Friday, April 25, 2014

MBAE Study: "Unleash Greatness"

I am an educator that likes to stay abreast of current research as I study and plan for my students' program. That's why I took a look at the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) study, The New Opportunity to Lead, A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the next 20 years. I did a first read to look for information that might impact my teaching and learning now, and I'll do a second read soon with my eyes targeted on future growth and development.

The MBAE commissioned Sir Michael Barber and his colleagues at Brightlines to prepare a report that addressed two questions:  where does Massachusetts stand against the best educational systems in the world, and what would it take for Massachusetts to become the best in the world at educating students for informed citizenship and 21st Century productive employment. The study calls on policymakers to “unleash greatness.” 

This project was made possible with grants from the Barr Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

The study supports the development of students who can:
  • solve problems
  • employ critical thinking and judgement skills
  • collaborate
  • think academically and deliberate
  • create and think creatively
  • employ optimistic, can-do attitudes
  • demonstrate mastery

The study also points to Michael Fullen’s 6 C’s:
  1. character, 
  2. citizenship, 
  3. communication, 
  4. critical thinking and problem solving, 
  5. collaboration and teamwork, and 
  6. creativity and imagination

The report also notes the following shifts:
  • "For both teachers and students, the experience of the school day was no longer a treadmill."
  • ". . .students worked collaboratively on challenging problems that they had played a part in selecting. 
  • ". . .globally benchmarked standards in math and ELA were built into the students’ learning experience. ."
  • "Once home, students were able to keep learning, perhaps collaborating online on this week’s problem-solving exercise; and always be in touch with their virtual global network, which ensured each student had a friendship group that included at least three other students on two other continents."

In one section, survey results were shared that summarized the Employer's view:
  • “Standards based accountability has worked over the last 20 years. Now we need to focus on building student-centered education, with more technology to enable personalization and more experiences to consolidate learning and ‘make it relevant’ to kids.”
  • “We must figure out how to address the achievement gap for our urban students who are being failed by the public education system in large numbers.”
  • “The focus on testing this past decade has threatened the focus on creating lifelong learners and in some instances has dumbed down the curriculum. Differentiated instruction that challenges all students to stretch themselves academically is needed to compete with the rest of the world.”
  • “Public schools aren’t spending enough time teaching kids to problem-solve, think, and work with others collaboratively. They spend too much time having kids memorize facts and figures – and they are too focused on checking off the boxes they have delivered to the curriculum.”

I noted the report's emphasis on a systematic approach, and the acknowledgement that these shifts will require "major cultural change throughout the education system" as well as commitment to the task.

Further emphasis on ". . .capturing and sharing the most promising new practices, especially in relation to closing the achievement and opportunity gaps," and the promotion of new models of student-centered education with "demonstration models" at school and district levels provided information we can act on readily as we move forward in the days ahead.

Attention was given to the needs of gifted and talented students. It would be interesting to create a committee of students, parents, teachers, leaders, and community members to study this area of school life as it is an area of school that can profit from the view points and experiences of many with regard to program change and innovation, and in keeping with the report's support for a range of learning pathways, and a variety of assessments.

At first glance the report was encouraging as it supported many teaching and learning approaches and innovations that clearly engage, empower, and educate children well. There were other areas of the report that I want to consider with greater depth such as the ideas for teacher development (some which I agreed with and others that I thought were less developed with regard to true gains), unions (I want to see how the MTA responds to this report), and school structure.

What did you think of the report? What follow-up analyses did you find helpful as you read and reflected on the recommendations and vision? How will your school system respond to this report with respect to vision and goal setting? I look forward to the continued analysis, discussion, and debate.

The study's 2030 snapshot for elementary education. 
A chart from the study that I want to use as a guiding resource.