Rethinking the 21st Century Learning Environment

I wanted to refer my readers to a white paper recently published by Rick Hess, a notable public policy researcher in the area of education reform.   I don’t always agree with Rick’s point of view; however, I find his perspective to be very intellectual, pragmatic, and well-articulated.   The paper is titled:  From School Choice to Educational Choice.

For public education reform to be successful, everyone must stop thinking about school in traditional stereotypes.  Mr. Hess highlights three key points in his paper:

  • The “whole school” approach to education reform has made it difficult for specialty education providers to get past bureaucratic rules and offer their services to parents, students, and teachers.
  • “Unbundling” education means offering students an assortment of services instead of an indivisible package of “education.” Such services could be packaged and customized to fit specific student needs and abilities.
  • Virtual schooling and customized educational tools are breaking the whole-school model. Consumers need information on their choices as well as funding options that allow them to choose customized services.

We must ensure that all stakeholders (parents, educators, politicians, etc.) stop thinking about “school” and start thinking about “learning.”  If we start redefining the business we’re in (to take a corporate analogy), maybe our public ed ucation system can survive, and not face the same fate that the railroad industry experienced when it failed to recognize it was in the “transportation” business, not the “railroad” business.

What I liked about this paper was that it seeks to shift the premise behind the “school choice” movement.   We need to stop thinking about changing schools and start thinking about changing “learning environments.”   Once this re-framing is successful, then perhaps the education system stands a chance of being systemically reformed.  


Fingers crossed.

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