Bright Futures Is On Target!

by

Maine’s superintendents have each received a copy  of Tony Wagner’s book The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need and What We Can Do About It. Former Governor Angus King and the Maine International Center for Digital Learning (http://www.micdl.org/) were responsible for distributing this book to the superintendents.

Tony Wagner is co-director of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education’s Change Leadership Group (http://www.gse.harvard.edu/clg/) and is a well known speaker and author. As is obvious from the title, he doesn’t feel schools are in sync with the changing nature of the global economy and society.  He describes seven survival skills that he feels are critical for our country and our kids if we are to thrive. He states, “I believe that opinion leaders and policy makers who do not understand the profound implications of teaching and testing these new survival skills are complicit in an unwitting conspiracy to put our nation at even greater risk of losing our competitive advantage.  Unfortunately, the bet that No Child Left Behind will save us is a losing one.” “Unwitting conspiracy“–those strong words kept me reading.

As I read his description of the seven survival skills I kept thinking, “Well that’s what an exemplary middle schools is all about!”  Here’s the list of survival skills designated by Wagner:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
  • Collaboration Across Networks and Leading By Influence
  • Agility (in thinking) and Adaptability
  • Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
  • Effective Oral and Written Communication
  • Assessing and Analyzing information
  • Curiosity and Imagination

I thought it might be interesting to see how Bright Futures (http://www.maine.gov/education/ml/), the report from the Middle Level Commission, might line up with Wagner’s seven survival skills.  Below is a chart that shows the strong connections between these survival skills and Bright Futures‘ 12 Core Practices.

Connections Between the Seven Survival Skills Outlined in Tony Wagner’s The Global Achievement Gap and Bright Futures, the Report of the Maine Commission on Middle Level Education

Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival SkillsThe Global Achievement Gap Promising Futures’ Core Practices Essential Elements of the Individual Core Practices
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 1. Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory.  

2. Teachers use research-based instructional practices in their classrooms that are effective in increasing the learning and achievement of young adolescents.

4. Students have access to one-to-one computing technology integrated throughout the curriculum allowing students to acquire the critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.

5. All middle level students experience learning opportunities that emphasize creativity and innovation.

• Learning experiences are designed so that students learn to pose complex essential questions, search out potential answers• Intellectual risk taking is encouraged in classrooms that are physically and emotionally safe. 

• Hands-on experiences, discussion groups, classroom workshops, reflective assessment, and project-based learning allow for active involvement in learning.

• Complex and abstract ideas are presented through scaffolding and differentiated instructional practices

• Teachers model thinking skills, study strategies, problem-solving, creative thinking, provide guided practice, and give students timely feedback.

• Computers are the modern tool for intellectual work

• Creative thinking is the process of generating original ideas that have value and is included in all content areas.

• Students use the creative process to brainstorm many ideas, explore multiple solutions and expand on ideas and revisions.

Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence 2. Teachers use research-based instructional practices in their classrooms that are effective in increasing the learning and achievement of young adolescents.  

4. Students have access to one-to-one computing technology integrated throughout the curriculum allowing them to acquire the critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.

7. Faculty, administration, and students collaboratively build a safe and caring climate that nurtures the individual while creating a sense of community where everyone is valued.

• Explicit instruction in working collaboratively•Educators maximize the use of technology to support teaching, learning, and communication within and beyond the schoolhouse walls. 

• Middle level educators engage the community and students to establish agreed-upon values that will serve as the foundation for the school.

•  Students are directly involved in developing policies regarding discipline and standards of behavior in each school.

Agility and Adaptability 1. Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory and is organized and executed to maximize accessibility for all students.
 

5. All middle level students experience learning opportunities that emphasize creativity and innovation.

•  Learning experiences are designed so that students learn to pose complex essential questions, search out potential answers, evaluate the quality of resources, and present findings in a variety of ways using technological tools through an integrated curriculum.•Students have creative-problem solving skills to deal with unpredictability. 

• Students have a better chance of reaching their capacity because they are taught to use creativity and innovation.

 

Initiative and Entrepreneurialism

 

1. Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory and is organized and executed to maximize accessibility for all students.

• A multi-faceted curriculum helps students understand themselves and their world in the midst of discovering who they are and who they might become.• Courses and activities provide students with many opportunities to try out different experiences, develop their special interests and aptitudes, and broaden their views of the world and themselves. 

• Significant student voice is reflected in planning the curriculum, setting and achieving personal goals, and assessing learning.

Effective Oral and Written Communication 3. Teachers in all content areas use teaching and learning practices that are anchored in 21st century literacies.  

4. Students have access to one-to-one computing technology integrated throughout the curriculum allowing them to acquire the critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.

• Literacy instruction is a priority of each middle school with the goal of bringing each student, both struggling and advanced readers, up to a rigorous standard of reading and writing ability across the content areas.• Process writing and media production instruction is incorporated across the curriculum. 

• Students read and view a variety of print, digital, and multi-media text and engage in interactive activities such as small group discussions, reading response journals, and think-alouds, and use Web 2.0 tools (e.g., wikis, blogs, podcasts) that help them construct knowledge from the various texts and to create content on the web.

Accessing and Analyzing Information 3. Teachers in all content areas use teaching and learning practices that are anchored in 21st century literacies.  

4. Students have access to one-to-one computing technology integrated throughout the curriculum allowing them to acquire the critical thinking skills related to information, media, and technology.

• Information literacy is integrated throughout the curriculum.• Students think and process a wide variety of mathematical information in creative, flexible, and meaningful ways.  Integrated instruction provides varied opportunities to apply mathematical principles across all content areas. 

•  All Maine students have the technology tools and opportunities they need to be successful in school, regardless of the community in which they live or their grade level. Continued equal access and support for one-to-one computing exists for every student.

•    Administrators, the teaching staff, and the technology staff, together develop a common vision of technology integration based on the best educational research on learning and the demands of the 21st century.

Curiosity and Imagination 1. Students have access to curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory and is organized and executed to maximize accessibility for all students.  

5. All middle level students experience learning opportunities that emphasize creativity and innovation.

•    All aspects of the curriculum are exploratory in nature.• Teachers foster a learning environment rich with opportunities for students to explore, discover, and create. 

• Creativity is acknowledged as the cornerstone of teaching students in the conceptual age.

The book is both fascinating and engaging to read.  I think we middle level educators have a professional responsibility to speak up about the characteristics of the exemplary middle grades education at school and in our communities and to be able to link those characteristics to the demands of the 21st century.  The Global Achievement Gap gives us a lot to think about.

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One Response to “Bright Futures Is On Target!”

  1. Mary Callan Says:

    I am amazed at how you have done this! What a great tool for ML educators to share with their superintendents, principals and school boards!

    Mary Callan

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