Voyager November 2019

November 14, 2019

John D. Rockefeller

Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

Dear Learner-Centered Leaders,

A few weeks ago, we completed the first stage of our Outcomes Inquiry—a yearlong series of meetings with incredible learner-centered leaders digging into the kinds of outcomes that would constitute “success” in a learner-centered system. This inquiry was an opportunity for people to wrestle with important questions like, “What is success?” and “Should outcomes be standardized for every child? If outcomes are not standardized, how do we ensure each child is pursuing the outcomes that are most meaningful to them? Or, if outcomes are standardized, how do we account for the unique interests and ambitions of each young person?

This inquiry was born from a recognition that the current narrow view of assessment and accountability is one of the largest barriers to learner-centered education existing inside the public education system. Alignment on the kinds of learner-centered outcomes that matter and on how to assess those outcomes will enable the learner-centered movement to advance (and distinguish) quality; demonstrate results; and establish itself as a credible, trusted approach to education for all children, regardless of background, circumstance, or type of school.

We believe if the movement is able to collectively hold a well-articulated distinction of success—including the outcomes that constitute that success—then we will enable the field to make visible the amazing outcomes learner-centered sites are already producing.

The Outcomes Inquiry started by distinguishing “success” within the learner-centered context. This was a reversal of how the conventional assessment system was created, where we found what was easiest to measure and then shaped our notion of success around those measurements. This inherently limits the focus of what we want for every child. It ends up in a situation where what is communicated to our kids, families and society is: if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t matter.

The Outcomes Inquiry allowed us the freedom to express that because every child is unique, they not only have unique pathways but they also have unique pathways to unique destinations. WOW. How liberating.

From this place, we are able to see the questions around equity shift from “How do we get all kids to the same place as measured by standardized testing?” to “How do we create individual goals and outcomes for each child without unconscious bias, racism, or other historically limiting factors refracting a child’s real interests, aspirations, and potential?” And, how will this shift deepen and broaden a child’s aspirations and interests beyond what we or the child can even see as possible today?

We will be refining the final thinking of the group and sharing it in the coming months—sharing what we hope will be a starting point for the movement to talk across learner-centered models about the incredible outcomes that young people are already developing that go unnoticed by the conventional system of assessment and accountability. And, it will be the springboard for the next phase of this inquiry into identifying the key stakeholders—such as employers, family members, and taxpayers—who need to have confidence that the system is working and identifying the kinds of evidence that would instill that confidence.

There will be lots to share in the coming months with opportunities for you to give feedback and participate in elevating the kinds of outcomes your young people are already realizing.

Stay tuned!


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