Public Education 25 Years From Now

By Neerav Kingsland. This post was originally published by relinquishment.

The future is hard to predict, but it can be fun to try. The below is a mix of hope, curiosity, thought experimentation and wild speculation. I’m not confident any of it will happen; for some of it, I’m not confident it should happen.

Early Childhood Education

Starting at the age on one, means-tested vouchers are offered to every family to spend on childcare that meets a basic level of accreditation. All young children get access to nurturing care. And low-income parents who wish to work and continue building their careers don’t face childcare costs that eat up most of their income. The United States moves from an international laggard to getting close to international leaders, such as Sweden. This is expensive, but growing productivity gains have made us wealthier and Americans wisely decide to spend some of this wealth on young children.

Kindergarten to 10th Grade

Public schools morph to significantly change the power dynamics between the school district, educators, curricular providers and families.

School district bureaucracies are paired back. A system of great schools replaces the traditional school system, with families having access to an array of autonomous district schools, charter schools, magnet schools and private schools – all of which have much more operational control. The lines between these types of schools begins to blur and the political fights between these types of schools subsides. Non-profit organizations run a lot more schools than today, but school districts still serve the majority of children.

A lot of entrepreneurship, a little bit of competition and a lot of best practice sharing make all public schools better. It’s a great time to be a public school educator.

While schools get more autonomy, many schools begin to gravitate to the best learning platforms. Over a few decades, many incredible academic models are put on cloud-based learning platforms that transparently support students, teachers and families through a rigorous curriculum and independent assessments. Some models, such as Montessori and IB have been around for a while. Others, such as Achievement First Navigator, Khan Academy and Summit Basecamp, are born from more recent entrepreneurship. All of these models combine both academic and social-emotional development into one programmatic model. Most schools choose one learning platform but tailor it the kids they serve.

Many teachers specialize in one or more of the learning models that they are most passionate about. They gain deep content expertise in the model and grow expert at intellectually and emotional supporting students through the model’s progression. Teacher training in colleges is more grounded in supporting students in these models rather than being so heavily focused on theory. Many of the best learning platforms open their own teacher training programs for on-going educator development.

Families have a lot of great information about public schools as well as how their children are doing. Online enrollment systems provide transparent information on every public school in the area and allow for more equal enrollment access. 3rd party providers like Great Schools provide independent analysis. Because most schools are on one of the top learning platforms, families are better able to distinguish between the approaches of different public schools. The school down the road is no longer a black box. Families know what they are being promised. And the big data provided by the internal assessments of the learning platforms give families very transparent information about how their children are progressing.

In places with high rates of poverty, support services are ramped up. Physical and mental health services are provided at the school site. A mix of onsite and offsite programs serve students with severe physical or emotional needs. Social workers provide intensive services to families who are struggling the most. Data-driven Strive type programs coordinate an array of services and prevent kids from falling through the cracks.

The major increases in educator autonomy and family information do not cost much more than the current system. Overall public expenditures for K12 stay fairly flat in terms of real dollars. However, spending on support services for very at-risk students rises significantly.

Grades 11 and 12

The traditional public school system changes dramatically after grade 10. Once a student has shown mastery of secondary material, they can begin experimenting and specializing.

Grades 11 and 12 are funded with universal vouchers. Families are able to spend the vouchers on any accredited educational institution, including a regular high school, a higher education institution, an apprenticeship program, working abroad, or being a subsidized employee at a great for-profit or non-profit organization.

Some kids continue at their high schools. Some kids go straight to college. Some kids begin trade school in data and analytics. Some kids begin trade school in nursing programs. Some kids join together to start local businesses. Some kids move to San Francisco and join start-ups. Some join writing camps where they write their first novels. Most kids do a few of these things. It’s a time of exploration.

Once You Turn 18

Every adult gets access to a low-interest loan for up to 6 years of schooling or subsidized employment through their adult life. Very few people do this all at one time.

The subsidized loans can only be used at institutions that agree to repay the government for 50% of unpaid loans. If you educate a student who can’t afford to pay back the government, you share the losses. This reduces the number of students who go to four-year colleges (as many of these students are too risky to take on) and increases the number of programs that provide sound job training to students who would have likely attended but dropped out of four-year universities. Many of these programs are income contingent pay-back models where a student only has to pay back their loans if they earn a certain salary.

More students than ever make the jump to a meaningful career. Higher education expenditures fall as fewer dollars are wasted on programs that provide little value to many of their students.

In Sum

Early childhood is vastly expanded. All kids get access to a nurturing early childhood environment.

Empowered educators run schools serving grades K-10. A public system of schools is operationally decentralized, more programmatically centralized through great third-party content providers and greatly expanded in scope of services provided to at-risk kids. Families have much more information about how schools and their own children, are doing.

Grades 11 and 12 allow for young adults to experiment across a variety of learning experiences.

Post-high-school education is more accountable, specialized and on-going. Kids are not left with loans that they can’t pay back. Institutions survive by adapting their offerings to what different kids need to cross the bridge into secure, meaningful adulthood.

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