What Good for Whom?

One of the great challenges education faces is defining a clear mission.  It would seem obvious, but a quick review of any state’s legislation for K-12 education will show there are many missions.  Student safety, medical care, in loco parentis, nutrition, transportation, entertainment, physical fitness…oh, and academic attainment!  While many of these are requirements of state and federal law, one can also see local influence and decisions that further expand the clear mission of education. 

Recent reform efforts have created de facto missions for K-12 educators in the forms of academic assessments.  These assessments have been focused intensely on reading and math at the federal level.  State legislators have added science, social studies, and limited others such as financial literacy.  These assessments have been used to create school and district “report cards”.  This, in turn, has really focused attention on a very tight academic mission.

The problem with recent efforts to bring focus is results have not improved for the core mission chosen.  Students are generally not any better prepared for careers or college than they were a decade ago.  See previous blogs on performance challenges.  Why is this?  Many reasons exist, but one is the fallacy that a child who can read and compute will suddenly be prepared for post high school life.  This grossly underestimates the full array of knowledge and skills we need to be successful.  With schools narrowing their attention to the de facto mission, student success actually becomes less likely.

The Next Generation Learning Challenge MyWays effort provides a new clear mission for schools.  It defines a more complete set of education outcomes that are better able to fully prepare students for life success.   Math and reading, still important, are a small part of the total expectation and are properly positioned as a subset of the work education needs to complete, not the mission.  MyWays answers the question of “What good do schools do and for whom.”  The good is a clear, complete set of knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  The whom is for all students. 

Schools and educators who want their students to succeed should take a close look at the MyWays expectations.  It is a tremendous improvement over the simple math and reading expectations of most states.

MyWays Success Framework[1]

  1. Content knowledge

    • English core – Deep English learning and application across settings.

    • Math core – Deep math learning and application across settings

    • Science, social studies, arts, languages – Well-rounded knowledge in other subject areas.

    • Career-related technical skills – Technical and employability skills in at least one career area of interest

    • Global knowledge – Global, cross-cultural, civic, environmental, and economic literacies

  2. Habits of success

    • Academic behaviors – Going to class, participating fully, completing homework and projects, and managing time and resources

    • Self-direction and perseverance – Initiative, flexibility and adaptability; grit and tenacity; self-control

    • Positive mindsets – I belong in this learning community; My ability and competence grow with my effort; I can succeed at this task; This work has value for me.

    • Learning strategies – Study skills and strategies, goal-setting, self-regulated learning, help seeking

    • Social skills and responsibilities – Interpersonal skills, empathy, cooperation, leadership, ethics, and ability to build social networks

  3. Creative know how

    • Critical thinking and problem solving – Ability to reason effectively, use systems thinking, and make judgments and decisions toward solving problems in educational, work, and life settings.

    • Creativity and entrepreneurship – The imagination, inventiveness, and experimentation to achieve new and productive ideas and solutions

    • Communication and collaboration – Oral, written, and visual communication skills as well as the ability to work effectively with diverse teams

    • Information, media and technology skills – Ability to access, evaluate, manage, create, and disseminate information and media using various technology tools.

    • Practical life skills – Ability to understand and manage personal finances, health, and independence.

  4. Wayfinding abilities

    • Surveying the college, career and life landscape – Ability to research and understand information, resources, external barriers, and internal factors relevant to upcoming transitions in school, career, and life.

    • Identifying opportunities and setting goals – The self-awareness, focus, and strategic thinking to cultivate individual strengths and set personal goals for learning, work and life.

    • Developing personal roadmaps – Ability to translate goals into action plans for each new stage or transition.

    • Finding needed help and resources – Ability to identify, locate, and secure the time, money, materials, organizations, mentors, and partners needed to support one’s plans.

    • Navigating each state of the journey – Ability to implement plans in the worlds of education, work, and life, making mid-course adjustments as required based on new experience

[1] https://myways.nextgenlearning.org/

Proposed graphical depiction of a student “report card”.  This could be summarized into a school and district report card.

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Robert Sommers