Kindergarteners building computer programs? Kids in Big Stone Gap joining in a Loudoun teacher’s lecture from 400 miles away? Students being pushed out of the classroom and into the workplace?
Those are among the educational transformations afoot following a decades-long push for rote teach-to-test standardization. The focus on mandating students to meet minimum standards offers an unlikely formula for success in the rapidly transforming global workplace, if it ever did.
Compared to other jurisdictions, Loudoun schools may be far better funded and far closer to the leading edge of innovation, but even here the adaptations have been unable to keep pace with the changes in marketplace demands. That pace of change is only increasing.
The challenge we now face—the realization that the jobs our children or grandchildren will hold haven’t been invented yet—was not even a conceptual concern during prior generations. Today’s students may be better suited for adaptation than their teachers. Virtually wired from birth, they are tech-savvy and have grown up in a world of endless finger-tip information. Traditional curricula are not well-suited to build on those assets.
Emerging conversations among education leaders about incorporating internships and apprenticeships, and increasing distance learning opportunities that make better use of existing educational resources are clear improvements that will allow students to hone their skills and more quickly address the needs of future employers—or to create some of the jobs that have yet to be conceived.
It’s not just educators who must lead that effort. Businesses have a role as well. They are on the front lines of the market innovations and should have a seat at the table.
As big as the challenge ahead may be, it is refreshing to hear national and state leaders begin to deemphasize test score rankings and begin to focus on what students really need to learn and to thrive.