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Thursday, June 10, 2010

K-12 schools won't significantly change in the next three decades

I talk to a lot of people, from foundation leaders to entrepreneurs to senior government officials, who all imagine a world where K-12 schools improve by 2015. Or 2020. Or at least 2030. And more specifically, they invest energy in a way that assumes schools can and will significantly evolve.

But if history has taught us anything, it is that K-12 probably won't change much at all during our lifetime. While masters programs are changing at the speed of the Internet, and colleges are changing at a pace just slightly slower than the speed of a traditional corporation, K-12 schools in 2040 will probably be almost exactly the same as K-12 schools in 1980, and 1990, and 2000, and 2010.

This may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your expectations. In fact, most people want their children to attend a similar program to what they attended.

As we make assumptions about the future, there are few good bets. But one useful assumption is not to expect the experiences of 95% of K-12 students in 2040 to be much different than they are now.

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