The primary goal of the Journey Toward Excellence in the MSD of Decatur Township is to bring about a paradigm change in education. Just as we needed to change the paradigm of education from the one-room schoolhouse to the current factory model of schools when we transitioned from the agrarian age to the industrial age, so we now need to change the paradigm of education as we transition into the information age.
We know that people learn at different rates, yet we typically teach the same amount of content in the same amount of time to a large group of learners. By holding time constant, we force achievement to vary – we doom some children to be left behind – and we use a norm-based grading system to make sure that happens. So the major purpose of this time-based, standardized, factory model of schools is sorting students, not learning. Actually, sorting was appropriate in the industrial age when manual labor was the predominant form of work and we did not need to – and could not afford to – educate large numbers of students. We needed to separate the laborers from the managers.
However, in the information age the predominant form of work is knowledge work, and we now need to educate a far greater proportion of our students to master higher-order thinking skills and to deal effectively with a much more complex world. We need to refocus our educational systems on learning rather than sorting. So, instead of holding time constant for learners and thereby forcing achievement to vary, we must hold achievement constant at a proficiency level, and allow children the time they need to reach proficiency. This is a completely different paradigm of education that requires massive changes in our use of time, talent, and technology. Rules, roles, and relationships must all now change dramatically. Instructional systems, assessment systems, and even record-keeping systems must all be fundamentally changed, as they were when we changed paradigm from the one-room schoolhouse to the factory model of schools.
Paradigm change is far more difficult than piecemeal reform. Hence, the Decatur systemic transformation process is guided by a knowledge base comprised of three elements: core ideas about the transformation process, steppingstones in the transformation process, and touchstones in the transformation process. Each of these is described next, followed by a statement of resource needs for another school corporation to engage in the systemic transformation process. What follows is just the “tip of the iceberg” of the knowledge developed through the Decatur systemic transformation process.
Download full report here: Indianapolis Metropolitan School District (PDF)