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Why we need Highly Effective, Learning Progressive Schools

We have visited over 150 schools that identify with the notion of innovation. These schools have been written about, are included in innovative school groups, and are widely identified as being some of the best schools in the world. What was our take-away? That not all schools who are innovative are effective, and some schools that are effective, are not very innovative.

I reflecting our school visits we have used two descriptors to categorize schools. First, Highly Effective - the students are learning what is needed to be highly prepared for post-secondary options, i.e. college or university. Being highly effective means that the students are able to perform at high levels in a "standardized" system. Second, Learning Progressive - the approach to learning cultivates the students skills and dispositions allowing the student agency in the learning process. Being learning progressive means that the students are taking ownership of their learning and they are in control of the learning process.

In our travels, we found many schools that were highly effective. Their students to very well on the traditional metrics, but their was a large gap in the students ability to take ownership. The students were experiencing school similarly to the traditional model, but simply with fancier tools. Other schools were very innovative in their approach, they were very learning progressive. We were amazed by what the kids were doing, and they had an incredible amount of agency, or ownership of the learning process. What they could not do is transfer this amazing thinking to school.

Many innovative educators would argue that we have missed the point. The whole notion of learning progressive is to distance itself from the traditional school model. It is no surprise that the kids from learning progressive schools do not do well on traditional metrics. That is the point!

We think this is embracing a false dichotomy. Students do not leave our schools and go into the year 2050. We are living in a transition economy that lies somewhere between industrialization and the future. In our mind, schools must be both Highly Effective and Learning Progressive so we can fulfill our promise that the students are fully prepared for their immediate and long-term futures!

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