College or Career? No, and.

According to the US Census report, there are about to 16 million students enrolled in colleges across the United States.  This statistic has increased consistently throughout U.S. history as the perception of the value of a college education is golden, evidence of movement into the middle or upper-class sectors of society.  Parents want their children to outperform and outearn them, yet that has not been the case of today’s college graduates.  As society changes in the wake of technology innovations and shifting global citizenry, career demands are also shifting.  As K-12 schools and districts grapple with the societal shifts, they are tasked with renovating courses, curricula, and pedagogical approaches.

One resounding reminder for schools, districts, and families is that students of the future ought not to choose between college and career, they should be planning for college and career.  In other words, the decisive move to attend college should invariably be tied to a career trajectory or aspiration.  Additionally, there are career options that may not require four-year university attendance, bachelor’s degree attainment, or graduate level work.  Many high paying careers remain vacant because candidates are not amply qualified or trained adequately with the essential skills necessary.

An essential subsequent move for schools and districts is to make substantial articulated relationships with industries, corporations, and professions, all sorts of societal industries throughout the local and global community.  This, in addition to the liberal arts basic education provided to students, should be the priority of families and schools.

Global California 2030

Since the passage of Proposition 58, California has been on the move regarding multilingualism, global citizenry, and 21st-century learning experiences. Proposition 58 converted to the Education for a Global Economy (EdGE) initiative, which enabled localities to decide the degree to which they would include instruction in students’ native languages, how and how many dual immersion programs they would foster, and how to prepare the digital native generation to grow up prepared to compete and collaborate in a 21st-century economy.

Former State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, before he retired from office, proposed the Global California 2030 initiative.

“The mission of Global California 2030 is to equip our students with the world language skills to succeed in the global economy and to fully engage with the diverse mixture of cultures and languages found in California and throughout the world,” Torlakson said. “We are setting high goals and dreaming big to help our students and our state.”

Tom Torlakson, Former State Superintendent of California Schools

The goals would encompass four ambitious calls to action, listed below.

  • By 2030, half of all K–12 students participate in programs leading to proficiency in two or more languages, either through a class, a program, or an experience.
  • The number of students who receive the State Seal of Biliteracy, which is nationally recognized for college admissions and career opportunities, more than triples from 46,952 in 2017 to more than 150,000 in 2030. By 2040, three out of four graduating seniors earn the Seal of Biliteracy. The Seal is earned by demonstrating proficiency in a language in addition to English.
  • The number of dual immersion programs that teach languages besides English quadruples from about 400 in 2017 to 1,600 in 2030.
  • The number of new bilingual teachers authorized in world language classes more than doubles from 2017 to 2030.

GEE is prepared to meet this challenge and support schools and classrooms to prepare all students to be college and career ready in a global economy today. See Global Classroom for more information about collaborating internationally in your classroom or school.

Thanksgiving Epiphany

Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center

After we enjoyed a family day spending time together, eating good food, and playing with the kids, we voyaged to the notorious and ironic black Friday sales on Thursday night in the Chicago Outlets in Chicago’s southwest suburbs.  Besides the fact that nearly 95.5% of all people shopping spoke colloquial languages other than English with friends and family, which is excitement enough for globally minded individuals, but en route home after the seemingly endless lines and deals we passed by the Northwestern Medicine Cancer Center.  This notion that an entire field of healthcare is dedicated to research, diagnoses, symptom identification, and treatment against this horrible disease struck me today like never before.  Their mission statement reads as listed below.

“Northwestern Medicine is dedicated to providing the most advanced healthcare to the communities and patients we serve. The Northwestern Medicine clinical and administrative staff, medical and science faculty and medical students come together everyday with a shared commitment to superior quality, academic excellence, scientific discovery and patient safety.”

How is this relevant to K-12 education?

Several questions sprung to mind immediately as I digested the words “Cancer Center” amidst the expansive healthcare field.  Questions such as:

  1. What do we know about cancer and it’s consequences that we need to create an entire center to address is?
  2. As a trained professional educator and administrator, how specialized am I to address the cancers in education?
  3. What research informs how I treat our education maladies that are cancerous to our learning environments?
  4. How does this relate to K-12 education in America and our cities on a micro and macro level?
  5. How important is it for us to resolve the cancer or cancers in our field?

I once heard an education practitioner say that “at least in our field we are not responsible for life and death.”  I disagree.  I think we hold the keys to life in our grasp every day through education.

