Envisioning Schools of the Future
Are you a good listener? Keep your ear to the ground and let us know. Sign Up                                        Do you have an oversight or transparency nightmare to report about your district? Let the whole world know! Oversight Report Card                                        
Sign In

Topics and Tips

Editor's Notes:

The following article was published in California Schools, Volume 74, Number 1, Fall 2015 | Funding and Finance Issue.

California Schools is a publication of the California School Boards Association (CSBA).

According to its web site,

CSBA is the nonprofit education association representing the elected officials who govern public school districts and county offices of education.


CSBA is one of the hundreds of private associations of public officials that take political and policy stands that influence your government, behind the scenes, in secrecy, but funded by your taxes.

The people that are supposed to represent you have their own agenda. It's not to represent you better. It's to carry out the policy initiatives of a small group of policy elites.

Remember that the elites send their children to private schools. Public schools are for the masses. As you will read, the purpose of public schools is being changed, not just by statutes and regulations, but by an unseen technocracy that does not wish to be in the spotlight. It does not wish to be accountable to you. Your role is simply to accept what the elites provide for you.

Listen to the audio recording for further analysis. It raises the subtle and subliminal aspects of the elite know-it-alls woven throughout this article.

Envisioning Schools of the Future

Fast Forward to the Future

A common yarn among education researchers is the tale of Old Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in 1915 and wakes up 100 years later in 2015. Poor Rip is pretty confused as he takes in fast moving cars, an abundance of electricity, mobile phones that are also cameras, calendars, weather predictors, calculators, photo albums, and more. He is confused until he wanders into a school and feels instantly at ease; looking at the rows of desks and black board (although now white) in front of the classroom, he knows instantly that he is in a school. While Target or Costco would be shocking to a time traveler from 1915 – with shelving filled with modern gadgets of all kinds – school rooms of today do not look that different from those of the past.

20 Fall 2015 | Funding and Finance Issue Continued on page 22

"Creating schools that will take us to a more productive, just, and inclusive future requires that educators and policymakers work together to ensure educational leaders have the flexibility to innovate and keep up with the times," said Dr. Naomi Eason, CSBA's assistant executive director for member services. "Education excellence in the 21st century will also depend on the will of California voters to provide adequate funding to realize that vision."

Last May, the California School Boards Association Delegate Assembly discussed how to change this dynamic. The assembly – a group of more than 270 elected school board members from CSBA's geographic regions in California – divided into breakout groups to ponder what would a school of the future – a school without being limited by any financial or regulatory constraints – look like?

Education: History and Present Times

Public education in the United States has come a long way. When public education was proposed by the American founders, it was just about as revolutionary as independence from England. However, the public education in the 18th century was very different than what we know today and vastly different from what we imagine a 21st century education should be. After providing three years of basic education for all free children, male and female, at the turn of the 19th Century, Thomas Jefferson envisioned publicly funding the schooling of only the most promising students. Under Jefferson's plan, merely a handful of male children in each state would be reached. The wealthy could pay for private tutors and elite boarding schools, but nearly all children born to working class parents would go uneducated. Students not of European descent were largely ignored in the formal education discussion.

Over the last century, public education has made great strides towards equal access. However, large achievement gaps persist that are based on race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status. The achievement gap must be closed, not just for quality of life, but for the future of the United States.

Envisioning Professional Progress

In May 2015, the CSBA Delegate Assembly took a step towards the future. They broke out into ten groups to imagine schools of the future. The groups were bold and created a vision for tomorrow's educational system, and imagined schools that were quite different than today. Delegates envisioned education to break from its current path and be different in the 21st century and beyond.

Delegates embraced the notion of schools being community hubs and envisioned being places where children go to learn, but also places capable of meeting all needs that children have by providing access to mental health and dental care. County offices of education and school district leaders understand that in order to accomplish their primary mission of educating their students, they need to do a lot of what once seemed irrelevant for teaching and learning. Among other topics discussed, modern governance teams must be knowledgeable about child psychology, nutrition, and health and wellness.

In 2015, the concept of school districts partnering with families and community-based organizations to align resources and expertise behind strengthening families and supporting student success is commonly known as the community schools model. Currently, California has many districts piloting this innovative

Redwood City and Redwood City School District have made a special commitment to the community schools concept and six of the district's 17 schools have embraced the community schools model. Redwood City 2020 is a citywide initiative with partnerships that include the schools, First 5 San Mateo County, the Sequoia Healthcare District and Kaiser Permanente. One of the six community schools, Fair Oaks Community School focuses on integration and coordination; strong core curriculum; and shared leadership with their partnerships. Partnerships in turn focus on comprehensive family services; parent leadership and involvement; extended day activities and youth development and leadership.
22 Fall 2015 | Funding and Finance Issue Envisioning schools of the future, continued from page 20 Continued on page 22

approach. According to the delegates, in the future, community schools will not be a novel concept, but the status quo.

Removing Physical Barriers

There is no easy answer to converting our current schools into spaces conducive for teaching 21st Century skills, as brick and mortar can be as difficult to move as political institutions.

Urban planners and interior designers have long understood that space affects human interaction. School blueprints from the 19th Century might be recognizable to Rip van Winkle, but are unlikely to be sufficient for preparing happy and productive 21st century citizens and workforce. Modern facilities, integrated with technology, were a dominant part of the conversation the delegates' conversation.

Much of what drove the delegates' conversation about the need for modern facilities is that technological innovations have removed limits on when and where students can interact with quality instruction. Being present in the classroom is no longer a requirement for teaching and learning. If a

In 2010, the Los Angeles Unified School District opened the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, which with a price tag of $578 million was the most expensive public school project ever undertaken. Taking over the infamous Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the "Taj Mahal" of schools is a 24-acre K-12 campus that serves 4,000 students. It is composed of six autonomous pilot schools, including the Ambassador School of Global Education, Ambassador School of Global Leadership, School for the Visual Arts and Humanities, and Los Angeles High School of the Arts. The campus boasts amenities that all schools would like to have, such as top of the line performing arts and athletic facilities. Public art even adorns the campus, which includes a marble mural memorial to Kennedy.

student is learning a foreign language, it is now possible to interact with an Arabic teacher in Saudi Arabia via a free videoconferencing service. This concept could even be parlayed into core subjects like math, as a kindergarten students could practice counting in different languages with peers in different countries. If a student is interested in Renaissance Era art he can take a virtual tour of Florence's museums. If a student is interested in architecture, with just a couple of clicks, she can simultaneously explore the skylines of New York City and Singapore. This will require broadband capacity, one-to-one devices, and a strong sense of digital citizenship.

Individualized Learning – One Size Does Not Fit All

The delegates' were firm in their resolve that a 21st Century school should aspire to treat students as individuals. Doing so would emphasize mastery of content versus a child's age and would complicate our current

California Schools 23

Top 10 ideas from the Delegate Assembly

1. Facilities: state of the art facilities integrated with technology and high speed technology

2. Individual learning plans: personalized learning for the whole child

3. Highly qualified and well-compensated staff: teacher incentives

4. Parental integration: parental involvement

5. Balance: common vision for students including cultural awareness and dual language mastery

6. Parent and community resource center: site integrated resource center

7. Flexible instructional opportunities: learning without walls

8. Pre-k-career technical education partnerships: local industry and business groups

9. Eliminate age grouping: mastery, not grade level

10. Healthy food: increase local, healthy foods

practice of neatly placing students in a room based on the year they were born. It makes sense for ease of management to group students by age, but for educational purposes this is illogical, as age is an inadequate predictor of academic ability and interest.

Providing educational opportunities that align to the needs, abilities, and interests of individual students is a complex management and facilities puzzle, but according to the delegates, it is solvable. Why couldn't every student have an individualized learning plan? Education experts could agree on basic levels of proficiency students must show in foundational subjects, such as reading, math, social studies, and science, and in addition to meeting these standards students could be free to explore their passions.

Perhaps a student is particularly inspired by biology – why need she wait until she comes to the standard biology sequence, which has typically been taken during the 10th grade in California, to dive into the subject?

Individualized learning plans will be especially powerful for student learning when it is paired with research that tells us that learning is most effective when students feel it is relevant to their lives. Career technical education and internship opportunities connect individualized learning and relevance in powerful ways. A high school social studies class might hold extra significance if, as part of the class, students had the opportunity to intern with a public agency or locally elected official. In addition to connecting classroom instruction to the real world, students may be fortunate to find an occupation at a young age that can ignite a life long passion.

As much as the delegates emphasized igniting students' academic passions, they also imagined emotionally inspiring children through the arts, music and athletics. "A real education has to give equal weight to the arts, to the humanities, to physical education," said Sir Ken Robinson in his 2013 Ted Talk, "Do Schools Kill Creativity," which has been viewed nearly 37 million times on YouTube. "The arts aren't important just because they improve math scores. They're important because they speak to children's being which are otherwise untouched," said Robinson.

Of particular interest to the Delegate Assembly was seeing that students are not merely taught how to take a test, but also taught to think critically about the world and to creatively solve complex problems. In a quickly changing world, the skills of the future may be elusive, but the ability to think critically can overcome knowledge gaps. Much like the 24 Fall 2015 | Funding and Finance Issue Common Core State Standards emphasize, the path and thinking to a right answer can be just as important as checking the right box.

21st Century Teaching

Managing individualized learning plans and adapting to new technologies is a tall order for teachers and the delegates recognized that delivering 21st century skills necessitates that school boards support 21st century teachers. There can be no doubt that teachers will be the cornerstones of schools of the future, but if 21st century learning is to look different, so must 21st century teaching.

Beyond smaller class sizes, which are important for teachers and students alike, teaching and support for teachers could look very different. If unconstrained by funding, teaching schedules could be arranged to maximize collaboration. Team teaching across subject matter and grade level could be a common occurrence. Peer-to-peer observations and coaching has been shown to be a highly effective mode of professional development, yet in today's schools, the hustle and bustle of the 8 to 3 school day and heavy teaching loads rarely afford the leisure.

Providing incentives to make housing for affordable for teachers might also encourage team-

Arts integration – instruction that integrates content and skills from the arts with other core subjects to increase knowledge in both areas – has become a priority for Twin Rivers Unified School District. With a combination of Local Control Funding Formula spending and being awarded two federal grants, they have been able to hire elementary music and visual arts teachers and provide professional development for all teachers on ways to integrate the arts into their teaching.

work. It would also provide teachers greater opportunity to be active members of the communities in which they teach, as well as signal appreciation for the critical service they provide to society.

21st Century Learning is Hungry Work

Delicious and healthy school meals that are free to all students and teachers was an idea that delegates readily agreed upon. How cool would it be if school food was so tasty that the superintendent invited district partners to lunch meetings in the cafeteria instead of going off campus?

Sausalito Marin City School District just became the first to offer 100 percent organic and non-GMO meals to more then 500 students and teachers. The meals are designed in partnership with locally acclaimed chefs and are getting rave reviews from students. Silicon Valley may be on to something with how they motivate extra productivity and Sausalito Marin CSD is right on their heels.

Other than cost, facilities can be a main barrier to providing healthy and tasty meals. Oakland Unified School District has broken ground on a new 44,000 square foot central kitchen and 1.5 acre urban garden, which was made possible through a $475 million bond passed by voters. Expanding Oakland USD's capacity for serving school meals was credited as being a main selling point for voters.

Educating a Workforce of the Future

The delegates take seriously their responsibility of preparing California's future Continued on page 26 26 Fall 2015 | Funding and Finance Issue Envisioning schools of the future, continued from page 24 workforce and dedicated significant time to considering what are likely to be vital skills for operating in the 21st century. In the popular cartoon from the 1960's, The Jetsons, young, six-year-old Elroy studies space history, astrophysics and star geometry at the Little Dipper School. Elroy's course of study implies he is well versed in science, technology, engineering, and math. Today, the dearth of U.S. high school graduates entering STEM careers and the huge demand that requires Silicon Valley to look abroad in order to fill its workforce has led the White House to make it a priority to increase the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these fields that are predicted to be so crucial for navigating future society.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently recognized The Galt Joint Union Elementary School District in a 2015 oped piece in the Los Angeles Times as an encouraging example of providing STEM learning opportunities to their students. Secretary Duncan commended the district for increasing access to STEM with after-school clubs that offer virtual courses in subjects such as mechanical engineering. According to Duncan, "At River Oaks Elementary School, it's not uncommon to see children working together to design and program robots." Elroy Jetson would fit right in at Galt Joint Union ESD.

Endless Pursuit – There Will Always Be a School of the Future

Today's quick flow of information is likely to get even faster. This means that what is adequate for a 21st century education is likely to evolve over the next 100 years. Governance teams must constantly evaluate current performance while also casting one eye towards future demand.

The ability to reflect is a means to greater effectiveness and this is certainly true for local education agencies. Part of preparing for the future will inevitably mean letting go of past practices. This is difficult, as many past practices have served our students well. However, because of phenomenon, such as globalization, the future is unlikely to be constrained by past educational practices in the U.S. Instead, U.S. educational practices will need to bend to meet future demand of technologies and lifestyles that are quickly changing.

With California's move towards local control and a more student-focused system, versus a compliance driven system, governance teams are empowered more than ever to innovative and shape schools to meet the demands of the future. "As community leaders, board members have a one-of-a-kind grasp on the values and aspirations of their communities. They are in a great position to initiate a dialogue among the community about what they expect of their future citizens and workforce and gain their confidence that the schools are capable of delivering," said Vernon Billy, CEO and Executive Director of CSBA.

CSBA and the Delegate Assembly are committed to continuing to imagine the schools of the future and how to make the necessary investments to ensure that all children can thrive in the 21st century. With CSBA and school board members committed to doing their part, the other piece of the puzzle is ensuring that state leaders continue to invest in education and provide the stable and adequate funding to truly make our emerging vision a reality. cs

Peter Wright (pwright@csba.org) is a Policy & Programs Officer for CSBA.

* Members (sign in) Only
  1. * Checklist for Education Code 7054 Complaints
  2. * The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  3. * Lessons from June 7th
  4. Envisioning Schools of the Future
  5. * State School Bonds
  6. * The Big Switcheroo
  7. What is Astroturf?
  8. Attorney General Weighs In
  9. Who Writes the Election Resolutions and Bond Measures?


Copyright © 2015-2022, Richard Michael. All Rights Reserved.