Reimagining Education Will Require a New Architecture That Is Data-informed
As schools across the nation begin the new school year, an ongoing concern for many parents is the amount of learning students lost during the pandemic. After months of school closings and remote learning, students at all levels have fallen behind where they are supposed to be. Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. warns that this will eventually hit us economically in the form of lost productivity – today’s K-12 students could lose as much as $61,000 in lifetime earnings, and the US could see a $188 billion drop in annual GDP by 2040.
K-12 students could lose as much as $61,000 in lifetime earnings, and the US could see a $188 billion drop in annual GDP by 2040.
Some worry that students will never catch up. However, rather than panic, we should be planning and re-thinking our long-term strategy. The opportunity is now to develop a new architecture that aligns our nation’s goals for education, economics, and employment toward one north star.
Recently, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona issued a call to action to reimagine and redesign our education system to better align pathways and prepare every young person for a successful future. We believe the Secretary’s vision lays the foundation for a new architecture that will help students do more than just recover lost learning, but more importantly, to succeed in life.
At Educational Results Partnership (ERP), we have been tracking and analyzing student achievement data for more than 20 years, with a focus on identifying educational pathways that elevate historically disadvantaged youth to living-wage jobs and fulfilling careers. We are data-informed, employer-led, and equity-focused. Our data shows the current system is not serving the economic interests of most students. They are being sorted out of pathways at all stages in life based on non-scientific and arbitrary requirements that do not align to a common north star. What has especially alarmed us is the inability of education systems during the pandemic to measure student progress by conventional methods.
For example, in California, the Department of Education says that just 25% of students took statewide assessments in the 2020-21 school year. Among those that did test, fewer than one-third to half exceeded standards for English, math, and science. The department states basing any structural decisions on these results is “not advisable.” Since 2004, ERP has compiled an annual list of Honor Roll schools that made measurable improvements in closing achievement gaps. This year, for the first time, we were unable to do so because of the lack of comparative data.
In California, the Department of Education says that just 25% of students took statewide assessments in the 2020-21 school year.
Our conclusion: the long-term strategy for education must be bigger picture, bolder, more data-informed and aligned to an economic north star rather than a purely academic one. The nation needs a new architecture that empowers students to be the drivers of their educational journeys and helps them map their learning to more than just coursework, but to jobs and earnings as well. That is why dozens of national thought leaders in the fields of early childhood, education, economics, employment, workforce development, and policy have come together to develop the road map in a document titled Educational Productivity: A new architecture threading the needle among learning, employment, and economics.
In the new architecture, students are empowered with information about how their learning at all stages can be translated and signaled to employers who are in-need of their skills. This new architecture is designed to measure educational productivity and would co-exist, collaborate and support existing educational, workforce and employment systems, not compete with them.
At our ERP Institute, we are now making data available to top researchers and economists who are working to develop the most valid and reliable predictors of educational and economic productivity. While society has largely embraced a “new normal” – flexible workplaces, e-commerce convenience, fewer and smaller social gatherings, just to name a few examples, we are using data to help the educational sector evolve so that students have a go-to resource for knowing the real-life economic value of their learning beyond outcomes tied to coursework, standardized tests, and credential attainment.
We are making data available to top researchers and economists who are working to develop the most valid and reliable predictors of educational and economic productivity.
Secretary Cardona’s vision is right but must be backed by data and science to be effective. Similar to how our Social Security system was created to ensure economic security after the Great Depression, the opportunity is now to build a similar system for educators, employers, economists, workforce boards and others to collaborate in a new way that helps every individual navigate their own path to economic success.
Learn more by visiting edresults.org/institute.
Dr. Jim Lanich is the Chief Executive Officer of Educational Results Partnership, a national non-profit 501c3 organization that works with hundreds of educational institutions to apply data science to help improve student outcomes and career readiness throughout the educational system.