What is a future ready school?

Crestwood Secondary in Howard-Winneshiek, Iowa has gotten it right. The campus administration and faculty have figured out how to use the best technology to elevate student achievement. The students at this school have been benefitting from an aggressive tech initiative that began five years ago, and the results are tangible and positive.

Technology permeates their fabric of instruction. Crestwood Secondary has already achieved a one-to-one device-to-student ratio. More than half of the students here earn dual college credit. The nearly 600 enrolled students can choose from 95 course electives that encourage innovative thinking. To top it off, the school has a 91% graduation rate. The school is part of a district initiative committed to future readiness. That preparation includes technology, but the results transcend traditional technology use.

Each year at this campus improves upon the one before it because Crestwood Secondary is a future ready school. Furthermore, the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District became one of the first 100 academic organizations formally recognized as future ready.

So, what’s the deal with being future ready, and why is it so important?

The future ready school pledge

Becoming a future ready school takes vision and commitment. On these campuses, academic leaders have agreed to:

  • Foster collaboration
  • Increase academic rigor
  • Provide personalized professional learning
  • Encourage anywhere, anytime learning
  • Re-envision how to use space and time
  • Plan for long-term sustainability
  • Seek continuous improvement

These seven tenets make up the Future Ready Schools Pledge created in 2014. Since then, 3400 schools have agreed to take the steps necessary to become a future ready school, like Crestwood Secondary. More than 20 million students are benefitting from the efforts of forward-thinking leaders committed to instructional innovation.

But these initiatives represent more than idle affirmation. Unlike technology plans stored on a shelf where no one will see them, the agreements are a way of school life. They’ve become part of the instructional fabric. Campus leaders at future ready schools commit to embracing change. As a result, any agreements made involve administrators, teachers, and students who have embedded technology in their daily work and learning.

Each of these schools establishes a robust infrastructure that supports educational technology and helps learners access the digital tools they need to succeed. They plan for short-term wins, and they develop long-term strategies that help them adapt to and influence changing educational environments.

Future Ready Framework Gears
Image: Future Ready Schools

Components of a future ready school

Student learning is a process with many components. The gears in a future ready school include:

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
  • Personalized Professional Learning
  • Robust Infrastructure
  • Data and Privacy
  • Community Partnerships
  • Budget and Resources
  • Use of Space and Time

Planning takes each of these gears into consideration one by one and as a whole. No gear can exist in isolation. Their effectiveness depends on each other. How well they produce the desired change depends on the vision and commitment of their leadership.

We’ll take a closer look at each of these gears in the next section.

Campus and district support for future ready schools

The process of creating a future ready school is iterative. It requires repetition in visioning, planning, implementing, assessing, and refining. The result is an ongoing process based on academic research. Implementing an initiative like this requires leadership. That’s where campus and district support come in.

Top-down leadership no longer serves the needs of students. Instead, teams equipped to foster collaboration are more effective in transforming learning through technology. Administrators cannot make decisions in isolation, especially from the district level. They must meet with the stakeholders affected by technology decisions.

Here’s what education administrators can do to support schools for future readiness:

  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment — Scrutinize the instructional program, looking for ways to advance, augment, and enrich learning. Every purchase must improve learning. The goal is to prepare all students for college and career readiness.
  • Personalized Professional Learning — Treat teachers with the respect they deserve by personalizing their continued professional development. Avoid one-size-fits-all training programs. Instead, help teachers customize their learning tracks.
  • Robust Infrastructure — Take advantage of programs like the e-rate service for schools and libraries. The reduced infrastructure costs help alleviate the high cost of technology.
  • Data and Privacy — Apps and tech initiatives collect a shocking amount of personal student data. This information must be secure and encrypted to protect student identities. Administrators have to ensure this happens regardless of ed-tech companies’ privacy policies. At Classcraft, we made sure everyone’s information is secure by being COPPA and GDPR compliant.
  • Community Partnerships — Work with stakeholders at all levels to increase academic rigor. Include teachers, librarians, and parents. 
  • Budget and Resources — An investment in technology requires a commitment to making necessary upgrades while embracing innovation. These innovations can include bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies that help to stretch the school’s resources.
  • Use of Space and Time — Flexibility matters when creating a future ready school. Initiatives, like flipping the classroom and providing Wi-Fi on school buses, create anywhere, anytime learning opportunities.
Student using tablet
Photo: Google Edu

Future ready schools help students reach their full potential

If you’re still not sure about becoming a future ready school, talk to those who have already taken the plunge: Campus principals and district leaders committed to mentoring others who want to use technology to build instructional capacity and academic rigor at their campuses.

Future ready schools close learning gaps. They promote academic success in ways other schools cannot by creating synergy among systems.

Regardless of a student’s background or program placement, research-based strategies help all learners. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, “Future Ready Schools helps K-12 public, private, and charter school leaders plan and implement personalized, research-based digital learning strategies so all students can achieve their full potential.”

Future ready is future here! How close is your school to achieving its full potential?

Photo: Google Edu

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