A Dozen Reasons Education Can't Innovate; A Dozens Ways That's Changing
Formal education (P-20) doesn't change much. Compared to other sectors, there is little innovation and weak innovation diffusion. There are at least a dozen reasons for the stasis:
Weak performance incentives,
Weak scaling incentives, and even
Weaker innovation incentives.
Low government R&D investment;
HigherEd research focused on the arcane rather than important; and
Low historic venture investment (with some recent improvement).
Strong state and federal policy constraints, and a
Gordian knot of local contracts ensconced in board policies and state laws (i.e., you may need to change three provisions/policies to do anything differently).
Insular culture and structure prevents permeation; and
Weak sharing inside the sector (but PLCs changing that fast).
Weak change capacity at the school, district, and state level; and
- It's tough to balance improvement and innovation simultaneously.
Perhaps the most significant barrier to innovation is the weight of tradition--the gravity of collective an idealized memories of school (e.g., "Keep Your 3, I Want My A": What's Up With Standards-Based Grading? )
Schools just weren't designed to innovate. To the extent that they reflect intentionality, public delivery systems support equity and continuity. But the shift to digital and competency-based learning requires a lot of innovation and change capacity.
Fortunately a dozen new structures and initiatives are surrounding and infusing the public delivery system to enable the historic shift:
- Open & Viral: Teachers, parents, and students are finding, using and sharing free, open, mobile learning applications.
- Alternatives: As Michael Barber pointed out in a recent report, "There is... increasing acceptance of non-degree credentials that don't rely on traditional universities," resulting in affordable alternatives.
- Funders: Philanthropic and venture investment in innovation is up more than 5x in five years (see list of 30 investors).
- Government investment: Federal investment in RTTT and I3 resulted in early policy shifts and some promising tools and practices; Ohio's Straight A Fund is a good example of state support for sustainable and scalable innovations.
- Incubators: More than a dozen incubators (e.g., 4.0 Schools) and accelerators (ImagineK12) have sprung up in the last three years supporting new tools and schools.
- Short cycles: more iterative development and use of short cycle efficacy trials.
- New Schools: funding for innovative new schools (e.g., NGLC and Carnegie).
- Turnaround: states (e.g., Michigan EAA) and districts (e.g., Houston Apollo) are using turnaround as an innovation opportunity.
- Networks: New and transformed schools are working together in innovative networks (see our Deeper Learning paper for 10 examples).
- CMOs: Charter management organizations are scaling quality and infusing innovation (e.g., see Summit Public Schools).
- Aggregation: Expanded use of prizes and pull mechanisms, including demand aggregation and shared purchasing, are boosting innovation and efficiency.
- Harbormasters: CEE-Trust is a network of city-based foundations, nonprofits and mayor's offices that work together to support education innovation and reform.