Our Entrepreneurial Government ??

This episode of Freakonomics was fascinating with Mariana Mazzucato of University College London. She makes the case that government gets way less credit as an engine of technology development and economic growth than it should because it is the investor of first resort in early stage, non-commercially viable ideas ... who only later become commercially viable (GPS, the Internet, fracking, etc.). I've heard these kinds of arguments before, but takes it further than those previous arguments because she believes that the government should be getting a bigger return for their (our) investment. On that point, I do not think I agree across the board but might agree on a case by case basis. Anyway, it is just a useful thought provoking conversation for educational spaces. 

Worth a listen and then a secondary thought about how much innovation government is responsible for in public education? In an era of Government retreating from governing, what innovation support might we lose? 

No ACT/SAT Correlation

What an amazing story from Hampshire College. Liberating to be dropped from USNews rankings, they say. And, the things they are looking for on a high school transcript ... do our kids have those things? 



Fullan's Autobiography - Surreal Change


This is not a review as much as a ... it happened. It was interesting. For me personally, it was powerful. For the average educator, I'm not as sure. But, happy to share a couple of reflections as I put it down. Link to the Book on Amazon. 

  1. Most importantly for me is that it let me see inside another professor's life. We, professors, typically lead odd ones and there can be a lot of variation in how people approach the job. How he writes (in 3 week bursts), how he connects, his journey through administration, etc. - useful to see. 
  2. Advice for writing: a) only write things you think are deeply insightful, b) make sure there is a lot of practical advice, and c) be concise. Simple but useful. I put it at the top of my writing whiteboard.
  3. Learning by doing ... and staying connected to schools. The biggest thing I struggle with being a professor is that so much of my job pulls me away from schools and the real work of public education. Fullan helps to show how when those things interact and stay tight together (doing, writing, reading, leading) ... it makes for better results amongst all of them (but, yeah, another story of a nationally known, workaholic personality with divorce and a heart-attack in the story). 
  4. Your best partnerships are likely to have ups and downs. Fullan's falling out and then re-embracing of Andy Hargreaves was fascinating to read and then consider amongst my own professional relationships.  
  5. Some insight on the how. Things like the Learning Consortium at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (and even how that became part of the University of Toronto) were interesting to read given that I also live in the complex world of higher education. Also, how relationships unfolded within policy/political spaces was interesting (although very Canada-centric, obviously). 

Linda Darling Hammond on Equity and Deeper Learning

This video (the first 17 minutes) is fantastic. More people need to watch it to understand the links between deeper learning models and equity. In short, we have to make sure all kids have access to a thinking, deeper learning curriculum ... not just the wealthy kids. She does a great job of positioning this debate historically. Superb stuff. 

PBL & Graduating Immigrants

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Superb story from Donna Neary, a UK student, Next Gen Alum, and teacher in Jefferson County Public Schools. Donna is using the power of deeper learning, project-based instruction, and performance assessment to transform the lives of immigrant children that move to Louisville. 

Donna tells her own story well, so I will not elaborate: 

Like Muan and Innocent, most of the students in the program have experienced interruptions in their formal education. Some may have missed several consecutive years of formal education, all due to circumstances beyond their control. With this program, we seek to put students back in control of their learning by providing a differentiated, rigorous program to prepare them for graduation.

This first year of A2G has shown that it is possible for students who may never have envisioned themselves as high school graduates to move quickly toward that goal.

Full story: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-05-07-inside-the-project-based-program-that-s-turning-refugees-into-high-school-grads 


investigating Acton Academy ... a good fit for Kentucky?

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In my quest to understand the best models nationally for potential use here in Kentucky in our public schools, I've come across Acton Academy. Acton is a network of schools (around 80 listed on their site) based out of Austin, TX. It is the ideological child of Jeff Sandefer, a former business teacher at the University of Texas and founder of the Acton School of Business. Before that, he was a multi-millionaire off-shore oilman and venture capitalist. He is also a fan of for-profit education and has influenced education in Texas to this end. 

Acton's primary model, what they are most known for, is that learners are completely independent with only rare interventions from adults. Students set their own goals, manage their own projects, and hold themselves and other students accountable. Their "quests" are their projects and the students are encouraged to take on quests in which they try to change the world in their own ways. Here is their 15 min. short documentary: 

To get this independence, they rely heavily on online learning platforms like Khan, Dreambox, and MOOC platforms like EdX. From my review, this heavily online platform reliance probably concerns me the most. However, learners also read a lot of books. At the high school level, the expectation is 4 life-changing books per year. 

The big difference between Acton and other networks like Summit or Big Picture is that Acton is focused on micro-schools and seems primarily designed only for smaller private or charter schools. It is more of an "unschool" and thus scaling will be harder. 

A book was written about the story of Acton by one of the founders if you want to get the really deep story. 

To start an Acton school, there is a $10,000 entry fee which gets you access to the tools, the name, and the network. Thereafter, you have to share 1% of the revenue with the network (not entirely sure what that means, but that is likely a big number). Like other networks, there are requirements to be a member such as satisfaction surveys. There is a new Acton Academy starting in Nashville TN this fall (2018) if those in Kentucky want to see a close one. 

The Getting Smart Podcast Interview is here: 

Overall, this particular network is not a good fit for Kentucky's public schools. What they are doing with learner independence is something very unique and laudatory. I can easily see how it would work well with many learners on a daily basis and would lead many of those students to find deep rooted passions which they could hopefully translate into careers. 

However, the network fees, the small school nature, and their mission (including the for-profit part) are poor fits for our public schools. The push for growth coupled with that for-profit nature are particularly a reason for pause. 

Thus, let's learn from them. Let's embrace more independence in our learners and more entrepreneurism in our leaders. Our own public school kids should be enjoying quests driven by their own world-changing passions. These are all things we can do within our existing systems.