President's Corner                    Page 46


Purposeful Thinking About the Future


David Pennington 

On the first day of school each year, members of my leadership team and I visit our district’s 10 schools. I always visit a kindergarten classroom and have a photo taken for our local newspaper. The caption usually reads something like this: “Dr. Pennington welcomes the class of 2027 to their first day of school.” The caption reinforces what all superintendents know: The future walks into our school buildings every day.

In his book Future-Focused Leadership: Preparing Schools, Students, and Communities for Tomorrow’s Realities, futurist Gary Marx challenges us as education leaders to step back from the everyday challenges of our jobs and think about the future in a purposeful way. We should be preparing the entire community for the changes to come — changes that in some cases already are here. If we fail to do so, he warns, we place the future of our nation in jeopardy.

In 2009, I attended a meeting of the Ponca City (Okla.) Development Authority for a presentation by Ed Morrison, economic policy adviser for the Purdue Center for Economic Development. Morrison said the next wave of economic growth belongs to those communities and states that have made the transition from their grandfathers’ to their grandchildren’s economy. He added that the communities, states and regions that will lead in this new economy are those that make the quickest transition from their grandparents’ education system to their grandchildren’s education system.

Here are five things I believe we must do to make that transition effectively:

Stop the blame game. We don’t have the time or energy to affix blame, and the truth is that our current situation is not anyone’s fault. Our world is changing an education model that was developed in the early 20th century to prepare citizens for a world dominated by large factories and large corporate offices and is not appropriate for the children of this century.

Commit at the state and federal levels to provide the education and community supports necessary for all children to be productive (attend college or work steadily); healthy (have good physical health, positive habits, healthy relationships); and connected (politically engaged, active in religious institutions and in community) by the time they reach their 21st birthday.

Restructure our education system so our schools are places where students are self-directed, globally connected learners. We must replace teachers who dispense information with teachers who guide and direct student learning. We can do this if we focus our curriculum on technology literacy, written communication, oral communication, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, citizenship and ethics and career preparation.

Replace our current state student assessment systems. We must shift from summative assessments in grades 3-8 to a growth model. Our high school students should be able to select from one of three types of assessments to demonstrate academic skills: college entrance exams (ACT, SAT), workplace skills (Work Keys) or a portfolio that includes work samples in the eight curriculum areas listed in the item above.

Create the infrastructure (facilities, staff) to provide two years of free postsecondary college and/or career education to every young person in our nation.

Many AASA members already are implementing strategies to transition their schools to this new model. Regardless where you are, AASA can help you get there.

Each year at our national conference, AASA provides opportunities for you to hear from superintendents and other professionals who are leading reform efforts that result in positive educational change for our nation’s schools.

Don’t miss out. I hope to see you in San Diego in February as we celebrate the association’s 150th anniversary.

David Pennington is AASA president for 2014-15. E-mail: pennid@pcps.us. Twitter: @DavidPennid


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