On Tuesday, November 15, 2011 11:30 a.m. Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will be holding a town hall meeting at the Reinig Toledo Center to discuss a new Education Blueprint unveiled Oct 3, 2011. They will be seeking feedback on the plan before they present it to the legislature.
You can review the full proposed education blueprint online . It outlines several changes without addressing price tags. We will thus not be able to comment on financial specifics, but there is evidence that this plan will cost more than the education plan that is currently in place. From a philosophical standpoint there are portions of the plan that look good, and portions of the plan that can be strengthened. The bottom line from an economic development standpoint is that our education needs to evolve from an industrial age approach with an emphasis on standardization and uniformity for everyone to a 3D information age education with an emphasis in lifelong learning, experimenting and connecting in matrixed ways to maximize relevancy to the real world. Never before in our history has the pressure been so big to continually adapt to accelerating speeds of new information, technology, and productivity. Here are five ways an economically driven bottom line applies to key parts of the proposed plan:
- Fairness to education sector workforce: We agree that just like all our other workforce sectors, educators and administrators deserve as fair as possible compensation relative to the investment they make, risks they assume, barriers they overcome and progress made towards improvement. Not enough info is available to be much more specific apart from supporting the broad outline.
- Experiential Learning: Educators, administrators and students alike can benefit from hands-on experiential learning. In the plan this is addressed through peer mentorships for teachers, and internships for students. This is good, but we recommend taking it to the next level with a much more interdisciplinary approach. We recommend a system that proactively get students, teachers, administrators off the school grounds and involved in the real world of civic, nonprofit and startup initiatives.
- Smarter leaders v.s. inspirational educators: Though the proposal outlines financed strategies to attract increasingly “smarter” “leaders” into education. This is not an ambition unique to education. Most industry sectors want the smartest people and the best leaders. Our recommendation for this sector would be that an even stronger focus may be in putting a premium on “inspirational” educators. Our economy and the sector would benefit most from compound growth if an intrinsic disposition can be cultivated towards lifelong learning. If educators can help facilitate that by embodying that quality themselves our economy can benefit long after a student leaves formal education.
- Higher educator pay in higher poverty areas: Higher salaries are being recommended for educators who locate in higher poverty areas. If attraction of the workforce is the problem we recommend tuition reimbursement etc. But to fundamentally address poverty in vulnerable populations we recommend lightening the burden on individual teachers and invest in strengthening the village of educators (e.g. lower teacher to student ratio, more teachers to cover longer school days, longer school year, classes that specifically address gaps in that community). We prefer this to widening the socio-economic gap between an educator and the community in which they locate. Statewide redistribution of education funds is also a generally more healthy solution to manage/minimize long-term systemic negative socio-economic characteristics that emerge from dangerously high inequality.
- Technology & Innovation: Locally our industry often praises recent graduates’ comfort with technology. This leads to higher productivity, accuracy and speed when the young workers easily adapt to new technology in the workplace. Economic development endorses continued strides as it applies to online courses that can also allow students to learn at their own pace from people with expertise in subjects that may not be available in their immediate surroundings. This also has the capacity to lead to higher diversity in interests, which ultimately can increase innovation.
In conclusion, the report describes the central goal of our education system of being “world-class quality” and “unshakable”. Those are great goals for an industrial economy manufacturing cookie cutter outputs. In an information economy we can and need to evolve beyond that to be more “practically relevant” and “adaptable” to the needs of our industry sectors.