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Rick Hess Straight Up

Education policy maven Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute think tank offers straight talk on matters of policy, politics, research, and reform.

Education Opinion

ReSchool Colorado

By Guest Blogger — May 23, 2014 3 min read

Note: Tony Lewis and Amy Anderson with the Donnell-Kay Foundation are guest posting this week.

As we have shared in our previous blog posts this week, we firmly believe that the best path forward for K-12 school reform is through a new public education system, not through further tweaks to the current system. ReSchool Colorado is a multi-year effort to design a new, public, state education system where learning is reimagined and students are equipped to thrive in a rapidly changing world. ReSchool will create a parallel system that offers a better value proposition for those seeking something different or for whom the current system isn’t working well.

Building off of our blog posts from previous days, we must move beyond outdated models (like Gus the truck) and create the space and pathways for new learning to occur (the new highway for learning in Colorado). The design of ReSchool Colorado is underway and expected to extend through 2015 with a push towards implementation in 2016. At this stage we have many more questions than answers. That said, we are looking at a process that focuses on three key areas:


  1. Learning design involves crafting a vision for learner success in the 21st century and beyond and a plan for phasing in the implementation of that vision.
  2. Policy design requires re-shaping the essential foundational elements of a system in order to fuel the learning vision, including finance, governance, infrastructure, and accountability. Coupled with the policy design is the creation of a policy framework and political strategy to ensure that this new system becomes a reality, not just a vision.
  3. Engagement will allow us to pressure test ideas, communicate about our progress, and ensure that the system that is developed is one that people will value and demand for themselves and their children.

Beyond this general strategy, some critical attributes have begun to take shape and are informing the design of this new system, such as:

One system: Instead of navigating multiple systems at key transition points, ReSchool aims to create one, aligned system where a variety of learning opportunities can incubate and grow for students of all ages--from our earliest learners through those entering the workforce to start their first careers. Imagine being able to offer cash-strapped students (for whom higher education is currently out of reach) an affordable postsecondary experience. A set of offerings in this new system could enroll students in a school at age 14 (typical high school age) that they then graduate from a handful of years later with their baccalaureate college degree or Career/Tech certification.

Customized: Instead of requiring students and their families to navigate the system on their own (like we do today), every learner in this new system will have a customized path and an advocate who works with them (and their families) throughout their entire education journey. This advocate will ensure that they are on track and bundling the appropriate learning and supports they need to be most successful. This customized approach requires us to rethink important aspects of the system including financing, competency, and accountability.

Connected: People in this new system must have a sense of ownership and connectivity to it. This requires us to reimagine our current geographically-bound governance model, as discussed in our last post. Technology will catalyze virtual learning communities for students and educators. Personal relationships and hands-on learning opportunities will also be valued and viewed as critical to success in today’s fast moving global society and economy.

Dynamic: The last thing we want to do is create another big system that becomes fossilized and resistant to change. So, an important design challenge for our team is to figure out how to create a lean system that is effectively managed and adaptive and fosters an appropriate level of risk and innovation.

Bold: The idea to create a new education system is in itself a bold concept. It is essential that this new system becomes a reality and not just an exercise in creative thought. Equally as important, the learning opportunities offered and the success of the students served must be game-changing.

Thanks again to Rick for allowing us to guest blog this week. It has been a lot of fun. We look forward to seeing reader responses to our posts and to continued opportunities to share our journey towards a new education landscape in Colorado!

--Tony Lewis and Amy Anderson

The opinions expressed in Rick Hess Straight Up are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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