These days, schools educate students based upon norms set up for an industrial era, reflecting the goals and societal needs from more than a century ago. What’s needed today is a new generation of educated citizens defined by their creativity, drive, and ability to leverage broad knowledge and the skills of others – citizens who can galvanize answers to global problems.
Schools have a one-size-fits-all approach to education. The current system stifles creativity, innovation, and a connection to the broader world. High teacher turnover plagues many school districts; teachers are not empowered to serve kids in ways they know are best; and their ability to serve their students and be treated as professionals is unwittingly undermined by standards of age, curricula, and nationally normed assessments.
The result, now? Schools are limiting students’ potential, and we are not actively focusing on students’ capacities in the things that ultimately matter most for success in life by every measure (including effectiveness, employability, impact and happiness).
What if this could change?
What if schools could shift away from memorization of facts and anxiety-inducing timed tests that appear to equate speed with intelligence? And instead, shift towards capacities such as systems thinking, emotional intelligence, problem solving, creativity, collaboration, and leadership, enabling our kids to be better prepared for a world of ambiguity and rapid change?
I founded Acera – without any funds or sponsors – to create a microcosm of what is possible in education. The intent was to create a place where learning could happen as a community, where kids have a sense of purpose in their learning that is relevant to the real world, where each student’s path is responsive to their abilities and interests, and where hands-on engagement in discovering, making, and learning is authentic.
Using best practices backed by psychology, neuroscience, and education research, I wanted to prove that different approaches would be effective, and would result in a better growth and educational experience for a new generation. The scientists, innovators, and leaders of tomorrow need an educational journey today that will prepare them for a digital world with copious information flooding around us, with rapid discovery and changing fields of science and technology.
Fundamentally, it isn’t fair that only a lucky few (130 kids) get to come to Acera, and another few hundred get to come our enrichment summer and after school programs. The real goal is to model new practices that can happen everywhere.
We are launching a comprehensive campaign to bring these proven tools into the public space. Our first phase, 2010-2018, was to open a lab school. We’ve invented, pilot-tested and proven new curricula and approaches for learning which transform student growth and their school experience. Now, we are ready to more broadly partner with industry, thought leaders, and public school districts.
We are starting to empower teachers as change agents, engaging students to learn STEM topics in ways that link to real world innovations. At the same time, we will launch new ways to measure what really matters in education – authentic engagement, initiative, a sense of purpose and happiness, and a sense of oneself and one’s passions and skills to make a positive impact in community and the world!