Pathways to Prosperity by Wayne Jennings

Pathways to Prosperity Project based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a major new report examining the reasons for our failure to prepare so many young adults, and advancing an exciting vision for how the United States might regain the leadership in educational attainment it held for over a century. Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century contends that our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach.

This pathways system would be based on three essential elements. The first is the development of a broader vision of school reform that embraces multiple pathways to help young people successfully navigate the journey from adolescence to adulthood. The report contends that at present, we place far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college. Yet only 30 percent of young adults successfully complete this preferred pathway. Meanwhile, even in the second decade of the 21st century, most jobs do not require a bachelor’s. The report notes that while the United States is expected to create 47 million jobs in the 10-year period ending in 2018, only a third of these jobs will require a bachelor’s or higher degree. See reference for other points.

How To Videos: Extraordinary Resource by Wayne Jennings

EdVisions Schools have made their Design Essentials videos available to all. These are profoundly helpful in seeing how a variety of educational practices are conducted in project-based learning and non-course based schools or others moving toward student-centered learning. Here are examples from the category Self-Directed, Project-Based Learning:

  • Self-directed, project-based learning primary focus; driven by constructivist pedagogy (Adults explain; Students explain)
  • Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) for all students emphasizing student needs and interests (view video)
  • Personalized work space for each student; Internet access (view video)
  • Technology infused environment; technology as a tool
  • Individual/group projects complemented by multiple teaching approaches based on student needs and interests (view video)
  • Achievement demonstrated publicly; highest work place standards are quality goal (view video)
  • All students prepared for post-secondary education, workplace and active citizenship (view video)
  • All students and staff engage in quiet reading every day (view video)

Other major categories with numerous videos include:

  • Authentic Assessment
  • Teacher Ownership/Democratic Governance
  • Small Learning Communities

The Design Elements professional contributions shows student-centered learning in action, the best I have seen! Thanks to the award winning New Country High School and Avalon School students and staff for their exemplary videos.

Rise of K–12 Blended Learning by Wayne Jennings

A recent report The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning about online learning begins with this startling statement:

“Online learning is sweeping across America. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K–12 students took an online course. In 2009, more than 3 million K–12 students did. What was originally a distance learning phenomenon no longer is. Most of the growth is occurring in blended-learning environments, in which students learn online in an adult-supervised environment at least part of the time. As this happens, online learning has the potential to transform America’s education system by serving as the backbone of a system that offers more personalized learning approaches for all students.”

Blended learning is defined as any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. The report describes six types of blended learnings commonly used in schools.

New Schools by Wayne Jennings

A Radically Different World

If you think our future will require better schools, you’re wrong.

The future of education calls for entirely new kinds of learning environments.

If you think we will need better teachers, you’re wrong.

Tomorrow’s learners will need guides who take on fundamentally different roles.

As every dimension of our world evolves so rapidly, the education challenges of tomorrow will require solutions that go far beyond today’s answers.

These comments come from: Other exciting sources of education futuristic activitiy are Knowledge Works and New Tech Network and 2020 Forecast.

100 Years War Against Learning by Wayne Jennings

Dr. Don Glines has poured his energy, extensive experience and knowledge of research about learning into this extraordinary article, “100 Years Against Learning.” He likens the actual 100 Years War to the more than 100 years during which schools have ignored learning principles. He asks why do we still have, for example, seventh graders. He says there is no such thing. Any examination of existing seventh graders finds a range on academic skills of at least eight years and physical development of four years. To simply assume that schools can assemble a group of seventh graders and batch process them makes no sense given the huge differences in development, temperament, motivation, interests, and abilities.

He asks why would a decision about entering kindergarten hinge on age. A student born one minute before midnight on the cutoff date may be far ahead of the student born one minute after the cutoff date. Glines details numerous instances of such incongruities and offers remedies.

Using the war metaphor, he calls upon all of us to refuse continuation of learning atrocities. This is a powerful piece by one of the world’s leading educational thinkers and practitioners.

Urgent to: Educational Alternatives Supporters by Wayne Jennings

The International Association for Learning Alternatives (IALA) has shifted its focus from conferences to policy advocacy with a Position Paper outlining broad concepts to advance educational alternatives. The National Association for Alternative Education (NAEA) has recently endorsed the IALA Position Paper as have several state associations. NAEA is a growing membership organization that holds an excellent annual conference and has partnered with the Association for High School Innovation (AHSI) in this endeavor. AHSI, formerly the Gates-funded Alternative High School Initiative, is a leading force for innovative educational options.