Nelson Mandela said it so eloquently, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  Lack of education often implies poverty, and poverty often perpetuates social underpinnings such as poor health, destructive relationships, lack of voice, and these frustrations beget more problems.  The cycle of poverty has been labeled as such because there is a long history of the cyclical nature of chasing shadows or roaming around a mountain repeatedly with no forward momentum in sight.  

This is why I do believe that education is life and death, maybe not immediate life and death, though that is shifting amidst our modern American schools and communities with the epidemic of mass gun violence.  Rather, in education, everyone knows that with one year of an ineffective teacher, a student can dramatically fall behind their peers elsewhere, and students from poverty cannot afford that in their lives.  

What is our cancer center in education?

We are well versed in the colloquialisms of 21st-century learning: terms such as collaborate, communicate, think critically, innovate, and design are pervasive.  We have studied organizational change management, studied successful systems, programs, and schools.  We have done meta-analyses on what has the greatest effect size in moving the needle in students’ learning.  Therefore, could we correlate these works with saving students’ lives and increasing social mobility?  With the great ocean of effective and hard-working teachers on this planet, I like to believe that we are absolutely setting student up for success.  But, what is our cancer center?

In the spirit of giving thanks, I would like to personally thank every teacher who pours his or her blood, sweat, tears, sleepless nights, investigative weekends, and hard-earned dollars into their students to ensure a greater degree of mastery and academic achievement.  

Finnish Education Export

This concept of education export sounded strange to me upon first reading the term. The idea that intangible methodologies, personnel expertise, or curricular prowess could, in fact, be sold or traded across international boundaries was baffling. Marimekko? Nokia? Yes, these I have heard of as exports. But education? A week-long pursuit of all things Finnish education in the lovely cities of Helsinki, Kauniainen, Espoo, and Sipoo proved to illuminate the mystery of how a nation could export their world-renowned education system.

Our first visit was to Kauniainen, an upper middle-class suburb outside of Helsinki. As we perused the halls and classrooms to see diligent and astute learners and teachers creating and facilitating learning opportunities that were mostly in the hands of the students, we were met with an overwhelming sense of a community of trust and high expectations. Students were seated at 21st-century designed furniture, using HP laptops for research and word processing. There were Finnish language classes for native Swedes, Swedish language classes for native Finns, and immersion classes for immigrants with a range of other native heritage languages. Language and culture are celebrated, while at the same time the two national languages of Finnish and Swedish were thoroughly embraced as the dominant lingua.

Our next visit was to Espoo, a booming tech and migrant town that is the second largest city in all of Finland. Though Finland still has only a small portion of immigrants whose first languages expand beyond 40 in total, we had the pleasure of visiting a school that had a relatively large population of immigrant students. After a one year intensive program for new immigrants to adjust and assimilate to Finland, these students were immersed into the lower secondary ranks of shop and cooking classes in addition to their Finnish language immersion. Espoo has made concerted efforts to support their newcomers through a mandatory minimum of 2 hours per week of instruction from a credentialed teacher in the native languages of students who speak languages other than Finnish or Swedish.

We had a final school visit to Sipoo, the fastest growing town in Finland. The town of 20,000 was growing at around 600 new inhabitants per year. They expected to double the size of their lower secondary schools in the next five years. These schools were interesting. Reminiscent of separate but equal legislation, two schools sat adjacent, one a Finnish language medium school and one a Swedish language medium school. The Finns were expected to learn Swedish (and English and another language, if they chose), while the Swedes were expected to learn Finnish as their second language, in addition to other world languages. Class sizes were incredibly small, ranging from 12-16 students per classroom. Strikingly, the use of physical space in the classrooms, from mobile desks and tables to collaborative setups, cell phone charging stations to pull down tech hubs, and whiteboard walls and projectors, the equipment and teacher attention accessible to students was unmatched.

Finland, I am grateful to have been able to experience your education export. I now understand why Finnish education schools are growing rapidly in Africa and the Gulf Region. I embrace your trajectory to spread your education research, trust, and model to all stretches of the globe, from South America to Mexico. If there was one resounding theme for the week, besides the what and how of education export, it was trust. I presume we can never underestimate the fundamental notion of trust within an organization or ecosystem in pursuit of building a world-class anything. Principals trust teachers, teachers trust principals, students and parents trust teachers, and the community trusts the system. Thank you for the lessons, Finland.