Title Image credit: markshivers.com
Improvement and innovation need not be an either/or proposition. While most of the education debate is either around improving our current system, or creating a new one, Valerie Hannon, from the Innovation Unit, in her presentation around Balancing Strategic Priorities, argued for a split screen approach — an approach focussed on improving the system of today while simultaneously designing the system of tomorrow.
Hannon argues that almost all jurisdictions have a range of innovative initiatives, often focused around student ownership, and very often spurred by learning technologies. At the same time, given the current reality, school improvement must continue. The challenge, she argues, is the innovator’s and evaluator’s dilemma (slide below) — eventually, the current wave of education results trails off, and we must jump into the next education growth curve.
Clearly, what rings true in so many jurisdictions across North America, is the improvement in literacy and graduation rates over the last 20 years, but we are finding it challenging to move beyond a certain point. In British Columbia, despite all efforts over the past 10 years, graduation rates have plateaued at around 80%. It is evident, we cannot just ‘do more of the same’, we need to look at doing some things differently.
The need then, is for innovation to overlap with a new wave and not just more of the same wave.
In her presentation, Hannon quoted John Kao, “The most important characteristic of an innovative firm is that it has an explicit system of innovation which pervades the whole organisation, which is visible, known about, generates a stream of new ideas, and is seen as vital to creating new value”. It is what I often try to describe as a Culture of Yes, supporting creativity and innovations for learners and teachers.
The perspective of the two curves, of improvement and innovation, resonates with West Vancouver’s story. We continue to perform at very high levels, but still look to improve. Whether it is numeracy, literacy or a host of other skills, we continue our search to improve. This is our absolute responsibility for all students in our schools right now. At the same time, we explore and consider the education systems we will need for the future, ones that further embrace flexibility, choice and offer greater personalization of learning.
In essence, school improvement is tantamount to the important transformation work that occurs on the split screen.