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An 'Arab Spring' for Education in the US

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

The latest round of education testing that is sweeping through middle schools and High Schools is PARCC/Common Core program, which is creating a heightened level of stress for students and parents, while introducing additional complexity and challenges for schools and their administrations to overcome.

So, I’m thinking about ways to engage the voice of the parents & students to create an “Arab Spring” for our Education (K-18). We need to take back control from the ‘state’ (all forms of government) so we deliver the right value for our kids. Value is in the form of the outcomes that they need to survive and thrive in an age of uncertainty  where the notion of career and employment are no longer based on how much we know, but whether we know how to use what we know. 

These Boards of Education are installed to enable the funding of the state and it’s confused agendas to allocate funds based on test-driven results. The problem is that the statisticians are defining meaningful results for students in the form of standardized tests. The plethora of tests are based on constantly shifting analytics, built by data scientists (increasingly) who are attempting to define success amidst a constantly shifting set of variables (which the parents and students both realize is not possible). They may (one day) arrive at the right set of predictive analytics to guide education, but I do not believe they are on the right path since they have not properly framed the problem. 

The age of fact-based memorization and testing has run it’s course. The explosive amount of information and data that our kids are expected to climb through is not possible through the methods of the early 1900s. We need to provide students with frameworks for enabling multi-dimensional thinking (critical, lateral, design, system, emotional) so they can navigate the expanse of data and information without the anxiety that is clearly overtaking them on many levels. 

So, how would we move forward if we could redirect the vast resources (money, time, and intellect) to reform our notion of education ?  We need to reframe our notion of success for education and reduce the complexity around all phases of the knowledge lifecycle. The issues facing students don’t stop when they arrive at a job in a company or embark on their own pursuits.  Yes, technology will need to play a role BUT only as an enabler for reducing the complexity (and accompanying anxiety) not as the “solution de jour” as it’s being used today. Same issues are plaguing healthcare (just look at how poorly the EHR (electronic health record) has been implemented. This is life and death information and it’s another failed attempt where technology was thrown upon the problem without properly framing the solution.  We can’t afford to let the technologists (and data scientists) run the tables on our kids while they “discover” what will work and what won’t work. It is irresponsible to play with the investments in our future in this manner. (I can tell you that the large financial institutions would not allow it so neither should the parents).

Before we can get started, we still need to find a way to effect change in a peaceful manner by changing the way education is funded and managed. We need an 'Arab Spring' collective to be formed as a first step.

Who's up to the challenge ?


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