It's not the kids. It's the classrooms.
October 13, 2011
California's K-12 schools keep turning out kids who just aren't prepared to succeed in the new global economy. But why?

Many people chalk it up to the fact that today's students are undisciplined and unruly. But in a presentation at the State of the State Conference, Frank Baxter of Alliance College-Ready Schools dismisses that notion. "If you walk into most classrooms, you can't believe how boring it is," he said. "It's not the kids."

Baxter thinks we shake up our whole notion of what a classroom should be. Our current system was designed back in the 19th century to prepare the children of a more agricultural economy for the needs of the Industrial Revolution.

Today's manufacturing world has been totally changed by technology, but our approach to educating the workers of the future is stuck in the past. Henry Ford wouldn't recognize today's assembly lines anymore, but he'd feel right at home in today's classrooms.

Baxter believes it's time to deploy integrated technology in the classroom -- and that means a lot more than just sticking a couple of computers in the corner.

Baxter's charter schools have a developed a model that gives teachers powerful technology and frees them to switch up the day with varying collaborative formats. The right tools can free educators from the constraints of teaching all their kids at the same pace. Now advanced children can keep going deeper, and kids who need to go over lessons more slowly can immediately receive targeted help with material theyaEUR(TM)re struggling to master.

So how do we effect broader change in California's classrooms? Baxter says it all boils down to three things: 1) supporting innovative education models that are sustainable and scalable; 2) getting involved at the grassroots level; and 3) revolutionizing graduate schools of education at universities.

Above all, politicians need to hear from their constituents that we're serious about education. Kids can't vote, and they don't make political donations, Baxter noted. So it's up to the grownups to speak for them in Sacramento.

Baxter's was one of three briefings, a new feature at this year's State of the State Conference. Watch the video of his presentation and the two others: Scott Minerd of Guggenheim Partners on investing in California and Jeffrey Berg of International Creative Management on the entertainment industry.


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