A few weeks ago, I wrote a very pessimistic blog post that questioned the sanity of introducing the "Race To The Top" fund, which was a bold, aggressive push to tie $4.5 billion of education funding towards adoption of big, potentially controversial strategies for education reform. While I applaud its intentions, my perspective was molded by the probability that the intense public pressure and complex application requirements would overwhelm the thin, already-overburdened school infrastructure. In fact, the Gates Foundation has supposedly provided a very large chunk of change to the states in which it has provided previous grants, so that these states can hire consultants to help them complete the required paperwork.
Will the states follow the lead of this bold, aggressive approach and respond with similarly perceived tactical plans? If they need a crutch, I strongly recommend they work with the Innosight Institute, a think tank powered by the authors of the "education reformers bible", called Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change The Way The World Learns. In a recent article, the book's authors outline a prescription plan for how to use these scarce funds. Here are a few tactics which resemble some of the concepts I presented in my 4-part treatise for Reinventing Education (see previous posts on my blog).
- Standards & Assessments: an aggressive push towards a nation-wide set of academic standards which will help stimulate innovation in the online learning market. In addition, the standards should be measureable, specifiable and predictable to aid student-centered learning.
- Teacher Effectiveness: Increase student access to the very best teachers through online offerings that transcend geographic boundaries.
- Data Collection: Creative and improving methods for measuring student progress
- Struggling Students & Schools: encourage and incentivize use of online learning options
- Fine-tuning the Race to the Top: consider relaxing use of financial incentives to use of student achievement data by teachers.
There is much insight in this article and I highly recommend you read this wonderfully written article.
If government officials, educators and parents follow just some of the suggestions from the diverse set of "out-of-the-box" thought leaders on the cutting edge of change, then I believe the Department of Education's ambitious plan might yield some positive results where they are sorely needed.