Building a League of Innovative Schools

Leaders in innovative education are coming together today in Houston, TX, for the second meeting of the League of Innovative Schools.

The League, announced at a White House event in September, is an alliance of school districts committed to working with entrepreneurs and researchers to dramatically increase student achievement.  The League was launched in partnership with Digital Promise, a new national center  to advance breakthroughs in education with technology.  Digital Promise is part of the Administration’s broader agenda to spur innovation in education and prepare our Nation’s students for the challenges of a 21st century economy.

The meeting’s host – the Houston Independent School District– is home to many innovative programs, including the Houston Innovative Learning Zone, which offers high-school students the opportunity to earn an Associate’s Degree and valuable career certifications upon graduation. These credentials will help students immediately land high-quality, technology-based jobs in some of the region’s most in-demand professions, including the fields of computer science, energy, and medicine.

Despite the innovative work taking place in Houston and other League districts, more needs to be done to realize  the benefits technology can offer all of our Nation’s classrooms. The current generation of students – growing up in the world of smart phones, tablet computers, and 4G wireless Internet – is too often denied an education that makes the most of technology.

Today’s meeting will explore the League’s role in transforming the education technology market.  Some of the League’s key initiatives will include:

  1. Speeding up the pace of education technology research.  Companies like Amazon don’t wait for years of trials to be completed to determine if an idea has promise.  They try things, assess them, rapidly iterate, and implement.  The League is partnering with leading researchers to do the same in education so teachers, school leaders, and entrepreneurs have the tools to get rapid feedback on what works in the classroom.
  2. Sharing best practices on how to use technology well.  Even promising technologies can be ineffective or counterproductive if not used optimally.  League members and other schools are excelling in their use of technology in the classroom; we need to share the lessons they’ve learned, test new practices, tools, and teaching methods, and scale up what works.
  3. Transforming the market for learning technologies.  With more than 14,000 school districts scattered across the country—many of which are saddled with outdated procurement systems—it’s difficult for entrepreneurs to break into the market and also difficult to achieve the critical mass of market penetration that’s needed to show that their products can deliver meaningful results. Meanwhile, the amount we invest in R&D in K-12 education is estimated to be just 0.2% of total spending on K-12 education, compared to the 10-20% of revenues spent on R&D in many knowledge-intensive industries such as software development and biotech. League members will work to create “smart demand” to streamline procurement and aggregate demand to help drive private-sector investment in innovation.

For more information about the League and Digital Promise, please read the fact sheet and visit the Digital Promise website or their Twitter account @digitalpromise.

Kumar Garg is a Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director for Policy at OSTP

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