Overdue for Innovation

Rethinking Education in Arizona - Part 2 of 3

While openness to school choice in Arizona has provided the opportunity for innovation, the intense demand of operating schools and the lack of resources for building capacity often leads educators to continue doing what is known.  Nearly two decades into the 21st century, “school” is still commonly referenced as a building where a batch set of students organized by age progress through finite periods focused on academic subjects in isolation, and are directly led by a teacher for a majority of the day. This is a passive and one-size-fits-all form of learning. Educators have also experienced added challenges in financially sustaining current models. From 2010 to 2014, Arizona decreased its per student funding for education by nearly 12%, earning the third lowest rank for funding just behind Utah and Idaho[3].  However, our learning and funding challenges present an opportunity. 

In the last decade we have experienced significant advancement in technology, information sharing, and a deeper understanding of brain development. In many industries from transportation to communication to even music, we have seen a trend toward a greater use of technology and personalization.  The cost for computer hardware, virtual storage, and access to the internet has decreased, while at the same time teachers and students have become more literate in the use of technology.  This condition has provided an opportunity to enhance the learning environment in cost effective ways.  For example, online learning platforms, such as Khan Academy, are now available and at no cost to the user.  A wide variety of digital software that provides adaptive curriculum for students is available at a fraction of the cost of traditional publisher prices.

Schools across the country such as High Tech HighSummit Public Schools, and Acton Academy are rethinking the learner experience.  Our state is also home to many talented and visionary educators. Some innovative schools and districts have begun incorporating new resources to facilitate learning with much success, but the best innovation is ahead of us.  New designs for the use of time, people, and physical space will continue to dramatically change the way we think about the learning experience of students. 

[3] Calculations of per pupil current spending data published in U.S. Census Bureau Annual Survey of School System