This year’s conference, February 9 – 12, 2011 in Nashville, will feature a President’s Business Meeting for State & National Leadership, similar to the Leadership Forum at past IALA conferences. We enthusiastically support this initiative and encourage organization leaders to attend and urge members to join NAEA. (membership is free!) Dr. Ray Morley of Iowa will represent IALA at the meeting of alternative organizational leaders.

Wayne Jennings, IALA Board Chair
Ray Morley, Vice-Chair
Dan Daly, Secretary/Treasurer

Ultimate Parent Empowerment by Wayne Jennings

CA sealCalifornia’s “parent trigger ” law enacted in 2010 permits parents with a 51% vote in a failing school to either close the school, replace the school’s administrators, replace the school’s teachers, or convert the school into a charter. Making the news, parents at McKinley Elementary School in Compton California voted 60% to transform their school into a charter school. Earlier this year a majority of parents at Mount Gleason Middle School in Sunland-Tujunga, CA voted to transform their school. The outcomes of these votes are not yet known, may be challenged, and considered revolutionary.

 Nonetheless, other states (GA, IA, IN, MA, NJ, NC, ND, WV to date) are considering similar parent trigger laws as a procedure for dealing with “failing” (low scoring) schools. Fasten your seat belts, educators!

School Reformers Missing Crucial Ingredient by Wayne Jennings

PrenskyMarc Prensky, originator of the terms digital native and digital immigrant, writes that today’s education reformers miss the most important ingredient for education change, namely the curriculum. He states, reformers speak of the importance of teachers and principals, methods of instruction, length of the day and year, teacher preparation and other factors but assume the conventional curriculum. Huge omission! The conventional curriculum has remained unchanged for 100 years and must be transformed to meet 21st century societal needs, personal passions of students and new conceptions about learning.

This powerful article deserves careful study to make significant improvement in schooling. I highly recommend it. Prensky makes the article available for widespread distribution. His website contains much other useful information.

Research on School Choice by Wayne Jennings

Nat center school choiceThe National Center on School Choice conducts scholarly research on school choice including such topics as: charter schools, magnet schools, voucher programs, private schools and inter/intra distict choice. The center located at Vanderbilt University is funded ($13.5 million) by the USDE Institute of Education Sciences since 2004 with partners among others at Brown, Harvard, Indiana, Notre Dame and Stanford universities. They have conducted numerous studies regarding choice about staff, programs, parents and programs. They have published numerous  books, research reports with a range of studies underway. Much of this info is downloadable.

From their site: Options basically fall into two categories. First are schools of choice, all schools that aren’t regular public schools—magnet, private, charter, homeschools. In the U.S., there are about 133,000 schools; of those, about 40,000, or one third, are schools of choice. Second are choice programs, like open enrollment, school transfer options, vouchers, and tax credits. Currently, 47 states have some kind of open enrollment policy; all 50 have the school transfer option under No Child Left Behind, 9 states offer public or privately-funded vouchers, and 7 states offer tax credits.

Alternative Certification by Wayne Jennings

Teacher licenseAttempts at circumventing conventional licensing have led to the availability of alternative certification, that is programs for becoming licensed to teach or administer without going through the traditional sequence. A valuable resource for examining this route is and then clicking on Alternative Certification.

This continually updated website of 1,700 colleges and school districts contains valuable time-saving information including B.A, M.A and Ph.D. programs. One example is Teach for America. The website also references a critical review and research on alternative certification.

The professional literature contains much commentary about the quality of teacher training, much of it critical of the selection of candidates and training programs leading to certification. Legislatures in a number of states have initiated new routes to certification, hence the value of the Education Degree website for this fast changing field.

Our IALA website lists colleges for preparing people to work in alternative schools. Click on Alternative Training Programs.

