Don’t let a test prevent innovation.
A persistent barrier to innovation in education is a focus on end-of-year summative tests that are based on traditionally defined courses. These systems perpetuate age-based cohorts and prevent education leaders from creating learning environments that better meet children’s interests and passions. Innovative schools are designing assessment practices that value a broader set of skills, assess learning as it happens to inform instruction, and allow students to move on when they demonstrate mastery. In short, schools are moving toward policies and designs that make testing a seamless part of a child’s education experience – not the end focus of education.
A note on microschools, hybrid homeschools, and other small, student-centered learning environments.
Some of the most innovative approaches to education over the past decade have been occurring under the radar of traditional policy discussions. Sometimes described as a “return to the one-room schoolhouse,” innovative “schooling” models are popping up across the country in the form of “microschools,” “hybrid homeschools,” “education co-ops,” and other models.
These intentionally small schools are examples of “edupreneurism” at its finest. Educators are meeting the demand for student-centered education in small environments by creating their own schools. Instead of starting with the idea that a school needs to be a large building, fully staffed, and with multi-million dollar operating budgets on day one, these small schools start small and expand (or stay small) to meet demand based on what is working.
These schools are hyperlocal in nature and independent in behavior. Their stakeholder is the parent and their child – not multiple levels of government. It is this “permissionless” ethos that is allowing them to thrive while other models plateau or see declining enrollment.
While there are no universal policy goals that each state should embrace to see these schools thrive (they can operate as homeschools, private schools, charter schools or even embed in district schools), lawmakers should consider whether policy changes support or inhibit the growth of these innovative, student-centered models.