Policy Documents

New Schools And Innovative Delivery

Michael B. Horn, and Meg Evans –
May 13, 2013

In this document that examines innovative deliveries for schools, the authors write that the past several decades have seen technology transform industry after industry. Nearly every sector in America has used new technologies to innovate in ways nearly unimaginable a generation ago. By the term technology, we refer to the processes by which an organization transforms labor, capital, materials and information into products and services of greater value. The notion is not limited to things like microprocessors and other electronics. Innovation in this context refers to a change in one of these technologies. 

The authors conclude that, 

Although urban school districts have struggled to innovate in the past, there is an opportunity to move beyond these struggles. With the rise of digital learning, there is a chance to transform the urban school district from its factory model past into a student-centric system that can customize for each student’s distinct learning needs and bolster each student’s achievement. Despite challenges that stand in the way of this change, there are concrete steps that state-level actors and district leaders can take to move toward this reality. From the low hanging fruit of moving elementary schools to a station-rotation model and offering a wide range of individual online course options for high school students to the critical steps of removing seat-time requirements and focusing as a district on individual student-growth metrics, Milwaukee and other cities can begin to stand as models for the nation on how to capture the potential of online and blended learning. Increasing numbers of charter networks and districts are grasping the promise of digital  learning, but few have yet to re-imagine and rebuild systematically with disruptive innovation in mind. Following the suggestions above, as well as engaging educators and the larger community, can begin a process of transformation that sets urban districts on a path to creating an education system markedly different from the one that has dominated the past century of education — and can help each child realize her fullest potential.