How to Innovate: Options for School Districts

School district leaders know that standardized tests are a narrow view of learning outcomes. Many want to embrace a broader view of career and citizenship readiness, and want to engage young people in active learning to promote these important outcomes-but these changes come with a variety of challenges.  

Typical school district dilemmas include:

* Skepticism: An innovative approach is better for preparing students for college and career success, but teachers may resist the imposition of a new learning model.

* Capacity: There is not enough administrator or teacher capacity to support new learning models beyond one or two schools.

* Disruption: Parents may perceive that a traditional school worked for them and worry that change will leave students less prepared for college.

* Cost: The district can’t afford to change or work with outside partners.

* Measures: It is hard to assess the skills that really matter, including critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and persistence. What if short-term reading and math test scores don’t improve and there is limited evidence of improvement in other areas? With all these dilemmas, how do you innovate at scale?  

There are as many solutions as there are challenges:

* Contribution: Engage students in local problem solving and boost the school contribution to community agility.

* Readiness: Career and civic readiness demand new outcomes and new approaches from districts.

* Equity: Some students leave school well prepared, while many aren’t as fortunate. Scalable innovations, especially those aimed at all students, can close the gap.

*Learning Science: Learning facts and procedures is no longer enough. Learners need opportunities to develop conceptual understanding and flexible reasoning skills-opportunities that are not available in many schools and communities.

* Successful models: A growing number of new and transformed schools demonstrate what success can look like.

* Talent brand: Distributed leadership and innovative learning models make it easier to attract and retain top leadership and teaching talent.

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