Thanks to Tom for the chance to share our thoughts. Tom has done so much to paint a picture of education innovation’s potential.
We’re excited about the prospects, but we all know it will take time for digital learning to transform education. Meanwhile, the effectiveness of teachers will continue to be the single most important school factor in student learning.
That doesn’t mean innovation isn’t important. On the contrary, it’s vital for moving from today’s reality–in which only a fraction of students have excellent teachers–to what students need: consistent access to excellence. Here’s a prediction: Digital developers whose products are used to enable excellent teachers to reach more students successfully will be rewarded with positive results and avoid the dreaded “Cheaper but No Better” headlines.
It’s worth reminding ourselves just how good great teachers are. The top 25 percent produce well over a year of learning annually, on average. Kids who have them consistently can catch up from behind. Those in the middle can surge ahead, becoming honors students. These teachers already produce high-growth, higher-order learning with mediocre textbooks. They cobble together materials, on paper and online. They jury-rig rudimentary digital instruction to fit their students. They decode students’ needs and personalize instruction–with little help from technology.
But in a one-teacher-one-classroom mode, 75 percent of classes do not have top teachers. Moreover, excellent teachers are isolated from their teaching peers.
How can innovation change this? By redesigning roles and using technology, schools could give all students access to excellent teachers–not in 10 years, but right now. Schools could also provide more time for collaboration, development, and leading peers.