Preface
 

In the United States, elementary and secondary students do not measure up well when standing toe to toe with their international peers. But this isn’t breaking news. For decades, national oversight groups and independent ex-perts have been issuing data and reports like Nation at Risk (published in 1983 by the National Commission on Excellence in Education) and the U.S. Education Reform and National Security report (published by the Council on Foreign Rela-tions in 2012) that strongly decry the performance of U.S. schools.
 

The U.S. Department of Education (along with all 50 of the U.S. state de-partments of education and many private foundations) have poured billions of dollars into elementary and secondary educational reforms since the Russians launched Sputnik in the 1960s, yet U.S. public schools are still not meeting the educational needs of many of their students. Clearly, the current approaches to educational reform are failing.
 

This book explores why the current approaches are failing and what kind of approach is needed.  Specifically, we look at the existing education structure in the U.S. and how it needs to change to meet the current and near-future learning needs of students. We describe two aspects of education reform: what education systems should be like from preschool through high school, and how to help current systems transform themselves accordingly.

Chapter 1 explores the fundamental changes in society as the Industrial Age evolved to the Information Age and describes how the educational needs of students and communities have changed to accommodate this shift. This chapter points out that what is taught (the content) and how it is taught (the instructional methods) need to change. Yet perhaps more importantly, we pro-vide evidence that the fundamental structure of the U.S. education system has become obsolete — if not actually counterproductive to meeting the new edu-cational needs.
This chapter provides evidence that the current education system is structured to leave children behind and describes an alternative structure — that maximizes learning while lowering educational costs — to meet the new education needs of the Information Age.

 

Chapter 2 uses an analysis of key differences in society between the In-dustrial Age and the Information Age to present a vision of an educational sys-tem that can meet the educational and developmental needs of students and their communities in today’s world — in a way that’s more cost-effective than the current system. This chapter describes six core ideas to stimulate thinking about what is possible for education.
          1. An attainment-based system
          2. Learner-centered instruction:
          3. Expanded curriculum:
          4. Roles for students, teachers, and technology that support self-directed learning
          5. A nurturing school culture
          6. Decentralized organizational structures.
Furthermore, features of current education systems that are counterproduc-tive to student learning are identified. Finally, this chapter addresses the cost-effectiveness of the new system.

 

Chapter 3 highlights three examples out of hundreds of school systems that have already adopted the new kind of system that we envision in Chapter 2. These examples represent change at various levels of education — a single school, a school district, and an international school model — and describe how the three organizations use the six core ideas that are introduced in Chap-ter 2 along with evidence of each organization’s effectiveness. An appendix lists many similar school systems.
 

Chapter 4 outlines how to transform existing schools and design new schools to achieve the Information-Age education system on a small scale (in-dividual schools), medium scale (school districts), and large scale (state sys-tems). The chapter identifies principles of change that can help guide any transformation process, and it explores “open questions” that can influence the success of a transformation effort.
 

Chapter 5 proposes initiatives that the federal government can under-take to accelerate the transformation of school systems: supporting the devel-opment of a new kind of technological tool, piloting best practices, building states’ capacity to facilitate change, and advancing knowledge about the para-digm change process. A phased approach is recommended for each of these four initiatives.
 

There is a fairly detailed summary of key ideas at the end of each chapter.