A truly transformed education profession requires us to think boldly as a country about how we might redesign our educational systems to attract, prepare, support, retain, and reward excellent teachers and principals. Just as critically, we must think about how the classroom, the school environment, and the school day and year might be reshaped to sustain and enhance this transformation.
A Reorganized Classroom
A new vision of education would begin with the recognition that teachers are passionate, skilled professionals whose focus is on effectively engaging students, ensuring their learning, and shaping their development. Teachers know that to productively engage in our democracy and compete in our global economy, students will need strong, well-rounded academic foundations; cultural and global competencies; the ability to collaborate, communicate, and solve problems; and strong digital literacy skills. We would like to see the classroom transformed into a place where accomplished teachers creatively apply their knowledge and skills to meet these goals, and where their expertise is acknowledged by parents, students, and administrators. To this end, we envision schools and classrooms that are configured based on students' needs and teachers' abilities, rather than on traditionally prescribed formulas. In these schools, teams of teachers, assistant principals, and principals collaborate to make decisions about how schools and classes are structured, creating spaces where teachers can visit one another's classes to learn from each other and to work together to solve common challenges.
Structuring classrooms to maximize the impact of instruction could take many different forms. For example, classrooms with many high-need students might contain fewer students than other classes. The most accomplished teachers might be asked to serve a larger number of students per class with teams of Resident or Novice teachers extending the reach of the most accomplished teachers, while offering newer teachers the opportunity to learn by observing and assisting a Master teacher. Likewise, the format and mode of instruction might differ according to student need and the technology available. The traditional physical classroom space might shift to clustering arrangements or stations where groups of students engage in distinct tasks, some collaborative and some individual, that use a variety of activities to continually engage students in different modes of learning.
In this new vision, classroom learning would be guided by rigorous academic standards and high expectations, while being supported by data and technology.ii High-quality data measuring student learning would be made available and accessible to teachers on an ongoing basis--in real time where appropriate. Teachers would be trained on how to use the data to inform and adapt instruction hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and year-to-year.
Technology would also play a strong role in personalizing learning and supplementing classroom instruction so that students can learn at their own pace. The introduction of technology into more classrooms would be accompanied by additional support (e.g., additional classroom aides and extensive guidance on how to best utilize the new technology to meet learning objectives) to ensure that new instruments truly enhance--rather than diminish--the teacher's instruction. To the extent that technology facilitates teachers' ability to engage more students simultaneously, the use of technology might allow for higher student-teacher ratios, freeing up some teachers to provide additional support to students who need more of their attention.