Don’t Ever Stop @ iNACOL: The Mission Continues!
In October 2016, Gene and Copper attended the iNACOL conference in San Antonio, Texas. We found the conference to be purposeful and fun. The locale on the Riverwalk was great however our purpose in attending was to ensure our work was still relevant and viable with the national movement in personalized mastery. There were over 3500 attendees with excellent keynote speakers and breakout sessions. Susan Patrick and Chris Sturgis have grown iNACOL into a powerhouse convening from which people at various stages on the personalized mastery journey can find themselves and move themselves forward. For us, we reconnected with colleagues who are still on the front lines of change in their districts.
Susan Patrick’s opening session showcased her current research of international systems. The best example of a transformed system is in New Zealand where they Innovate for Equity. Their innovation process involves both a top-down and bottom- up approach. In New Zealand, industries have set the competencies they want and there is an alignment to the PK-20 school system. Their accountability system emphasizes both transparency and student evidence. Their system maps interdisciplinary projects that are inquiry-based. New Zealand’s approach resonated with us that students are showing evidence of their learning and that systems must provide avenues for top-down and bottom-up innovations to occur.
Todd Rose’s keynote summarized his book “The End of Average” that has implications for state assessment systems that seek to determine average growth as a method of accountability. His research challenged the myth that there is an average person, brain or student. This work paves the way for personalizing learning for each individual student. He said the science of the individual includes three components: people are jagged with multiple dimensions, you can’t discuss learning without understanding the context and there are levels more than one pathway and pace for learning (there is no relationship between pace and ability). Gene and Copper realized that our current system of everyone learning at a lock-step pace with the same curriculum does not recognize the current research on individuality. Learning has to be in the eye of the beholder and at their pace.
Copper attended a session by Virgel Hammonds, Don Siviski and Joe DiMartino that questions whether answers lie in Policy to Practice or Practice to Policy. They questioned the connection between policy and practice with the following questions:
- Should practice drive policy and then policy push out the best practices?
- Does policy create permission for innovation?
- Can bad policy crush promising practice?
- How can policy support scaling best practices?
The final luncheon keynote speaker, Manny Scott, one of the original Freedom Writers, was an amazing speaker who inspired us to continue to look at the individual needs of each child and build an educational process around him/her.
We concluded that there must be players at the policy and practice level who have a entrepreneurial spirit and communicate with one anther. There has to be a space for prototyping and improving new ideas in an innovation zone. This fits in with our thinking that the levels of the system have to work together. As a bonus, we connected with several Colorado colleagues to continue this work.
What we concluded after attending iNACOL was that our work is very relevant and we have a meaningful place at the table for this national reform. We plan to attend the planning session for Education Reimagined in Atlanta in January to support the national agenda.