Schools in the United States were largely designed for the industrial era. Content was delivered in a particular order at a particular time and students were sorted into levels of achievement. The world has changed dramatically since that time, but our schools generally have not. While we certainly still need our students to be great readers, writers and mathematicians, those skills alone will not be nearly enough for them to thrive in today’s rapidly changing, complex global environment. The Summit School District students told us as much when they helped define the profile of a graduate as a person who is curious, courageous, globally minded, growth-oriented and academically prepared.
We need our students to run to school with the energy that comes from exciting, relevant content. We need to create more learning environments that are centered around complex problems and challenges that require students to collaboratively problem-solve, seek a range of sources to guide their thinking, ask critical questions, take risks and feel comfortable failing. We need to understand the implications of artificial intelligence and machine learning on our classroom environments and embrace the fact that these parts of life are here to stay. We need to provide even more opportunities for our students to explore learning beyond the classroom walls through powerful internships, externships and apprenticeships inside and outside Summit County. We need to create even more spaces where every single child feels valued for what they bring to the classroom and free to be who they are in that environment. Fortunately, we have incredible educators in our system. They just need steady leadership over a period of time to move in this direction and I am honored to be part of this journey with them.
It is our responsibility as educators to prepare students for what is and what is coming, not for what was. The era of having one job for life is largely a thing of the past in our country. We are now preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist and for an era in which they will likely change careers five to seven times, if not more. Our students need to be willing to fail and willing to adjust. This means our classrooms and schools will need to prepare them for those times ahead.
To be clear, and to state again, reading, writing and math still matter a lot and we do need to get much better at that work in the Summit School District. At the same time, we need to transform our schools to better prepare them for a world that is moving much faster than the education system we have known and kept largely the same for over a century.
Tony Byrd is superintendent of Summit School District. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.