How Will We Change Education by 2020

We asked teachers, parents, educational influencers, and experts how they thought education would change by 2020. Here’s what they had to say:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAROWS!!!! Rows [(children seated in rows)] were established for an industrial model of education that is long gone. Collaboration has filled that void and requires a new approach to control compliance and seating arrangements to support collaboration, not impede it. Rows should be eliminated, not just because they are the most recognized symbol of the industrial model of education, but because they support control and compliance in learning. They are of an age where learning was dictated to the student by the teacher. Collaboration and personalized learning are the directions education is now headed, and there is an imperative need for teachers to promote and support it. Once educators have adopted a new, more open mindset to collaboration, personalized learning, and mentoring—as opposed to lecture being the focus—I believe they will push to eliminate the rows. It requires a belief that learning stems not from content consumption, but from content creation.

“Of course, obstructionists will insist that we have too much invested in desks to do away with rows, but teachers will continue to break them down to meet the relevant needs of kids and learning. That’s when we will know the 19th and 20th century models of education so prevalent today have passed.”

-Tom Whitby, HS/MS teacher for 34 years, HigherEd 6 years, author, blogger, founder #Edchat  @tomwhitby

“Vejerryry little change will take place in education in the coming years unless the frontline teachers are given more say and leeway on how best to facilitate the learning of their students. It will also be necessary to not only listen to but heed student voice. Have we ever asked children how they want to learn? Have we provided choices on how they learn? When we stop teaching to the test and prepare students for the world they face now and in the future, that will be a big step forward.”

-Jerry Blumengarten, educator-speaker-writer   @cybraryman1


“Looking back in the fairly recent history of education, there were clearly some pivotal moments that shaped and continue to shape K–12 education in this country. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka is certainly one. Another is the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act that called for districts and states to be responsible for showing results of programs funded through Title I.  Then came A Nation at Risk in 1983 sounding the alarm that the US was not educating students for the global market. And, of course, in 2001 No Child Left Behind (NCLB) changed the accountability landscape by holding schools, districts, and states accountable for students making adequate yearly progress (AYP). And, for schools that have repeatedly poor results, steps are taken to improve the school. At the same time as NCLB came into play, states (districts and schools) moved to Report Cards. These report cards make it very clear which schools are successful and which are not, each according to the accountability framework in each specific state.

“With this background and the increasing international competitive marketplace, I would be very surprised if the pressure comes off schools to prepare students for proficiency.  I think the only question today is how that is measured?  Will the testing consortia survive?  Will there be common assessments and common proficiency standards among sets of states?  Or will we soon be back at the every state for itself in terms of what learning counts and how to measure that.

“In my crystal ball, I see continued pressure on educators to improve student learning. That means continued pressure on teachers and school leaders to improve instruction and to motivate all students to do the hard work of learning. Hopefully, teacher training institutions will transform the ways in which teachers are prepared and how they are supported in the early years of their teaching career.

“On my ‘wish list’ for 2020, I hope [and] expect that many of the challenges facing schools today will be reduced through enhanced learning experiences, [which are] possible through digital content. If we could teach algebra using an exciting game, my bet is that algebra proficiency would increase substantially. By 2020, I hope that learning becomes more like the games that enthrall students for hours every day. By 2020, I hope that classrooms will be full of devices that will deliver content according to student preference. I hope that by 2020, the teacher will become the ‘guide on the side, not sage on the stage.’ (A quote attributed to Grant Wiggins.)” 

-Margaret Jorgensen, senior vice president and chief academic officer of K12


“I wish it would be over testing stupidity. The problem is that we’re asking the wrong question — ‘how do we help students score better on the test?’ instead of ‘how do we help them live better lives?’ ‘How do we provide students with a world-class education?’ By setting our goal as test scores, we’re shooting far short of what we should be.”

Vicki Davis, best teacher blog winner, mom, speaker, author “Reinventing Writing,” host “Every Classroom Matters,” an @Mashable Top Teacher on Twitter @coolcatteacher

LFrewertStudents will be expected to apply what they know to solve problems instead of repeating what can be memorized.  Let’s face it, you can look up facts and formulas on the Internet! The ability of a person to develop solutions for problems is what is important. Our education is already morphing from teacher-led to student-led classrooms, enhanced by the virtual school environment.  In this environment, the student has the access and freedom to extend their learning well beyond the classroom content. When students are in control of how fast and to what extent information will be processed, they become self-motivated. Collaboration between students, combined with extensive use of technology tools and flexibility of online learning, will promote and extend learning well past our traditional expectations. 

“Practically, the use of technology eliminates the need for paper, textbooks, and storage space. All tests, textbooks, and student work will be present in electronic format. Attending a physical school building will most probably fall by the wayside. Students will be using technology to receive and send information from the safety of their own homes. This flexibility in education can be expected to lead to a decrease in student dropout rates. When it comes to education, singer/songwriter Pat MacDonald said it best, ‘The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.'”

-Leslie Frewert, high school teacher at Arkansas Virtual Academy


Judging from what I’ve seen mostly since 2002, I think one significant thing that will fall by the wayside is our sense of ‘time’ in education. The concept of a two-semester (18 weeks each) or four-quarter (9 weeks each) year of schooling is vanishing. More and more students are now choosing 4–6–8 week classes with an intense focus. At first, we thought this perhaps was just an interest of military or non-traditional students. But traditional students are choosing this option as well. Some want to finish credits more quickly to earn their degrees and start jobs sooner, while others like the opportunity to focus on one or two classes at a time (i.e., taking an English course and a history course only in a four-week period, and then repeating this once or twice more in the next 4–8 weeks to earn a full ‘load’ with just one to two different courses every four weeks). 

“So, I think we’ll slowly be dropping the notion that ‘school’ has to be two semesters, August–December and January–May, as we near 2020. Instead, students will want more flexibility and perhaps attend school from August–October while spending November–December working, participating in internships, or doing study abroad programs—or some combination thereof. Since ‘school’ is more portable, and we’re no longer confined to a brick-and-mortar setting, I think that’s just one of many long-standing traditions we’ll see fading away. We no longer live in an agrarian society, which is what set the traditional school year historically. We’re already doing more of this type of flexible scheduling at the post K–12 level, and my guess is it will ‘trickle down’ to at least high schools and middle schools sooner rather than later.”

-Dee McKinney, parent/Learning Coach of eighth grade student attending Georgia Cyber Academy, and teacher for 20 years


2020 seems like ‘the future.’ But in reality, it is only five years away! If I could speculate on the changes in the education system that will occur in the next five years, I would have to think—’What aspects can be different that can REALLY change in five years?’ Change is a slow, very slow, process in education. There are changes I would like to see, but realistically, what CAN actually happen in five years? I believe that our current system of assessing students with high-stakes testing will be hugely different in five years. By 2020, I hope that enough parents, students, educators, and administrators will have taken action to support change in testing. The millions of dollars that are being spent on testing—testing that does not fairly assess what a student can and cannot do—these dollars will start to be diverted to more quality instructional time and to teacher pay. That is a change I can see happening in five years. If you asked me changes I would like to see, that would be another blog post altogether! I have a list of changes that need to occur, we haven’t changed our basic model for public education for more than 50 years and counting.”

-Stephanie Ledbetter, teacher at Insight School of Oklahoma 

Do you agree with this list? What aspects of the traditional school experience have become obsolete since you began your virtual school journey? Let us know in the comments below, or tweet us @LearningLiftoff.

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Image Credit- Max Klingensmith / CC by 2.0


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