Innovation Zones

Interesting commentary piece in today’s Star Tribune about creating Innovation Zones in Minnesota that would be free of some regulation and could allow for more experimenting in education…

Education in Minnesota Badly Needs Innovation

I like the idea of emphasizing both internal innovation like the innovation project at 287 does and external, new program innovation zones that could make it easier to change multiple things at once.

Very compelling op-ed, thanks for sharing. When I initially saw the headline I cringed because we usually hear the angle about how “change is desperately needed” from outsiders or would-be reformers who don’t believe in public education in the first place, and so their efforts are really about dismantling public ed and, in the process, raiding public coffers. But I digress…

It was nice to see that this call came from insiders who understand public education. Farmington’s Superintendent is one of the authors and I know that district has done some very cool things with Project Based Learning and flexible learning environments at their high school.

In the brief two years that I have been a part of the Innovation Team, I have begun to notice a trend. Lots of big picture, more dramatic kinds of innovation are very difficult to do within the current framework of what “school” is. The idea of an Innovation Zone, where we can remove some of the regulations that define what/how/where school needs to be could definitely open the door to more dramatic changes.

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Yeah, I liked the piece quite a bit too. I think it fits an niche between Charter and Public. I know Charter schools were intended to fuel innovation in learning, but there is little collaboration between public and charter, and charter seems to often omit some of the stronger elements of public education.

Great article, thanks for sharing Mike! I think that since we are involved in the day to day functions of school and we see how much has changed in such a short period of time, we also recognize the need for a real paradigm shift. The old assumptions that all students need the same education, that tests truly measure learning, that learning takes place only in the classroom, or even that school should be age-based are beginning to raise a lot of questions.

Oddly enough a colleague and I were just discussing innovative schools and college readiness along with state test scores and school rankings in general. What we found during our discussion was that the #2 ranked school in the state, (as reported by US News & World Report) TrekNorth, had a 32% math proficiency score . Now, how can a school that is one of the highest ranked in the state have such a low math score? Also, this school must be taking some innovative approaches to education since the four major components of their program are: College-Readiness, Outdoor Adventures, Service Learning, and a Sense of Community. I bring this up only because TrekNorth seems to be hitting the mark on several of the points in this article and we should be looking at how programs such as this are stepping beyond the confines of the traditional classroom and being innovative while engaging in and listening to the voices of their community.

I hadn’t heard of this school, but it sounds really cool. Is this a public charter? My concern with charters is always the issue of whether they are serving the whole community – or are they picking and choosing their students? Often it’s the ladder which, in my opinion, completely invalidates anything that they are able to accomplish as a contrast to public schools. However, on their website they claim that “TrekNorth Junior & Senior High School does not discriminate against students or employees based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual preference, intellectual ability, or physical ability. Enrollment is open to any Minnesota resident who is eligible to enroll in grades 6 -12.” This is good, but note that they don’t rule out discrimination based on your behavioral history or disciplinary records.

The question is : When will legislators realize that one size does not fit all?

Interesting article. I like the idea and it would be nice to explore a variety options (including the traditonal) to support various learners. As some commenters have eluded to, charter schools are seen as a solution to this question. However, even those are being criticized. I think more work would need to be done in encouraging communities and schools to DO this. I think many at all levels support one size does not fit all but aren’t yet ready to support and apply the shift.