“Education in the United States and around the world is at an important crossroads.”

In their new white paper, 10 Principles For Schools of Modern Learning: The Urgent Case for Reimagining Today’s Schools, authors and ModernLearner.com co-founders Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon make a compelling case for educators and schools to immediately begin the work of reimagining education, sharing the growing evidence that our traditional education model no longer serves our students’ needs.

We discuss in our GenDIY series how success in the future will depend on one’s ability to learn and learn quickly, not on an accumulation of knowledge. With the rising gig economy and the growing automation of jobs, education needs to shift focus on developing students as learners rather than fact retainers.

The authors agree with this, and further state that the modern learner’s newfound capability to take full control of their learning is the “educational shift of our times.” However, our schools have not made the foundational shift needed to support this new role. Even with all of the new technology in classrooms, the foundation of learning is still the same–and is beginning to crumble under the strain.

Richardson and Dixon believe 2017 is a critical year for schools to implement change rather than just discuss the need for it. It’s imperative we shift from a focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness, as well as a focus on revising instead of completely rewriting (or as the authors say, “i.e., trying to do the wrong thing righter”).

The current model is putting our children’s futures at-risk for failure, which has really already begun considering some of the facts presented by the authors:

  • Students report widespread disengagement at school, with only 32% saying they are “involved and enthusiastic” about school. (Gallup)
  • Student debt is at critical levels, at a time when the college degree is no longer a ticket to the middle class. (Boston Review)
  • Despite rising graduation rates, research shows fewer students are prepared for college or a career. (New York Times)
  • Only a third of business owners agree that graduates are leaving education with the skills needed for their company. (Gallup)

In order to address the need for change and help it begin, Richardson and Dixon offer 10 Principles of Schools of Modern Learning as a guide to help build the capacity of educators to lead real change at every level.

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While they acknowledge that it’s easier to build a new school than to change an old one, the 10 Principles are based on the existing work a growing number of schools and districts are already implementing to transform student learning.

In addition, the principles apply to the work of entire school communities including students, teachers, administrators, parents, support staff and local residents (we’ve heard from several schools that the key to success in transformation is an effort to include the community–two great examples are El Paso Independent School District and Mesa Valley County School District 51 in Colorado.)

So can these principles actually help? Caroline Vander Ark, Getting Smart COO, says “With Dixon’s help (as well as The Coalition of Essential Schools) my middle school implemented most of these design principles twenty years ago, making us one of the first 1:1 schools doing high-quality project-based learning–which made it a life-changing learning environment. We appreciate his global leadership.”

Be sure to read the full paper for more details on each of the 10 Principles here.

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