1. School from 9 to 2. Teacher prep time from 2 to 5... everyday.
When you talk to teachers, the biggest challenge that they face is time. There is not enough of it. Lesson plans suffer because teachers have to fit planning, grading, reporting, and meeting with students into a 40 minute prep hour. I don't know a teacher that doesn't come in early, stay late, or take lots of work home with them.
What if, instead of 40 minutes per day to prep, teachers had 3 hours... EVERYDAY. There would be time to do all of the necessary grading and reporting AND for planning excellent lessons. There would be ample time to look at data to inform the instruction of the next day. There would be time to work with teaching coaches and instructional guides.
Students would miss out on instructional time. About 360 (2 hours x 180) hours per year. I would suggest that we add a month to the school year. That would recover about 100 (5 hours x 20 days) of those hours. This is a huge concern. I think, however, that it is entirely possible that the increase in the quality of instruction would make the hours that students were in class much more efficient. Students would learn more in the five hours a day that they are in class receiving better instruction, than they learn in the seven hours that they are there now. I don't have numbers to prove this, this is just an idea, but I think it is possible.
A couple of the obstacles to this idea would be - First, what would kids be doing during the extra time, with lots of parents who work during those times? The second challenge is where to find the money to compensate teachers for an extra month of classroom instruction.
2. Offering Students X-Prize Type Prizes for Solving Market Problems.
You may not be familiar with the idea of the X-Prize. Here is a very brief background. Back in 1996, Peter Diamandis, who is an entrepreneur who is focused on creating exponential technologies that can impact the world in major ways (See his books Abundance and Bold) offered a $10-million prize to the first privately financed team to build a vehicle that could take people to space. The prize was one in 2004 by Mojave Aerospace Ventures. The contest brought over $100-million of private funds, from many teams that were working to win the prize.
So, here is my idea. What if local businesses offered prizes to a school that was set up to facilitate groups of students competing to solve problems to challenges that businesses are facing. It would probably only work at the high school level. But, that would be the curriculum. Groups of students start working on the issues and come up with solutions. The winners share a cash prize. How big of a prize do you ask? I don't know, $100k or something.
Students would need to recognize what knowledge they were missing and would have teachers who would be there to help them learn... but there would be some incredible incentive to learn it.
3. Curriculum has a service component to it.
I am super passionate about the idea that Ron Berger writes about in The Ethic of Excellence. The idea is this, work that the students are doing in the classroom should provide a service to the community, should have an authentic audience, and should involve real world experts that critique and help the students. I've seen this work in a marvelous way. It is challenging to teach this way, but it works. It is satisfying to both students and teachers.
4. Small Districts that Focus on Community Involvement
This idea focuses on having smaller districts that are based in the community around the high school that is in that community. There would be 3 or 4 elementary schools that feed into one or two middle schools that feed into one high school. That would be the entire district. The control of the district would be much more localized and I think the community might rally around the schools and take a more concerted interest in the schools.
5. Aggressively Bring Back Vocational Ed. Tracks to Middle and High Schools
This idea comes from a book by Nicholas Wyman called Job U: How to Find Wealth and Success By Developing the Skills Companies Actually Need. (Deep Inhale, saying that in my mind took all of my breath) The premise of the book is that we keep telling kids that everyone NEEDS to go to college but there are lots of jobs that pay middle class incomes that do not need a college diploma. These are jobs that students could learn in vocational classes, certification programs, associate degree programs, etc. College is important, but is it for everyone? I don't think so and Mr. Wyman makes the case that bringing back strong vocational programs could help students find well paying career paths right out of high school.
6. Vigorous Exercise in the Mornings
The book Spark has a lot of research about how vigorous exercise helps students learn and retain information.
7. Practicing Mindfulness Every Day
This is just an idea that I heard at a leadership meeting once. My understanding is that students would spend 5 minutes or so at the beginning of the day or class doing some mindful meditation. As someone who loves the practice of meditation, I think this is a great idea.
8. Lots of Private Schools with Niche Focuses
The idea here is to be able to give parents choice as possible in what type of education there students receive. Charter schools have started to give parents this kind of choice, but I think if there were private schools we're not required to do all of the reporting, testing, and well tons of reporting that district and charter school R require to there would be more freedom specialize in whatever the focus of the school was. I also think that vouchers to help parents, especially those who are in a lower socio-economic status, pay for these schools is a good idea. Don't ask me how it works yet... I just think it is a good idea.
9. Help Teachers Build Businesses That Create Passive Income so that They Can Earn More and Focus on Teaching Without Worrying About Income
This is pretty self explanatory. But I did want to get away from just saying that we should pay teachers more. We should. But what if there was a way to create a business that would pay them passively to supplement their income so that they could just focus on teaching?
10. Teachers Apprenticing for 2 years, with a master teacher, before taking on their own classrooms.
This would be helpful for new teachers entering into the profession. Instead of taking on a classroom of their own, they would have the chance to learn what the day to day real life of a teacher looks like before having the responsibility of doing it all on their own. It would also keep master teachers sharp as they are mentoring and helping someone else to become proficient in the profession. It is a win-win.
There you go. 10 ideas that could improve education. Let me know what you think.