The greatest challenge we face in American education is preparing students to work and live in a global world that is changing 24/7.
Today’s politicians are far too focused on national core standards and international tests. Requiring proficiency on these baseline tests as the standard will set students up to be functionally unemployable in this global economy. Why, because these tests fail to assess the critically important skills and essential knowledge required in the 21st century global workforce. By making national core standards the new high stakes tests, many students will not be able to pursue their individual talents, abilities, and interests; school districts will focus on what they are accountable for, given their limited resources. The arts, electives, and athletics will be cut.
The greatest learning opportunities, and innovation, come from experiencing failure.
In a traditional classroom, we do not create the conditions enough for students to experience failure. We must create more opportunities for students to fail so they can learn how to evaluate, adjust, re-implement, persevere, and overcome. Students need to be more in control of their own learning, and know how to ask third order questions. By moving from teacher-controlled classrooms to student-controlled classrooms, we can create an environment in which failure can occur regularly, thereby allowing new discoveries, better solutions, and innovation.
All students are at-risk of not reaching their full potential.
We can no longer afford to view traditional at-risk learners as those who are solely at-risk. The reality is all students are at-risk of not reaching their learning potential. Every student should be challenged to his or her utmost ability. With the right interventions in place, the vast majority of students can succeed at the college level or in the global economy if provided high rigor and relevance in their education. We need to make the connections between what students are learning and what is essential for them to succeed in the global market. We must abandon those educational programs and courses that create a path of least resistance to receiving a diploma and add educational programs and curriculum that provides high relevance to what students need to know and be able to do. In other words, every course should prepare students for the rigors of college and university study and/or prepare students to compete in the global workforce.
Due to globalization, the rate of change will continue to increase, the standard of excellence will continue to rise, the knowledge and skills students need to master will continue to evolve, and the revenues needed to make just-in-time changes will become increasingly scarce.
With resources becoming scarcer due to the continuous recalibration of our global economies, educators need to find ways to leverage resources better in order to provide a higher return on investment in meeting the needs of students. Exercising present-day technologies gives students the power they need to problem-solve across multiple disciplines, in unpredictable situations, and in areas in which they are unfamiliar in order to create and invent. Only those students who can recreate themselves and invent their own work will be truly employable in the 21st century. Furthermore, students should be fluent in at least one world language and in multiple cultures. We cannot accomplish these learning outcomes without the effective implementation and use of instructional technology. We can no longer afford to recreate the manufacturing education model of our youth in order to prepare our students for the global challenges of tomorrow—that is insanity, and we would be derelict in our responsibilities as educational leaders.
If the magnetism of your vision is not greater than your current assets, your school district is in a state of decay and decline, heading towards mediocrity and possible extinction.
Many school leaders believe their main obstacle to overcome is declining revenues. As a result, they have lost focus of their real purpose, which is to provide the best education and opportunities possible for students to be successful in a global world. Revenue can never drive vision; vision must drive revenue. If you do not allow your vision to drive revenue, your school district will find itself cutting academic, athletic and arts programs for students. Therefore, the magnetism of your vision will diminish quickly. Always stay true to your vision and the magnetism will follow.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Dr. William C. Skilling is Superintendent of Oxford Community Schools in Oxford, Michigan. He is also co-founder of the Northeast Yucia Oxford International High School in Fushun, China.
In 2012, Dr. Skilling was recognized by eSchool News as one of the top ten Tech Savvy Superintendents in the nation. Throughout his career, he consistently turns out state and national Exemplary Blue Ribbon Schools. He is perhaps best known for his pioneering work in China, forging eleven sister school relationships, opening the first American public high school in China, and building the FifthCore™ World Language and Culture Program, which was recently recognized by the Asia Society as one of the nation’s top 100 exemplary Chinese language programs.
Dr. Skilling serves on many advisory groups such as Automation Alley’s International Business Advisory Council, an educational advisor for CISCO Corporation’s Global Schools Executive Group, District Administration Leadership Institute’s Education Advisory Panel, and Hewlett Packard’s K-12 Advisory Council.
During his career, Dr. Skilling has traveled extensively in Michigan, nationally and worldwide. He captivates audiences on matters of educational change, global education and leadership, preparing students for a global world, and the use of instructional technology to improve teaching and learning to create a culture of innovation.
Dr. Skilling earned a BS degree in Education from the University of Michigan, an MA degree in Education from Western Michigan University, and an Ed.S. and Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Michigan State University. He has been an adjunct professor at both Grand Valley State University and Oakland University for 17 years. He also lectures at Beijing Institute of Education in Beijing, China.