Monday, November 14, 2011
Pan Pacific Hotel, Lakefront Room, Address: 2125 Terry Avenue

Presenter: Stacey Childress
Moderator: Susannah Malarkey

Presentation Summary

Stacey Childress, Deputy Director of Education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and leader of the Foundation’s Next Generations Model Team, was the featured guest at CRPE’s November 14th Washington Education Innovation Forum. Childress outlined her team’s vision of personalized learning as the norm rather than the exception, their rationale (research has shown that students taught within the mastery model with one-on-one instruction outperform 98% of students who experience traditional instruction), and the challenge of achieving that vision in a cost-effective manner at scale. Childress also provided perspective on where Washington State fits in the blended learning spectrum.

Next Generations Model Team

The Next Generations Model Team has identified the following three priorities:

  • Blended learning models for the same or lower cost per pupil (example: Rocketship), with a focus on new charter and district school startups, charter/district conversions, and iZone models (districts that are trying to create flexibility and supports for schools to innovate). Childress emphasized that new school models should be required to produce great learning outcomes in order to receive continuous support and funding. The Gates Foundation is investing in rigorous evaluations of promising models.
  • Content and tools (example: Khan Academy).
  • Enabling environment, such as the policies, political context, and market conditions necessary to support personalized learning in a sustainable way at scale. The Team’s 2012 focus in this area is on effectiveness studies, public dialogue, and targeted policy advocacy.

Shared Learning Infrastructure

The Team has begun developing a shared learning infrastructure with Carnegie Corporation, working with five pilot states (Maine, New York, North Carolina, Illinois, and Colorado) that have plans to change their systems toward personalized delivery. The user experience on each product will remain the same, while the data from student use is normalized across a learning trajectory so that teachers don’t have to make sense of several different reports. The infrastructure, which Childress noted could not have been possible without the newly adopted Common Core, will include:

  • Cloud-based services for data integration and application interoperability.
  • Performance-based content and tools.
  • A new nonprofit that will steward shared services.

Adoption of New Technologies

During the Q&A portion of the Forum, members discussed with Childress possible incentives for teachers and districts to adopt and assess the quality of the innovations that the Gates Foundation is investing in. Childress noted that the most successful new technologies and tools will be those that integrate into the existing core purpose of the classroom, library, or program. For example, teacher-based tools designed to help deliver better instruction must make the thing that teachers have already been doing easier, faster, or more reliable. Teachers have expressed that differentiated instruction is something they believe in and aspire to. Therefore the more valid examples there are of tools that help teachers to provide successful differentiated instruction, the more quickly it will be scaled to more classrooms. To accomplish this, Childress emphasized the need for more early-stage blended learning examples from various kinds of schools and contexts.

Washington State Innovation

Childress recommended review of the Digital Learning Now state report card, which outlines areas of growth and achievement for each state along with recommendations for policies that should be improved. Washington State, she noted, has an overall positive report card, with a handful of key areas for growth. Childress suggested that seat-time requirements in Washington State law are a primary barrier to adopting blended learning models, something noted by presenters at previous Forums.

Follow us on Twitter @crpe_uw. The Washington Education Innovation Forum hashtag is #innovateWAed.

The Washington Education Innovation Forum is hosted by the University of Washington's Center on Reinventing Public Education, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.