- Innovation programs in 24 states are making it easier for traditional public schools and districts to innovate, according to The Hechinger Report.
- The flexibility for innovation has traditionally been reserved for the charter school sector. Yet under many of these programs, districts are able to start their own “innovation schools.” In Massachusetts, for example, 41 schools have more internal control over decisions such as budgeting and curriculum.
- The number of innovation programs has grown in recent years and seems likely to continue, especially where traditional public schools are competing with charters, the article states.
There was a good example of this trend in Minnesota a few years ago. As reported in 2017, a group of elementary school teachers in Lakeville assumed they’d have to start a charter school to get the type of innovative education setting they were looking for — until the district superintendent decided to work with them to do a pilot program that now includes the entire school.
Since those efforts, there’s mounting evidence that the momentum and demand for innovation in the traditional public school setting is growing.
Just this week, 14 school districts in nine states across the country joined the League of Innovative Schools under Digital Promise, a nonprofit organization dedicated to innovation in education and closing the digital learning gap. According to a news release, the league now includes 114 districts in 34 states, where “administrators and educators are testing new programs, technologies, and strategies ... to advance equity and excellence for every learner.”
Education policy is shifting, too, with the Every Student Succeeds Act leaving room for states to consider alternative accountability measures. Yet, the pressure of high-stakes testing remains a common complaint in classrooms, and educators can be prone to avoid innovation for fear of seeing a dip in scores.
As in Minnesota, administrators can be key in encouraging innovation in their schools. During a session at SXSWedu in 2017 a panel featuring two superintendents and a teacher agreed that it takes “rock star” leaders to foster innovation, what they defined as “something that is problem-solving in nature intended to provide value,” or anything that disrupts normalcy and embraces creativity.