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Encouraging Innovation in Our Schools: The Nation's Governors Step Up for Education

| Diane Demee-Benoit

The nation's governors, who met in Washington, DC, in February, voiced their support for educating our students for a globally competitive world. Here's what the recent National Governors Association newsletter reported.

"A central focus of the meeting was NGA chair and Arizona governor Janet Napolitano's Innovation America initiative. A recent survey conducted for the NGA found most Americans believe the nation's governors should lead the way in encouraging innovation in our schools and the economy.

"Governors welcome the charge, but they also recognize they face a great challenge in preparing students and workers for increasing globalization and international competition. During the meeting, governors focused on enhancing our competitive capacity by strengthening science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, making worker training more flexible and applicable to regional needs, and creating incentives to encourage states to develop regional hubs that build on existing strengths.

"Governors concluded the meeting by reaffirming their commitment to creating highly skilled students and workers, higher-paying jobs, and a more vibrant economy."

The Innovation America initiative talks about increasing student proficiency in STEM. We've been hearing that for some time. But then it goes on to say something about "modernizing the teaching force, benchmarking academic standards, and aligning assessments and creating new models for math and science education."

As part of this initiative, the NGA has assembled a bipartisan task force made up of governors, business leaders, and university presidents. (What! No K-12 education teachers, administrators, researchers, students?) If you were on this task force,

  • how would you envision a modern teaching force?
  • what would twenty-first-century STEM teaching and learning look like?
  • what would you say?
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Walt Heinecke (not verified)

Once again, the policy makers

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Once again, the policy makers have it wrong. How can you gather policymakers to discuss innovation in education without teachers and their professional associations? This is the same mistake made ny NCEE, and NCLB designers. Education is not soley about preparation for the workplace o9r global cometitoon. We also want to promote life long learning, the development of active citizens and public service, caring human beings, and democratic critical thinkers. First order of business is to expand the scope of participation and include teachers and their professional associations such as NCTM, NCEE, NCSS, NSTA, and their teacher education counterparts, etc. These are the standards that should form the basis for benchmarks. There is an excellent blueprint for educational innovation and it has been around since 2001. It is called How People Learn by Bransfrord, Brown & Cocking (National Research Council, 2001). Policymakers have been ignoring it for years. If I were on this taskforce I would focus the taskforce on this volume and use it as a guide for developing policies. First policy would be the development of a National How People Learn Innovation Center with a budget and staff. I would charge them with coordinating inititatives at all levels of the educational system to change teaching and learning and schools in the direction of the HPL framework. Teachers would be trained in learner-centered, content-centered, assessment-centered, and commuity-centered appraches. They would be trained in content-specific methods of technology-enhanced instruction. Teachers would be trained to use technology to teach in ways that they could not without the technology. Teachers would be professionalized and would work an extra month to learn and apply new HPL and technology-enhanced approaches. They would be trained in teacher education programs that focus on pedagogical content knowledge, technology and digital-video enhanced micro-teaching approaches. They would be trained in collaborative professional development strategies such as the 2+2 (Allen & Allen, 2005) model. The Task force would direct the new center to develop a small set of HPL New American Design Schools and these schools would be released from the regressive NCLB/State accountability policy strictures that are constraining innovation. These schools would be led by principals versed in the Learner-Centered Leadership model (Danzig et al, 2007). They would be free from NCLB and state accountability testing requirements. They would focus on real-world, problem-based learning and would be assessed with a combination of traditional assessments, performance-based assessments, and portfolio-based assessments. These schools would have access to adequate technology and support. New professional development models in which teachers supported each other wouldbe implemented. One would then backward map policies to support these types of schools. Teachers would receive inservice professional development using innovative models and approaches specified by national content-area professional associations (e.g., NCSS, NCTM, NSTA, ect.)
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Diane Demee-Benoit Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia