The World’s Largest Experiment

There are 14,000+ school districts in the United States, each with their own approach and philosophy on how to improve student outcomes. Within each of those districts, there are dozens of classrooms each with a teacher with their own approach and philosophy.

Usually when I attend a presentation on the “state of American education,” the speaker will cite these statistics to explain why it’s so difficult to drive change in education. Wouldn’t it be easier, they say, if we were like Finland or Singapore where the government could decide policy and implement it consistently?

I usually flip that question on its head (in my head).

The United States is the world’s largest hotbed for experimentation. The United States has tens of thousands of education sites (aka classrooms!) where teachers and school leaders should feel empowered to try new things and experiment to improve student outcomes.

But then I get stuck.

If we truly are the world’s largest experimentation site, why don’t we find and scale new innovations more effectively? Why are student outcomes stagnating?

Some of my thoughts that I’d love to hear more about:

  1. Do teachers and schools feel empowered to experiment?
  2. If they do, would we know how to identify what’s working?
  3. If we figured out what’s working, do we know how to scale it?
  4. And even if we were ready to scale effective practice, would ideology get in the way?

SVP Product, @Pearson. Dabble in educ investing. Passion for turning ed into outcomes. Former teacher, principal, consultant & coder. History buff.

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