How not to invent the future

eSchool News featured a long piece on the AEI debrief on the rocky start of Philly School of the Future
Long story short: some good ideas, sloppy execution.  Microsoft provided useful assistance but ran into the disastrous revolving-door leadership common in urban districts.  
Lesson: running a good school is at least 70% execution.  What you do (i.e., what curriculum you use, etc) is less important that how you deliver.  Good schools have a coherent design and, even more importantly, relentlessly focus on results.  This obviously requires stable and effective leadership.  
Leadership challenge: the need to execute today and innovate for tomorrow.  Finding the right blend is tricky.  The constraints that superintendents and principals face make both difficult.  
Contrast: Larry Rosenstock has been leading High Tech High in San Diego for 10 years.  They’re constantly tinkering with the model but focused on results–a good blend of innovation and execution.  
Rick Hess and the AEI team continue to hold interesting sessions that help us all reflect on how to make the sector a bit more entrepreneurial.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Wendy Kloiber @learningashland

Would you define "coherent design"? Or point me to where you do it elsewhere?
Thank you!


Tom Vander Ark

By coherent design I mean a school where everything works together for teachers & kids--curriculum, instruction, structure, schedule, and set of relationships that support a common intellectual mission. Most US schools are places where local, state and federal programs take place; it's hard to stitch together a set of disparate programs into a good school.

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