Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Educating Iowa's Students for the 21st Century

Dr. Scott McLoed, an education professor at ISU, is guest blogging at the Des Moines Register this week.

Yesterday, Dr. McLeod posted an must read article on why Iowa must change their education system to educate children to compete in the 21st century.

But we hear from American corporations that they’re having great difficulty finding workers who possess the skills needed to do these jobs, which is why they’re either hiring people from other countries or taking jobs overseas.

If Americans wish to retain their economic preeminence, our schools have to change. The rest of the world is catching up to us and creative, innovative, problem-solving (which requires deep conceptual, rather than shallow procedural, understanding) is American students’ weakest area on international assessments. If Iowa workers are to be globally competitive, they will need schools to help them acquire a different set of skills than they have needed in the past.

Is the Iowa education system up to the challenge? Only time will tell. But a critical step to making this transition is the creation of curricula that emphasize student acquisition of 21st century skills rather than regurgitation of discrete facts and low-level procedural knowledge. This will be an extremely difficult change for Iowa schools to make. We all have mental models, primarily informed by our own school experiences, of what school should look and be like. We cannot hang on to those models and expect our graduates to be successful in a vastly different economic climate. We cannot simply sprinkle 21st century skills like fairy dust on top of what we’re already doing. Instead, we must fundamentally realign the curricula and instruction that occurs within our schools in order to produce the workers and citizens that we need.

The Iowa Core Curriculum, particularly the aspects related to 21st century skills, is intended to get us where we need to go. Iowa citizens need to educate themselves about the Core and start asking tough questions about vision, development, implementation, funding, training, and support of their legislators, local school board members, and the Department of Education. Inaction is not an option, nor is tweaking the status quo, as both are losing strategies in a rapidly-changing digital, global economy.

No comments: