It’s Time for a Fundamental Restructuring of… Education (Part 1)

I know it isn’t the main topic in the blogosphere right now and that it isn’t getting hours of airplay on the 24/7 news channels. Heck, I don’t even think it is the topic around the [now virtual] watercolor at all. But it should be. As our education system takes it agrarian-era imposed break and educators start using “summer words” (this is code for coarse language), and start publicly drinking (where allowed), questions of what a post-quarantine school year look like are starting to be thought of or at least worried about.

First, let me back up and provide a bit of historical information. My career started in education. For the first several years of my career and even prior to the “official” start at our local county school system, I worked as a Technology Trainer, a Network Engineer/Manager, a Technology Support Specialist and a Technology Installer. I was fortunate enough to be a educator for educators around the use of technology in the classroom and where applicable in curriculum all the way to sponsoring and implementing technology to support 1:1 computing initiatives in one of the largest school systems in the Southeast United States. For those educators who would say, “you just don’t get what I go through,” I would say, “yes, I do.” This isn’t stated to make you stand in awe of me but just to say that I have been in your classrooms, in your offices, in your facilities, in your planning meetings, in your continuing education classes, in your conferences.

With that being said, I can say without hesitation that the primary and secondary education system in the United States specifically around the way that education is delivered needs an overhaul, no it needs its own Agile Transformation.

A System that needs to embrace distribution and autonomy

COVID brought out a lot of challenges with how we do instruction, but to me one of the greatest challenges that was exposed with the reliance on a central group of decision makers as to how to go forward. Yes, there was some more state-level decisions around the actual facilities, closings, etc. but for the most part the Department of Education sets guidelines and standards. Again, some systems have decided to work around certain regulations by establishing themselves as “Charter Schools” or “Charter Systems” like our local city school system, but regulation is based on and enforces certain testing outcomes and demographic based outcomes. Because of this, local school systems in rural Georgia must effectively look and act the same for the most part as Los Angeles.

Just as the best agile teams have autonomy based on a number of factors, school systems should be able to have autonomy to accomplish the best goals representing their population. Just as agile teams really cannot compare velocity, school systems (even schools in the same district) should not be compared on antiquated measurements and metrics. Each district should identify what outcomes they want to see for their economy, population, and demographics, and then build the right measurements that measure qualitative and quantitative outcomes. This concept of autonomy not only accepts that this is needed due to distribution, but embraces and build the fact in. If students in a certain area need more daylight due to crops in the spring or another needs to go later in the day because of working parents, why do we expect a forcing of standards will be a good thing? Embrace distribution, embrace autonomy, and then set a set of lightweight guardrails to be able to maintain educational reciprocity.

So what’s next?

As we continue this series, we will start to focus on another three elements or ideas that should be considered for an educational agile transformation :

  • A System that requires an injection of humility and understanding
  • A System that needs to eliminate waste
  • A System that needs to empower empiricism and innovation

Hopefully these ideas and elements will get the conversation rolling on the “systematic” changes needed in education.

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