Why we feel more optimistic than ever about reimagining school

It's a complex time for the education field, with different forces pulling in various directions. However, as we noted in “Still Dissatisfied, More Optimistic, Fully Committed” (October 2018), the PK-12 landscape has evolved in positive ways since we launched Transcend in 2015.

Our optimism is rooted 6 macro trends in the education field:

  1. Even greater demand for high quality education

    Increasingly, students and families alike are demanding more from school than just test scores—they want and deserve “rigorous assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers who hold high expectations.”


  2. More knowledge about how to overcome inequities

    Our understanding of equity and what it takes to close the opportunity gap in our educational system has deepened. Thankfully there is now a more explicit national conversation about systemic oppression and injustice and more research on and examples of asset-based, trauma-responsive interventions.


  3. Strong demand for holistic learning

    There’s a stronger national consensus that schools need to nurture the whole child. The “A Nation at Hope” report from the National Commission on Social, Emotional, & Academic Development chronicles the growing movement dedicated to the social, emotional, and academic well-being of children that is reshaping learning and changing lives across America.


  4. Improved ways to measure learner success

    Related to strong demand for holistic learning, the belief that school, the outcomes we want it to support, and the ways we measure success must and can evolve to meet the fast-changing needs of the 21st century is becoming mainstream. For example:

    • Battelle for Kids estimates that over 1,300 districts, state departments of education, and education nonprofits have committed to broader graduate aims.

    • The U.S. Department of Education is supporting a pilot program that allows Georgia, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina to use non-traditional assessments of student progress.

    • Leaders from across the sector—teachers’ unions, district and charter leaders, for-profit, and nonprofit executives—are beginning to rally around more ambitious, learner-centered visions.


  5. More attention to the sciences of learning and development

    A growing number of funders, researchers, school leaders, and teachers seek to honor how young people best learn and develop, whether this means grappling with the reality that each learner has complex, unique needs or better connecting school to the real world.


  6. More examples of what’s possible

    Early real-life examples of the leaps that transcend the traditional “one size fits all” school model are maturing into global mega trends, such as active learning that combines student-centered and project-based approaches, progression based on mastery (vs. age or seat time), integrated student support, and more.

What would you add, subtract, or change from our list? Let us know #TranscendEdu, and stay tuned for a future post on this blog where we showcase six examples of inspiring progress which also give us cause for optimism.


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