The 2015/2016 school year is all but done.

So how’d you do? If you are reading this, you are most likely a principal, superintendent or other administrator at the district or local level. When we started the school year, I challenged everyone to change our outcomes by changing our expectations – of our staffs, of our students, and especially of ourselves. Did you challenge yourself? Did you move the needle? Do you think that you made a difference?

We are so fortunate to be in the school biz. When we challenge ourselves and change outcomes, hundreds, thousands, or even tens of thousands of lives are changed, lives that are forever improved because we dared to do what’s right instead of what’s easy. The school biz can be exciting, maddening, frustrating and exhilarating – and sometimes all at the same time. Everyone I know in education is in it for the same reason. We all have a love for what we do, for the mission, and especially for the children we serve.

And these children we serve are smarter and better informed than we ever were. We are more likely to bore them than to challenge them. Kids today have the world at their fingertips. The challenge isn’t to provide information, but to show them the relevance of information to their lives, to personalize this information so they will internalize it, build upon it, and gain competency and understanding. The days of a school culture that values short-term memorization and regurgitation for testing are numbered.

In America, only 26 percent of our graduates are proficient in math, and only 38 percent are proficient in reading. This is a travesty. I know it. You know it. All of your teachers know it. We funnel kids in the system, test them, pass them, graduate them, pick up a check from Our Father who art in Washington – and go about our business. The good news is that we all agree on the problem. The better news is that our antiquated education system is preparing for a fundamental shift.

In our cover story, Bob Sornson explores the shift to competency-based learning. According to Bob, competency-based learning offers us a different systems model for teaching and learning. It is personalized for every essential skill along pathways to higher levels of skill and knowledge. Many of our states have already begun to shift. New Hampshire began in 2009. Maine has a strategic plan for competency-based learning and demonstration of proficiency. Colorado and Vermont are developing models. The goal is to foster personalized, flexible lifelong learning. Learners will develop competency one step at a time, taking as much time as needed. Personal initiative will allow learners to develop new skills and new opportunities throughout their lifetimes.

We certainly have challenges ahead. We are preparing a new kind of learner for a world that has yet to be imagined. We have to accept that the world has changed, and that it will change even more. We have to challenge ourselves, to remove our preconceptions and to remove the limits we are placing on our children. That’s our mission. Ignite your passion. Embrace the possibilities. And hold on… it’s going to be a wild ride!


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