As we take action to improve productivity in education, we must respect the complexity of our system and invest the effort needed to evaluate educational practices in different contexts over time. Rather than expecting to find an ideal turnkey approach, states and districts should define, test, and refine new ideas on a trial basis and measure both how they are implemented and their results.
An essential component of continuous improvement is making decisions based on data, which will require fundamental changes in how we collect and use data and in the processes we currently use for decision-making.
The United States spends an average of about $10,000 per student per year on K-12 education. But for too many education leaders and decision-makers, visibility into the costs of specific services our education system delivers to students is nonexistent.
The underlying principle of continuous improvement is that we are unlikely to improve learning outcomes and productivity until we define and start measuring them. This starts with identifying what we seek in learning outcomes.
Improving productivity is a daily focus of most American organizations in all sectors – both for profit and nonprofit – and especially so in tight economic times. Education has not, however, incorporated many of the practices other sectors regularly use to improve productivity and manage costs, nor has it leveraged technology to enable or enhance them.
Goal: Our education system at all levels will redesign processes and structures to take advantage of the power of technology to improve learning outcomes while making more efficient use of time, money, and staff.
The federal government has an important leadership role to play in building a national infrastructure for learning. For example, the Office of Educational Technology should help states and districts build their capacity by providing a clearinghouse that matches expert advice and services with those who need it.