Provocative Conceptions About Learning by Wayne Jennings

Hole in wallTED brings the world’s leaders in various field: Sugata Mitra  invented the “hole in the wall” project with astonishing learning results, then continued the experiment around the world with the same impact. It can’t help but cause us to question conventional ideas about the ability of children to learn. His 17 minute talk at TED captured in the video Child-Driven Education will entertain, enlighten and cause one to puzzle about unfettered  human learning.
Children of the Code tackles issues of learning to read (breaking the code) with a wealth of the world’s expertise and resources. The difficulties are described in an amazing video 7 minute What’s So Difficult? and the attendant results for many children of  “mind shame,” a crippling long term affliction for school achievement.

A third brief video is from the fresh mind of Ken Robinson who draws engagingly as he talks about the need for change.


Charter School Funding: Bugaboo Factor by Wayne Jennings

Graph funding CS100s of charter school studies have assessed the viability of the movement particularly on student achievement as measured by standardized tests. One study shows charter schools students do better than comparison groups, another shows they are about the same, another shows charter school students do poorer than comparison groups.

Two major criticisms of these studies have been made aside from their conflicting findings. One regards a definition of charter schools. Are we talking about innovative charter schools vs. those following traditional approaches, charter schools in their first few years vs. well-established ones, charter schools with mostly beginning teachers, schools serving mostly at-risk students, etc.? One may as well say parochial schools achieve better than public schools; that would dismissed as making an incomplete and unwarranted comparison.

The second major criticism of charter school studies regards a level playing field on finances. Repeated studies by Ball State University show that in all states, charter schools receive fewer revenues and in many states substantially fewer revenues–on the order of 20 percent less revenue. This factor also makes student achievement comparisons suspect and unfortunately is rarely mentioned or factored in. The study, Charter School Funding: Inequity Persists updates an earlier study which also found a considerable difference in the resources available to charter schools as compared to district schools in the same locales.

People want to know about this major reform effort, charter schools and its degree of success. Once again, the complexity of valid research rears its annoying head. I, for one, want to see charter schools actually depart from conventional practices. That is the primary purpose of charter school statutes! My observation and experience with charter schools from the earliest years show that the majority of charter schools reconstitute the conventional school. A small percentage, perhaps 30 percent, (my estimate) pioneer different approaches to education. Those interesting schools have much to teach us about learning and the results for producing responsible citizenship, productive careers and lifelong learning. How about research along these lines rather than the repeated flawed and unhelpful existing studies?

Apple Offers Another Education Innovation by admin

apple-logo-rainbowApple has added another innovation to its list with the introduction of Challenge Based Learning.  Challenge Based Learning uses the concept of solving a problem or creating a unique solution to a real world situation through the use of technology and multi-media outlets.  This is an excellent way for schools to explore project based learning with the guidance, structure and resources they may otherwise not have.

Linda Darling-Hammond on Choice by admin

flat worldIn her new book The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future (Multicultural Education) Linda Darling-Hammond share her views on how schools can be improved for all students from all backgrounds.  She poignantly describes what the United States needs to do in order to build a stronger, more equitable educational system.  Recently she appeared via audio cast on Elluminate talking about both The Flat World and Education, as well as, The Right to Learn.

Alternatives, the National Scene by Wayne Jennings

Summit 1Dan Daly, executive director of IALA wrote recently of the organization’s efforts to impact state and national policy:

This past June, IALA hosted the Tri-State Alternatives Leadership Summit in Bloomington and formed The IALA Coalition for Innovative Education. Leaders from the following ten organizations participated; IALA, MN Association of Alternative Programs, IA Association of Alternative Education, WI Charter School Association, MN Association of Charter Schools, Association of Recovery Schools, Coalition for Charter School Management, Education Evolving, EdVisions Schools and MN Online Learning Alliance. David Bly, former MAAP President and current member of the MN House of Representatives also attended.

The purpose was to find common issues, explore ways to collaborate and impact state and federal legislation/policy. Organizations in the Coalition are currently ratifying the IALA Position Paper and the following Components of Innovative Education:

  1. A learning program that is “different” from traditional schools and/or “focused” on a specific theme
  2. A student-centered learning program using a variety of measures to assess student performance
  3. Staff at the site able to make decisions about all aspects of the school and control finances
  4. Staff at the site accountable for student performance results and fiscal responsibility
  5. Small size

The Coalition will add organizations from throughout the country to give learning alternatives a fuller voice. Contact Dan Daly at or 612-716-5620.