In 2014

Several years ago, I was asked to share in writing what my hopes were for the coming calendar year. This visioning and reflection process quickly became an annual tradition. It’s always fun for me to look back to what I wrote the prior year to see if my hopes were realized. Some years I have written about challenges that lie ahead. Other years I have been more reflective of the challenges of the past. Last year I wrote about redesigning education, coupled with honoring history and adapting to the ever-changing world. Today, I propose we turn our attention to action and the challenge of nurturing tomorrow’s creative entrepreneurs.

In 2014, I hope that…

…we conquer the debate between high-stakes standardized testing and the development of creativity and entrepreneurship in our young adults. To be clear, I am all for accountability. We all must be held to high standards. But in the framework of standardization and conformity that is reflective of the Industrial Age, there is a disconnect with the multi-faceted dynamics required in today’s workplace. Perhaps the Montessori model of education, developed by Maria Montessori in 1897, is more relevant now than ever. Widely accepted but not uniformly adopted in public education, this model is characterized by mixed age classrooms, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and a constructivist or discovery model – all of which sound very unlike the standardization of education in the Industrial Age, but remarkably like the entrepreneurial spirit of the Information Age.

So, while last January I proposed that we talk together about truly redesigning education, today I propose action. Throughout the last year, we have experienced thought provoking conversations, sometimes even debates, through small group meetings, monthly Forums, and informal conversations. We have discussed how most of us were educated in a system that was created for a time that no longer exists. And we seem to be coming to consensus around the fact that the Information Age presents new challenges for us all.

To be frank, the transformation required from the Information Age is well underway within the classrooms at Alburnett. While not in every room or occurring every day, Alburnett staff has been given supportive “permission” to explore the possibilities of project-based and competency-based learning. And in the true spirit of creative and independent thinking that characterizes entrepreneurial thinking, they, meaning staff, are being encouraged to experiment with their ideas. We promise our community that within this exploration we will stay true to our responsibilities within the Common Core, meaning the core and very important concepts that our children need to learn. There will be no “tinkering” with foundational skill building. But beyond that, our mission is to help develop creative problem-solvers.

In summary, I recently read the following excerpt from Brian Caldwell, Professor for the University of Melbourne that perhaps sums it up best:

“The unrelenting focus on high-stakes testing, the narrowing of the curriculum, and the continuing faith in outdated models of schooling ensure that [schools] are short-changing students and weakening their societies and economies. The good news…is that there are outliers of preferred practice in schools around the world. The challenge is to provide schools with the autonomy to innovate with an entrepreneurial spirit and to resist the pressures for more centralized command-and-control approaches to change in schools.”

At Alburnett ~ Everything we do, we do because people matter, and with people as our focus, we provide an educational environment that challenges the status quo, provides a student-centered environment, and challenges through innovative and real-world experiences. Can we do this work together?

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About Dani Trimble

Superintendent of Schools Alburnett School District
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