K12 communities want students to have higher scores and higher graduation rates. Colleges want active students and successful grads. The working world wants a bigger talent pool and more creative minds to fuel innovation and job growth.
Issues in K12, higher education, and the economy are massive and often deserve to be addressed separately in order to make progress. However, sometimes it’s important to take a step back, see the big picture, and identify the common thread between these three important phases in a person’s life. Why is education important? Why is it important that students leave school and find a fulfilling job? Learning is a progression that doesn’t end and restart each school or graduation year. In order to make change in education and the workforce, we have to remember K12 prepares students for higher education and higher education prepares students to excel in the world of work and within their own lives.
Schools should be concerned with short term measures — student grades, retention, graduation rates — but they also have to look ahead and ask how they can better prepare their students to be ready for a life of transitioning where their education helps both them as individuals and as members of a larger community. One way schools can power the cycle is by aligning schools, both internally and externally.
- Alignment within K12 Schools and College: Educators benefit from common, innovative strategies. New teaching paradigms like academic coaching get educators to use the same student centered methods to promote accountability, curiosity and committed, thoughtful action. The “flipped” classroom as coined by Sal Kahn is a way for students to be in charge of their own learning outside of class, while time in class is spent collaborating, connecting, and clarifying.
- Alignment Between Colleges and Feeder Schools: Leading conversations between colleges and their feeder schools can mean more students attending college. When students are encouraged to start thinking about college in high school, they can start making connections between their K12 education, college education, and career interests. Feeder schools can also give exiting high school students the comfort they need to take the step into college life. Colleges can provide their k12 counterparts with a much needed dose of reality by sharing the deficits which impede incoming freshmen. This information can guide and inform goals, set higher standards, and improve deliverables which high schools need to improve the quality of who is entering college.
- Alignment Between Colleges and Career Goals: Many college students will enter as undeclared, transfer, change majors, or dropout. Entering college without any plans for the future is not only time consuming, it’s expensive. Students can start making connections between their interests and possible careers in K12, which they can develop as they explore the many opportunities available in their first two years of college.
- Alignment Between Colleges and Employers. Colleges owe undergrads and employers a higher return on investment in much more prepared, knowledgeable, and skilled graduates. Grads need to be both book smart and street smart. They need to be both innovative and ethical. They need to know how to work through and with others and they must bring something valuable to the table that will add value in the world of work.
Alignment on all levels within the educational hierarchy is imperative for transformation. People need to reach across job titles and educational sectors to have conversations, share challenges and set realistic, measurable and ambitious goals to power options and opportunities for teachers, students, and graduates.