I had the opportunity yesterday to provide invited testimony to the “New NY Education Reform Commission” appointed by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo to study and make recommendations for the reform and improvement of the state’s education system. My submitted written testimony describes a comprehensive vision for redesigning education to pesonalize learning through technology, and then makes dozens of reccommendations around each of the Commission’s seven objectives.
My October 16 oral testimony is provided below and video archived (at 02:02:40):
On behalf of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) and our 500 high-tech companies, thank you for inviting me today. I am Mark Schneiderman, SIIA’s senior director of education policy.
SIIA agrees with the Commission that, “Future generations of students cannot compete unless we dramatically reform our education system.”
Our industrial-age education practices are largely unchanged over a century or more:
- Too many students are disengaged, not due to lack of technology, but from undifferentiated resources, rote one-to-many instruction, and lack of attention to 21st century skills.
- Time and place are constants, but learning is variable.
Instead, our education system must be fundamentally reengineered from a mass production, teaching model to a student-centered, personalized learning model to address the dramatic change in student daily lives, diversity and expectations.
The mandate is not for marginal change, but for: redesign to free learning from the physical limitations of time, place and paper; and instead customize instructional resources, strategies, and schedules to dynamically address each student’s unique abilities, interests and needs.
The redesign of education can take place without technology and digital learning, but not at scale. Technology is a teaching force multiplier and a learning accelerator.
This doesn’t mean computers replace teachers, or that all learning takes place online.
It does mean that we use the technology:
1. to collect and analyze extensive student learning data to a degree not otherwise possible;
2. to provide a differentiation of interactive, multimedia teaching and learning resources and student creativity and collaboration tools not possible from one teacher, book or classroom; and
3. to free teacher time from rote and administrative activities to redirect to more value-added instruction.
The result is a more effective teacher, a more highly engaged and better performing learner, and a more productive system.
SIIA’s 2012 Vision K-20 Survey of 1,600 educators found that interest in digital learning is high at about 75%, but only about 25% rate actual technology access and use as high by their peers and institutions.
Here are 10 SIIA recommendations to the Commission and state:
1. Eliminate the Carnegie unit (credit for seat time) as the measure of learning and replace it with a competency-based model that provides credit, progression and graduation based upon demonstrated mastery and performance.
2. Eliminate fixed, agrarian-age definitions of the hours of the school day and the days of the school year and instead provide flexibility for 24/7/365 learning as needed for student mastery.
3. Ensure all teachers have access to a minimum slate of digital tools and supports provided to other professionals, including instructional technology coaches and virtual peer learning networks.
4. Ensure all educators have the skills needed to personalize learning and leverage technology, including by updating the curriculum of teachers colleges as well as teacher licensure and certification requirements.
5. Encourage and support a shift from print-only curriculum to instead provide students with anytime, everywhere access to interactive digital content and online learning.
6. Create a statewide online learning authority for approval and oversight of virtual learning providers to New York students and schools, and loosen arbitrary limits.
7. Invest to ensure equity of technology and digital learning access to change the education cost-curve and provide opportunity to learn, while providing increased local flexibility in the use of state grant funds to meet unique local needs.
8. Set minimum expectations for school/teacher electronic communication with parents and families and support home access to student performance data, assignments and curriculum.
9. Support more flexible higher education policies that end seat-time requirements, allow students to demonstrate prior learning and complete course modules that fit their learning gaps, and receive student aid for study toward skills certifications valued in the job market.
10. Finally, recognize the role of the private sector, which invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year to develop and deliver educational technologies and digital learning. Support public-private research partnerships, and reform the RFP process to enable the private sector to share their expertise, vision and innovative business models.
Our nation’s continued success will require that our educational system adopt modern methods and means to remain not effective and relevant in the 21st century.
On behalf of SIIA and our member high-tech companies, I look forward to working with the Commission to further identify and advance a reform plan for New York education.
Mark Schneiderman is Senior Director of Education Policy at SIIA.