What I Believe Right Now

Some opinion writers are critics. I’m an advocate. I’m less interested in stale reform debates and more interested in the potential of innovation to boost achievement and extend equity.  I appreciate the ways new technology allows us to reframe gnarly old problems.
Over the years as a team-building exercise, I’ve found it useful to ask my colleagues to write and share a short paper called What I Believe Right Now.  As a preview of coming attractions, here’s a list of ten statements that frame my evolving worldview:

  1. All students should leave high school prepared for college and careers. Common Core State Standards are a good start.  Online assessments are an important opportunity for better tests and more data and, over the next 25 months, provide a great time timeline for expanded student access.
  2. We are in the process of inventing much more productive learning sequences for students and far better workplaces for teachers with better support and more attractive career options.
  3. The world will be blended by the end of the decade.  Productive uses of technology will leverage teacher talent–this is about better teaching not less teaching.  Blended learning is a team sport–teams will be differentiated and distributed–and working conditions and earning potential for learning professionals will improve.
  4. A good school is the best antidote for poverty.  Poverty is a condition not an excuse; increased risk factors should bring increased funding.  Every family deserves quality educational options.
  5. There is a role in education for private enterprise in producing & scaling innovation. Most big advances in education will result from public private partnerships–the right capital doing the right job.
  6. Most relationships are local, most learning opportunities are global.  We need new governance models that build communities but don’t limit learning.
  7. Personal digital learning will unleash the science of learning. Motivation is key and we’ll soon know a lot more about building a sequence of experiences that boost persistence and performance.
  8. Performance matters. Public delivery systems should create incentives for participants and providers aligned with desired outcomes. Schools and providers should perform at high levels or lose the right to public support.
  9. This is the most pivotal decade in human history (I know people always say that, but it’s true this time).  We’ve made a mess of things but we have a real shot at reducing poverty and improving sustainability.
  10. By the end of the decade we will be able to offer every young person on this planet a decent high school education and an opportunity to participate in the idea economy–and that’s the most important work in the world.

Sometimes speculative, sometimes controversial, this column focuses on innovations toward excellence and equity at scale. Your suggestions, comments, and contributions are always welcome.
This blog first appeared on EdWeek.

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.

Discover the latest in learning innovations

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

1 Comment


Awesome, I'm running a school in Vietnam and everything you mention is possible or true if those in power want it to be.
I would add a few more:
11. English is the world's problem solving language.
12. Educational games will play a big part in developing critical thinking skills.
13. Education will become customized and personal. It won't be one size fits all.
14. Schools will allow or encourage students to pursue their passions.
15. Teachers will play a more important role in a students lives.
Thanks for sharing your vision

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.