What Should 21st Century Schools Look Like?

If a student from 1912 were to time travel to 2012, today’s world of smartphones, iPads, and interstate highways might seem bewildering, but he would likely feel right at home in most Alabama classrooms.

Little has changed over the last 100 years in how schools are organized and how teachers teach. Those educators who have embraced technology in innovative ways are still rare enough that they often make news when they shake things up.
So, what should schools look like in the Internet-enabled 21st Century world?
Recently, Public Impact, a North Carolina-based national education policy and consulting firm, launched its Opportunity Culture initiative to promote methods for redesigning schools and reforming policy to best meet the needs of their students and reward the best teachers—within budget.
The website outlines new career paths for teachers and examines new ways to ensure all students receive instruction from excellent teachers. As the website explains, “With an excellent teacher versus an average teacher, students make about an extra half-year of progress every year—closing achievement gaps fast, leaping ahead to become honors students, and surging forward like top international peers.”
Among the resources is this two-pager explaining different career paths that schools might implement to make teachers more effective. This work is similar to recommendations made by the Alabama Governor’s Commission on Teaching Quality that were reported in 2008. That work creating career paths for teachers has never been implemented in the state, but it is referenced in the State Board of Education’s Plan 2020.