School change: Would we rather fail conventionally than succeed unconventionally?

by Steve Wyckoff on April 23, 2010

You hear it all the time, “we need school change”, but as I watch school leaders grapple with what to do about declining resources, it has become clear to me that they would rather fail conventionally rather than succeed unconventionally. Over the last many weeks I have watched three panels discuss viable alternatives to what we have traditionally done in schools, each of which could provide substantial financial savings, and at the same time educate our children as well, or possibly even better.

The first panel discussed moving to a four-day school week. A compelling case was made for the advantages of a four-day school week. Yes, it took some adjustments on the part of educators and community alike, but the educators and community members all survived, and in fact would not abandon the four-day week unless forced to.

The second panel made up of past and present employees of the Erie school district discussed how they had redesigned the delivery model for education in their district. Specifically, they are migrating to a project-based learning approach. While most of their discussion centered around the dramatic improvement in learning on the part of the students, they also discussed the significant savings they can be incurred in a project-based learning system.

The third panel discussed virtual learning.Online learning has improved dramatically and is rapidly becoming a viable solution as an alternative to traditional education. While significant strides need to be made in figuring out how to more authentically engage students in virtual learning, virtual learning isn’t any less engaging than most of what goes on in our classrooms, and can lead to significant financial savings.

What all of these alternatives have in common is that they require leadership to actually lead the change process. As I watch this process it is clear that most superintendents have decided that the safest path forward is to simply do what everyone else is doing, hope that the legislature finds more money. When we are talking about school change I fear that educational leaders would rather fail conventionally rather than succeed unconventionally. It appears to be less politically risky. – Steve Wyckoff

Previous post:

Next post: