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  • [Sajan George, The Future of Education]

  • What does the future of education look like?

  • At Matchbook Learning, we dream of designing the future of education.

  • But where do you start?

  • We would argue that you would start at the very bottom --

  • The very worst-performing public schools in our country,

  • that are serving our most desperate children.

  • And why start there?

  • If we don't design a system that meets the needs of those children,

  • we'll never have a future education system that meets the needs of all children.

  • But what does the bottom look like?

  • Brenda Scott is a K-8 school in Detroit, Michigan.

  • If you were to visit the school,

  • you'd immediately be impressed by the architecture.

  • Amazing. Impressive. Expansive. Modern.

  • But the building doesn't tell the whole story.

  • You see, last year, before we arrived,

  • out of 832 students, only 7 were proficient in either reading or math.

  • Seven.

  • Now, if you think I'm overdramatizing the impact

  • of public education at its current state in this country,

  • by pulling this one example, consider this:

  • That we could have gone to any zip code in America

  • that's in the bottom 25% income-wise,

  • and the chances of those kids getting a college degree

  • by age 25 is just 9%.

  • The number of schools like Brenda Scott,

  • that are chronically failing, are projected to reach 20,000 in number,

  • in just two years.

  • And in two years an amazing thing will happen.

  • For the first time in our nation's history

  • we'll adopt a single set of national education standards,

  • called the "Common Core".

  • And these Common Core standards

  • will be benchmarked to the very best in the world.

  • To education systems like Singapore and South Korea, Finland.

  • And what do you think's going to happen

  • to the number of chronically failing schools

  • when we significantly raise the bar

  • on what our kids are expected to learn and to know

  • in order to be internationally competitive?

  • The number of turnaround schools is likely to skyrocket.

  • But these schools in these bottom 25% zip codes

  • are trapped inside cycles of poverty,

  • homelessness, abandonment.

  • Is it fair to ask any school to overcome these gravitational forces?

  • I can show you many images like this one,

  • that surround our schools.

  • But that would be an incomplete story.

  • I'd rather show you an image of inside the school.

  • You see, inside the four walls you get a different image.

  • You get hope.

  • You get kids like Jalen, a fifth grader,

  • who dreams of one day becoming a CIA agent.

  • He wants to be a patriot, and defend our country.

  • Jalen doesn't know that, statistically,

  • he's got a 9% chance of making his dream.

  • So the future of education rests, for us, on one single question --

  • How do we help Jalen?

  • I don't mean how do we help him in a one-off way.

  • How do we help him systemically?

  • So that every Jalen, in every zip code,

  • not only dreams their dream,

  • but realizes their dream.

  • In order to understand our future we have to go back to the past.

  • The picture on the left is a 1913 classroom.

  • The picture on the right is a 2013 classroom.

  • Side by side, there's a 100-year difference between these two pictures.

  • And yet, very little else differs.

  • In both pictures, students are grouped by age.

  • They sit in rows.

  • A teacher lectures them through a printed curriculum,

  • moving them at the same pace, sequence, and learning style.

  • I dare you to find another industry that has changed so little

  • in a hundred years.

  • In fact, we know in the last ten years alone

  • technology has completely disrupted entire industries,

  • with companies like Google, and Facebook.

  • They're leveraging technology to transform industries.

  • So what about technology transforming education?

  • Well, there's been some.

  • Obviously smart boards have replaced chalkboards.

  • We have computers and computer labs.

  • But, if we're honest, it really hasn't transformed

  • teaching and learning.

  • And the minute we push this conversation a little bit further,

  • about how technology could play a role in the classroom,

  • parents, and policymakers alike, become concerned that we're creating

  • too disconnected of a system.

  • We don't want robots teaching our kids.

  • We don't want our kids becoming robots.

  • And so we're wrestling with this question --

  • What about great teaching?

  • While there's a lot of debate around how to fix public education,

  • one thing that isn't debatable,

  • that the research undeniably supports,

  • is the impact of quality teaching.

  • The single most important determinant

  • of your child's academic success

  • isn't technology, isn't poverty or economic or family background,

  • it's the quality of the teacher that stands in front of him or her.

  • Think about that. Quality teaching trumps poverty.

  • Benjamin Bloom, a researcher, thirty years ago

  • did some amazing research that actually provides us a clue,

  • a window on what the future of education could look like.

  • He studied a group of elementary students

  • that were being taught in a conventional class:

  • One teacher, thirty kids.

  • At the end of the unit they were assessed,

  • and, not surprising, there is a bell curve

  • of performance on that assessment.

  • He ran a second experiment,

  • this time similar students, same content,

  • and still one teacher to thirty students.

  • But now, instead of just doing an assessment at the end,

  • they did assessments throughout, as the material was being taught,

  • to see if the kids had mastered what they had learned.

  • If they did, they moved forward. If they didn't, they'd repeat.

  • Under this mastery-based approach,

  • these students outperformed their conventionally-taught peers

  • by an entire standard deviation.

  • He ran the experiment a third time.

  • And this time, what he did was

  • in addition to this mastery-based approach of frequent assessments,

  • he gave every student their individual tutor, a college student.

  • And in this one-to-one mastery-based environment,

  • these students outperformed their conventionally-taught peers

  • by two standard deviations.

  • Now think about what Bloom stumbled upon.

  • By simply changing the delivery of instruction

  • to be more of a one-to-one mastery-based environment

  • 96% of those students outperformed their conventionally-taught students.

  • Bloom's solution is elegant, simple. It's beautiful.

  • But unfortunately, for us, it's not scalable.

  • We can't give every student their own teacher.

  • We couldn't financially afford it,

  • and even if we could, where would we find the teachers?

  • So we come back to this question --

  • What should we do for Jalen?

  • On the one hand, you have technology transforming entire industries,

  • and yet there's obvious constraints and challenges

  • around how we do that in education.

  • On the other hand, you have this compelling research that says

  • the impact of a teacher on a child's learning,

  • and yet there's constraints and challenges

  • around how we scale great teaching.

  • Maybe the answer isn't either technology or great teaching.

  • Maybe it's a both/and, that intersection.

  • The blend of great technology and great teaching,

  • or what we would call a blended model of school.

  • You see, in a traditional classroom we start the year in September.

  • Let's say it's a 4th-grade class,

  • and we move that class through

  • in a linear fashion through a 4th-grade curriculum,

  • assess them at the end of the year,

  • assuming they have mastered that 4th-grade material

  • in the linear fashion, and are ready to go on to the 5th grade.

  • But if we assess those kids

  • at the beginning of the year, in September --

  • in Jalen's school we would find,

  • and in many schools like it --

  • These kids aren't ready for the 4th-grade.

  • They're one or two or multiple years behind.

  • And if all we do is move them through a 4th-grade curriculum

  • we'll find at the end of the year they're not ready to advance.

  • So rather than optimize this broken system,

  • we decided to blow it up.

  • Metaphorically speaking. (Laughter)

  • We went into Jalen's school

  • and we created every classroom to be a blended classroom,

  • and here's a picture of that.

  • Every student has their own individual learning path.

  • Let me deconstruct this classroom for you.

  • In the classroom there are four distinct groups.

  • Along the far left of the classroom, are a group of students