Predicting the future is a tricky business under any circumstances. Just ask those who try to make money betting the horses or picking the winner in a hotly contested political race.
Now let us try to envision what Manatee’s public school children will be like and what they will be doing four short years from now. I have chosen a four-year period because it coincides with the term of our new governor, Rick Scott, who together with our Republican-dominated Legislature, will be able to mold the public schools into most any form they want. While I have the advantage over most readers in this context of having worked as a teacher, administrator, lobbyist, and columnist in Manatee County, I stress that my conclusions are just one person’s view and my intent is to encourage people to consider the future direction of the public schools, rather than simply dwelling upon current complexities, however intriguing they may be.
1. The K-12 lockstep will become increasingly flexible, as good students will quickly accumulate college credits before they even have their drivers’ licenses. Students will obtain these credits by challenging proficiency tests on-line, enrolling in International Bacculaureate programs, and enrolling in dual high school/community college classes.
2. Remedial measures, particularly in reading, will become widespread and students at all ability levels will use them. See Bayshore HS’s recent success.
3. One or more on-line courses will be required of all students. Many students will do the bulk of their schoolwork on hand-held computer devices.
4. Many students will go to a school site and meet with instructors one-on-one, in small seminars, and in large auditoriums. They will no longer meet in current class-size groups of 18, 22, and 25, because these are the least effective grouping sizes for instruction. Students will check in at schools and spend much of their time in libraries and mammoth study halls.
5. All students will attach themselves to a GPS, so that they can be located and summoned when necessary. These devices will be tied into student transcripts. There will be a virtual central student records office.
6. Students unable to function independently will be assigned to traditional schools as we know them today.
7. On a flexible schedule, some students will attend school in the early evenings and others in the early morning. Athletes in like sports will be clustered in student groups so that they can train together.
8. Many students will attend private schools, because vouchers will be widespread.
Savvy school administrators (and Manatee has many) could add dozens of statements to this list. Technology-driven or at least technology-aided, these changes will be made by school personnel who trust children and students who earn their trust. There are interesting years ahead in Manatee’s schools.