Ford Motor Companyʼs Journey in Education
Through its stages of growth, Ford PAS Next Generation Learning has gained the following insights about the strengths and shortcomings of reforms in teaching and learning and program structures:
1. Teachers can learn powerful teaching and learning strategies when supported by strong professional development and a well-crafted model curriculum. Good teaching can transform learning for students who participate in the classrooms of these teachers. However, while the progress of individual teachers and their students is essential, this is still not enough to reach all students in a school and community.
2. An integrated, career-themed program (such as may be offered in a career academy) engages students by tapping into their personal career interests and brings teams of teachers together to collaborate across a curriculum. For those students who participate in such programs, the combination of rigor, relevance, and relationships can be transformational. However, while the gains of these students are essential, since the program only affects a small set of students within a traditional high school; this is still not enough to reach all students in a school and community.
3. A high school that implements a whole-school redesign using career or other themes, supported by strong principles of practice, can transform learning for every student in the school. However, while this school-wide transformation of student outcomes is essential, if the school exists as a lone “lighthouse of excellence” within a mediocre district filled with missed potential for students, this is still not enough to reach all students in a community.
4. Ideally, a district will focus all of its resources on a unified mission, encouraging schools to reinvent themselves, using a portfolio of approaches that involve personalization; to implement transformative teaching and learning strategies; to integrate academic, career, and technical education; to offer relevant, work-based learning experiences; and to enable all students to develop 21st century skills. However, there are still risks:
- There is the risk that periodic leadership changes—among the superintendent of schools, school board members, and school principals—will produce a “not invented here” attitude on the part of the new leadership team.
- There is the risk that when external funding wanes and changes are made to state and federal policy, funding, and regulations, the original purpose and passion of the reform will be lost.
- If the emphasis is only on structural redesign of a high school, and even personalization and counseling strategies, but not on creating a culture of collaboration that sustains a professional community for teachers in support of transformative teaching and learning, there is the risk (and indeed the likelihood) that student achievement will remain stagnant.
5. Therefore, to sustain and protect ongoing transformation of teaching and learning that leads to every student’s positive outcomes, education reform must include all of these elements: transforming teaching and learning, redesigning high schools, sustaining change through business and civic leadership, and a shared culture of excellence and accountability for results.