It’s said that tough times reveal our truest selves. How can anyone disagree with that? In education, the past two years have revealed our public educators as innovators and creators.
But those of us in education knew this to be the case. There was just never enough money to make changes happen. Increased funding helped to spur changes and provide technology that was needed. What also happened is that teachers had the space and freedom to do things differently because the ways in which they were delivering education were and are constantly changing.
Which takes us to a very interesting question. What does the future of public education look like? Essentially, will it go back to the way things were?
“I hope not. And that shouldn’t be the case,” stated Dan Leffingwell, Ohio BASA Superintendent of the Year for 2022 and superintendent of Noble Local Schools.
I had the pleasure of talking with Dan Leffingwell recently. He is one of Ohio’s top public educational leaders and for good reason: He is always pushing forward and building skills needed in tomorrow’s workforce. Dan is energetic, positive and determined about where education needs to go. And it’s far more than a philosophy; Dan is about action.
Cling to the Future, Not the Past
“We can’t cling to a world that doesn’t apply to our customers,” said Leffingwell. “And we need to stop talking about a 21st century education. We are 22 years into the 21st century. It’s here. We are living it. We need to look ahead. If we do, we will see that we need to diversify and personalize education for every student.”
Leffingwell notes that in order to get there, schools must listen to their customers. Noble Local spends time really digging into this question and involving teachers in it, too.
And what do customers want? At Noble Local, they want collaborative spaces and more college or workforce development classes. They want more STEM classes. And, they want more time to explore workforce opportunities and to participate in opportunities that will lead to internships or apprenticeships.
That’s smart. Leffingwell notes that today, 90% of careers are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) related.
Here’s something else students want and it requires some definite creativity: Students want time to explore on-site and workforce participation. As Leffingwell looks at that, too, he sees the possibility for a “Functional Friday” where instead of spending Friday in the classroom (just as they do all week), they might instead spend the day at an on-site work internship or apprenticeship.
Is this the future?
It sure seems like it. While solutions will vary by district one thing is clear: There is tremendous opportunity to change how schools deliver education and to never go back to the way things were. That’s why Dan looks ahead – not back – because that’s where the future lies.
It seems that the customers in his area agree. Over the last two years, overall enrollment at Noble Local Schools has shot up by 30 percent. Yes, 30 percent! Noble Local is delivering what customers want: They are innovating, creating and reinventing education now.
Dan is very active on Twitter and can be found here. Follow Dan and you will be hooked in with other great superintendents, too.