The education system is broken. How can it be fixed?

We are one tick away from too late. But just as in the mission impossible movies, there is still a chance however slim.

The American public education system is broken, and it cannot be fixed – at least not in the traditional ways or with the “new and improved” programs and initiatives that have been tried over the last 40 years. More after-school tutoring – no. A new on-line program – no. More aligned professional development – no. Better recruitment, better teacher prep, a longer school day, a different school calendar, more Chromebooks, more libraries, smaller class sizes – how many iterations of these do we have to have before we say, “no, these cannot fix the education system.”

Yes, of course, many of these new programs will help on the margins, but at best all of them fall into the category of necessary, but not sufficient. They cannot fix the system, because what is broken is the system, not a part of the system. When Reed Hastings of Netflix approached Blockbusters in 1998, he knew that no incremental change or improvement to the Blockbuster business and operating model was going to save this organization that could not see the greenness of its last mile. Blockbuster went out of business in 2010.

O.K., stop with the “we are not a business” refrain: all organizations are systems and our collective failure to understand system design and systemic change has gotten us to a point where the majority of our at-risk children will reach the Year 2035 without being able to read at grade level nor be proficient with Year 2035 competencies.

So, . . . is it even possible? The odds are against us, but with a nod to the movie Interstellar: it is probably not impossible, but in any case, it’s necessary!

Over the next several months, this blog will outline why the system is broken, why it cannot be fixed, and how we can change the system. I will highlight several design principles of a new education system that lies at the foundation of my network of schools, Third Future Schools.


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