At every turn schools in the United States are critiqued for not preparing students for real life occupations. Yet when the layers of schools are peeled back one will immediately discover that State and National funding is based upon student achievement on "standardized" testing. Standardization is the polar opposite to Innovation. Politicians hold the educational purse-strings and expect student outcomes but they know nothing of quality achievement. Raw data from multi-million dollar testing companies provides only a glimpse of true learning mastery. Students and Teachers must be given the same opportunities as those in the private sector: a work place without fear of failure; a sense that their achievements will result in advancement; and an opportunity to innovate.
Learning, regardless of family economic standing or intellectual prowess, comes directly from student engagement. Teachers are able to meet the needs of all learners through extensive lesson planning that incorporates differentiated approaches. This type of planning is not accomplished in hour or so and it's not done to a high level of mastery alone; it's done over many days (months and years) through collaboration with others. Google provides "20% Time" to its employees to innovate and collaborate; in most schools this would be known as "1% Time." What can be done to bring education more in line with a Google model?
Class time with students is a precious commodity. Taking instruction time away from students for teachers to gain innovative opportunities will not work. Therefore, utilizing 10-12 "paid" work days during the summer months could be a quality alternative or start. Per the Google model: the paid innovative-collaborative days must be provided as a choice not a directive. This work will inherently produce better student outcomes due to an emphasis on lesson planning focused upon engaged learning. Millionaire Education Foundations like those established by the Gates and Broad's have spent countless amounts of money already on failing efforts to change education rather than enhancing it. One would think that funding educational innovation in this manner might become their priority?
For the most part, American schools are the anti-theses to the Google model of successfully run companies. Key ingredients in the corporate world are building a sense of TEAM (Together Everyone Always Masters = ?) to empower their staff to be creative and then promote individuals from within based on their achievement. These attributes are null and void in the teaching profession. Educators are isolated from other colleagues in individual classrooms. Every opportunity that teachers get to work with other teachers is typically spent on how to prepare students for standardized tests. Teachers have no time to be creative or innovative because all their off-time is spent working one-on-one with students, correcting student work or meeting with staff about how to help individual students succeed. This is all good but there needs to "time" for educator creativity. Finally, educators have no hope of financial advancement except by way of more college courses or more years of service. Highly successful teachers with many years of experience need to be promoted from within their school and/or district to a roles of leadership.
If American Education wants to truly be a leader in the world it needs to change its structure and it needs to trust and learn from those that are in the trenches each and every day: the Students and Teachers. Lets not test our way to standardized mediocrity; Lets create and innovate our way to the top. Educational success in the 21st Century depends on promoting collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking. American education must learn from the past: don't fear innovation and creativity, embrace it.
Susan Adams. Why Promoting from Within Usually Beats Hiring from Outside. Forbes. April 2012.
Laura He. Google's Secrets to Innovation: Empowering its Employees. Forbes. March 2013.
Worlds Most Innovative Companies. Forbes.
Meghan M. Biro. 5Truths: Insourced Leaders Promote from Within. Forbes. July 2012.