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Innovation in Education: Technology is not the goal. Solving problems is.


• Karla Phillips


After reflecting on my years at Gold’s Gyms, Bally’s Fitness and L.A. Fitness, I realized Mike Petrilli is right. The OrangeTheory fitness model can teach us a lot about the role of innovation.

Petrilli pointed out last week on The Flypaper that OrangeTheory’s technology is not the innovation. Rather it’s how the company uses technology to meet customers’ needs. And this is exactly the role innovation should play in schools. The goal shouldn’t be to implement technology but rather to solve problems—sometimes age-old problems like addressing the needs of all students.

The Need for Flexibility

However, there is a key difference between tailoring instruction to students and tailoring workouts: schools face an infinitely greater amount of laws, rules and regulations governing everything they do. And schools need flexibility to innovate.

This is why ExcelinEd recently released a new Next Generation Learning Policy Toolkit. These resources can help states identify ways to prioritize innovation, pursue student-centered practices and ensure every student succeeds.

Alabama, for example, has identified the goal of innovation as advancing “the benefits of local school and school system autonomy in innovation and creativity by allowing flexibility from state laws, regulations and policies.”

Not All Policies Qualify for Waivers

The debates over grade-level instruction are more than just debates; they are requirements solidified in federal and state law since No Child Left Behind. And, quite frankly, they are the heart of just about every difficult decision made daily for special education students.

As the debates over grade-level instruction and proficiency determinations intensify, we must remember that we used to live in a world without grade-level expectations. And that wasn’t good for disadvantaged students.

Innovation should and must be the solution. This doesn’t mean just adding technology to the classroom, but thoughtfully implementing innovative policies, assessments and calculations. It’s what all our students deserve.


About the author


Karla Phillips

Karla@ExcelinEd.org

Karla is Policy Director for Personalized Learning at ExcelinEd. Previously, she served as Special Assistant to the Deputy Superintendent of Policy and Programs at the Arizona Department of Education. Karla also served as the Education Policy Advisor for Governor Brewer and as the Vice-Chair of Arizona’s Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. Her experience includes serving as Director of State Government Relations for Arizona State University (ASU) and as a senior policy advisor for Arizona’s House of Representatives. Karla received her B.A. from Indiana University and an M.P.A from Arizona State University.