferable learning objectives that empower students.
  • Assessment is meaningful and a positive learning experience for students.
  • Students receive timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs.
  • Learning outcomes emphasize competencies that include application and creation of knowledge, along with the development of important skills and dispositions.
  • By integrating all five elements, high quality competency education ensures that each student graduates with the knowledge and skills he or she needs to be successful in college and career.

(1) National Center for Education Statistics

(2)U.S. Department of Education, 2012

(3) Patrick, S. and Sturgis, C. Necessary for Success: Building Mastery of World-Class Skills. A CompetencyWorks Issue Brief, International Association for K-12 Online Learning (2013)