Q. Hey Michael, please introduce yourself.
A. Hello, I’m Dr. Michael Conner, and I am a former teacher assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, chief academic officer and superintendent. I currently am the CEO and Founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group, whose focus is to transform education entities toward this emergent model where it is aligned to economic demand.
We have some creative practices from the business science world and the computer science world, and we can borrow those practices to be able to address some of our most persistent issues in education. This will enable us to move to this culture-responsive model.
My book is coming out around the framework that I’ve created, the Disruptive Excellence Framework, which is the conceptual model needed to guide this transformation. It’s really trying to leverage radical transformation that’s strategic and incremental but that leads to not only a disruptive outcome but a disruptive outcome in a positive context.
Q. What do pathways mean to you?
A. Pathways mean individualization and personalization to facilitate student agency and choice. I think that right now we see a lot of schools that are structured to the industrial model which limits or inhibits individual pathways for students – removing some of the opportunities for them to have their own discoveries and empower themselves with regard to the learning.
We should have freshmen students take electives, right? We should have students create their own pocket pathways or their own personalized trajectory of courses that they want to take as opposed to I like to say the static, forced, traditional academic coursework that students have to take. So yeah, pathways are so important and we have to start grounding that now, especially with the new skill sets outlined in Delta 2030.
Q. What kind of pathway experience did you need when you were a student?
A. Wow. If there was just 1 it would have probably been in the humanities literature area — my fascination and affinity for reading. There should have been a pathway designed around that. I don’t know what that would look like… obviously structured class classes where I could go deeper into critical thinking and start really outlining key phrases so that we can now go deeper and have a really transparent conversational discussion to elevate. I wish that was there. That individual pathway around the humanities and you know you throw on some stem and technology and maybe some coding you know to create this continuum of humanities but know how to be able to challenge. Research through coding and through the advanced analytics aspect of it. So if I had my own individual pathway, it would have been that interface together.
Q. Finish the sentence: “I want to tell everyone about the importance of pathways because…”
A. We’re losing too many students in Generation Alpha, specifically in Generation Z, if we continue the traditional business model of education. It is a static operating model so we will continue to lose student interest and engagement until we change it to having students be authentically engaged and thinking to themselves ‘I’m doing this because I know that this is going to better me as an individual and our collective community as well as society.’
This is the first typical year since 2018/2019. Now that we have this kind of reset button, we have to be strategic about this reset or else there will be this draconian slide of losing another generation. Two generations are at stake.
Q. What is something that you know now that you wish you would have known earlier in your career?
A. If I had a pinpoint one thing, it would be that when you have a strong stance for equity you have a strong stance for excellence. This work is going to be very hard. It’s arduous to really change a model.
Q. How do pathways ensure equity?
A. They are personalized and individualized. We have to ensure that our leaders and our teachers become more culturally responsive. How you can tell that the dynamics of education are changing? Go into a pre-k and kindergarten classroom and you will see… it is the United Nations and is beautiful, but we are not preparing our teachers and our leaders to address those specific needs from a culture-responsive lens. Pathways should accomplish that from a system standpoint. But also we got to remember to couple practitioner and leadership development around being culture responsive to support the equity structures and systems that we’re going to be building through these pathways.