This morning, the Melrose Education Foundation (MEF) hosted their annual Parent University, offering Melrose families the opportunity to learn more about parenting, the world of education, and the Melrose schools. After MEF President Jen McAndrew's welcome and thank you to generous sponsors, Supt. Taymore provided opening remarks below. (Errors and edits mine.)
Thanks to the Ed. Foundation for making this day possible.
Most people view education through their own lens, which is also true for teachers. We have to recognize that schools are intertwined with social and economic changes. But as parents, we’re focused on our own kids. Professional educators have to look at the bigger picture.
Some people are familiar with the knowledge doubling curve (Buckminster Fuller): how often info doubles. Through educational context: if you went to school in the ‘70-‘80’s, info doubled every 10 years. In the ‘80’s-‘90’s, it was every eight years. For our kids, info doubles every twelve months. That will soon be every twelve hours. So what do you teach? What is important for students to know? How much can a person remember? Now in education, every student must have a HS diploma.
The current system of education dates back to Horace Mann (the system most of us know). It was originally based on eight school years and the three r’s: basic skills needed at that time. That was during the 1st industrial revolution (agricultural). By the 1900’s we added grades nine-twelve, but only 7% of attendees graduated from HS. Then came the 2nd industrial revolution: electricity, etc., and educators developed the system we’re all familiar with that’s based on organizational efficiency. Students were separated by grade and age; seat time was a measure of completion and was based on the Carnegie Unit. Most HS’s in this country still adhere to that design (from 1905.) It had to be effective and efficient to turn out workers. In 1950’s, grad rate was 52%. WWII was a watershed moment in our history; many went to college on GI bill. HS and college were desirable for the quality of life and the future of our children, but we still employed the manufacturing model.
3rd industrial revolution: info and personal tech moved us from mfg. to information economy. We lost thousands of jobs. Labor market = high skill/high pay and low skill/low pay with shrinking middle. Began to look at science and math with space race. We looked at what we taught, now how we taught. Then the legal challenges began (Brown vs. Board of Ed.), federal education acts were implemented (sped, secondary school, etc.). A Nation at Risk (1983) called for sweeping reforms in education. It asked to make computer science a requirement. Also at this time, education control went from local to state to federal (for the right reasons, socioeconomic, etc.). What did that reap? We are still struggling. In MA, we had the Ed. Reform Act of 1993, federal and state mandates, curriculum frameworks, licensed teachers, and measures of success (MCAS 2.0). If there’s any blessing in all this, it’s that there is agreement that every child, no matter where they live, has a right to an equitable education. While there’s been some success, it depends greatly on socioeconomics of town or city, yet what do we continue to do? Cover the curriculum, test, and sort children by achievement. It’s a source of frustration for students, families, and educators.
4th industrial revolution: if you can write an algorithm, the job is gone (Bill Daggett). Ex: taxis and Uber/Lyft. Had to buy a medallion. Now: why pay $50 when I can pay $30? Next will come driverless cars. How and why has it changed the workforce? What happens to municipalities who depend on those fees? What does it mean to low skill jobs that don’t require education/training? Keys to change are internet and artificial intelligence. How many other jobs are being similarly impacted? What is that impact on your child’s future?
We have a mandate for college and career readiness. We are preparing students for jobs that don’t exist. We still employ the factory model and it doesn’t apply in the current environment. How do schools serve children in this environment? Answer: academic, social emotional, physical, and personal development. Leaders are not sitting quietly but learning constantly using research and educators’ interest in continuous improvement.
In Melrose we’ve implemented many things. Trying to build flexible, adaptive, responsive system with inclusive practices (using Universal Design for Learning), etc. Most importantly, no two students learn the same say and not all respond well to six hours of seat time per day. Supt. didn’t have organizing framework, so started looking at CBE. They earned a grant from the Barr Foundation and started working with Great Schools Partnerships. CBE is a student-centered approach, not teacher as provider to student but as student acquirers and creates knowledge. How we will get this incredible amount of education to kids with this pace of change? Kids must have standards (history, inquiry based science, math, reading and writing). With CBE, trying to find approach that will give kids skills that they need in a world we can’t predict. CBE involves: students advance in level upon mastery; clear learning objectives; assessment to inform practices (not every child moves at the same pace or the same level of mastery); providing rapid differentiation and supports (all kids are equal but they are in different places academically); application and creation of knowledge. Students must acquire, use, and create knowledge for the jobs of 2030-2040-2050.
Why has Melrose engaged in this work? This world of kids is so different from anything we’ve ever experienced. We need to provide experiences that help them grow; empower them to be responsible for their own learning. Give them skills, then they apply and practice. CBE doesn’t replace teachers; nothing replaces teachers. Business community concerned that we don’t have enough skilled workers but by 2020 we’ll lose another five million jobs to automation. What will replace those jobs? Those that design and control automation, but we don’t know what it will look like.
The old models don’t work. Kids have changed from the way we were growing up. The Sesame Street effect, what our kids our used to, greatly affects the way kids learn (constant changing screen). Our kids’ expectation is different from ours. While children may have similar changes in development and growth, they’re exposed to so much more so it truncates their childhood. They need to know how to gather and analyze information, take a stand, advocate, problem-solve, and collaborate. We need to provide skills that help them make sense of their world. This is a journey we have to take. We have no choice given where our society is going economically and socially.
What the Supt. asks: that parents get comfortable with the new normal. Please participate in the discussion. Every day the MPS is working toward the same goal as you: we want the best possible future for our children.