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What’s next?

It’s the year 2025. Children hear stories from their grandparents about a time when teachers assigned grades of A through F to every student. Ten or so years from now, students will no longer move through Kindergarten through 12th grade one year at a time or take segmented classes with names such as English I, U.S. History or Advanced Manufacturing. In the year 2025, the requirement for students to be in a classroom for 185 days and/or 1,025 instructional hours each year will be just like pay phones and VCRs: outdated and irrelevant thanks to new technology.

Instead, every student in the year 2025 has his or her own education coach. Beginning in middle school, this coach helps students to develop and follow a personalized education plan that serves as a roadmap for each child’s individualized educational experience. This plan covers learning that takes place in school, at home, in businesses and in the community. Students are required to do projects that apply to the real world and integrate many different disciplines through rich and engaging hands-on activities.

There are still those who remember and stand faithfully by the “old methods” of learning, but those strategies are no longer necessary. Now, all students learn through doing. They learn through application, through solving problems, and by working in teams. And at the same time, they build strong character and gain respect for themselves and others. Through these projects, they form a clear understanding of how important responsibility is within an organization.

So how do we get there? First, educators need professional development to help them transition from the way we teach today to the way students will learn in the future. Our path to 2025 also should include the move to extended employment for teachers. Educators are professionals. Many other professions offer employees extensive paid training, development, and advancement opportunities. Teaching should be no different.

And finally, society must accept that the traditional pieces of education that so many are familiar with today are becoming irrelevant and will eventually fade away. Grades, segmented courses and seat time will soon join the film projector as things of the past. The real question is not when all of these changes will come but instead, how can we start preparing today so that teachers, schools, and this state will be ready for the exciting things on the horizon?

Dr. June Atkinson

June Atkinson is the state superintendent of public instruction for North Carolina. Read her full profile here >>