I attended the Summit on Education Reform in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeb Bush opened the conference and repeated a quote from the first conference in 2008: “The country’s school system is an 8-track in an iPod world. The irony is that we’re still an 8-track but the iPod is gone.”
Speakers and panelists from across the nation discussed directions education is taking and how our schools can prepare students for an ever-changing future.
Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, spoke about school choice and the role of parents in selecting the best school for their children. She continues to be an advocate for school choice to advance opportunities for all children. Several sessions highlighted success stories from students and parents who had taken advantage of school choice in their communities. At the conclusion, Ms. DeVos stated “The rising generation represents 100 percent of our future; let’s give them nothing less than 100 percent of our effort.”
In a general session, we heard about the importance of technology courses at all grade levels to prepare for future jobs that we can’t currently define. Jeb Bush described it like a quarterback throwing to a receiver. “You don’t throw directly at the receiver, but where he will be when the ball is caught.” We must teach all students the basics of technology so that they can meet the changing needs of an unforeseen skillset of the future.
One speaker said there were over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. What will happen when we embrace driverless cars and trucks? This was just one example of how jobs will experience change in the future. It’s important to prepare students to adapt to changes so that the economy thrives and our citizens lead satisfying lives.
Colorado currently uses blended learning and online courses to enable students to learn skills that would otherwise be unavailable at their school. An example is a student in middle school currently enrolled in an advanced Calculus course online. He is joined by three other students, in various grade levels, from other school districts across the state. Technology is opening up many opportunities that weren’t available even two years ago. It is also moving so rapidly that we need to teach the basics of computer science beginning in Kindergarten. And yes, there are fun applications currently available, online, for Kindergarten students. Future careers will depend on this knowledge combined with the creativity and flexibility to adapt.
The Colorado Department of Education, with community participation, is reviewing the Colorado State Standards and adding new standards for computer science. We need to prepare future teachers by including computer science in all teacher preparation programs.
Moving from an “8-track system” will not be easy. However, with “100 percent of our effort” we can give our students a chance for a successful future.
Joyce Rankin serves on the Colorado State Board of Education representing the 3rd Congressional District. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.