For millions of students, September couldn’t come soon enough. While education was already beginning to see huge transformations in development, delivery and approach, the events of 2020 accelerated that. “School” is no longer defined solely as an in-person brick and mortar learning environment. Post-pandemic, new out-of-the-box school redesign models have emerged and are here to stay, showcasing what learning can and should be… and redefining what it means for families to have control in how their students are educated. No matter where you look, the field is abuzz with changes.
At the LearnLaunch Fenway Innovation Summit in June, the Innovation Challenge finalists setting out to transform the classroom experience described what they were doing with their newfound powers. During this past school year, the Massachusetts Department of Education gave school districts the autonomy to create their own virtual education model, benefiting students who for various reasons, preferred virtual learning, during a time when most school districts reverted back to full in-person learning. The Single District Virtual School (SDVS) ensures that parents and families have a voice and choice about the education options for their children. Virtual learning should not come and go. It should stay as an option for students and families who prefer it.
Then there’s collaborations fostered by groups like Transcend Education, which helped New York educators-turned-entrepreneurs, Jeff Imrich and Sung-Ae Yang’s Rock by Rock to forge a partnership with Bernita Bradley’s Engaged Detroit. Rock by Rock was a 2021 Yass Prize finalist who created project based learning experiences that empower kids to have real-world impact. Engaged Detroit supplied resources and connections to Detroit’s homeschool families. When these two organizations came together, they created Rock by Rock’s ‘7-box Changemaker,’ a curriculum of experiential learning projects that make student learning accessible, equitable, and rigorous. There is power in collaboration, especially when parents and caregivers have an important role to play in students who are learning at home in microschools, pods, or homeschool environments.
And while microschools and homeschool options are increasingly in the news, the brick-and-mortar school building model is also reinventing itself. Now more than ever, there are new, innovative methods that draw from all the 21st century has to offer. In 2020, BC High School (Boston) opened the Shields Center for Innovation, a center accessible to all students that gives exposure to an innovative, hands-on interdisciplinary curriculum pushing students to apply their learning to the world’s most relevant issues. Innovation is at the heart of every sector and this center propels student learning forward. Just this year, high school students in this center developed the school’s first hydroponics program, working to solve local, complex issues pertaining to food insecurity and sustainable urban agriculture. As we break through the pandemic, schools like BC High are deploying solutions that many have never thought of or seen before, and students are rising to the occasion. There is a wide breadth and depth of diversity, innovation, and excellence pumping through our country’s classrooms and centers of learning.
We are seeing evidence of these innovative solutions in the 2022 Yass Prize applications. Applications are rolling in, and while we still have two months left of summer, these applicants are proving that September is looking bright for America’s children.
There has been significant disruption in the field of education. But this disruption has led to possibility, opportunity, and choice for millions of American students.