Carole speaks with Paul Imhoff & Dr. John Marschhausen about all of the new ideas and practices that school districts must address in our modern public schools. Topics include: teaching the “whole child”, how technology empowers personalization, testing, and school culture.

“What is [the world] going to look like when they are the leaders in 2035, 2040?” – Dr. John Marschhausen

This week’s podcast is an engaging conversation with two of our most respected colleagues who are at the forefront of a movement towards progressive and intentional leadership. They tackle the essential question that all educators should be asking: What does tomorrow’s workforce look like? And how does that lead us to where us (as schools) need to be?

Paul Imhoff turns to the leaders of today and asks them directly. “What do our kids need to know to be successful in this global economy?” Time and time again, these leaders tell him that they value “creativity and collaboration and critical thinking” over everything else. Unfortunately, Paul notes, “We have too many kids that are good at taking tests and not enough kids that are good at we call ‘soft skills’.”

In the same vein, John Marschhausen says that fundamental question that he faces is, “How do we give kids that solid foundation and then teach the application of the foundation to solve problems that are going to continue to change and evolve.” He points out that the preschoolers of today are the leaders of 2035, 2040. Who knows what jobs will exist and what issues we will be facing as a society then? But there has to be a way to teach students the critical thinking and application of knowledge so that they will be equipped for whatever challenges lie ahead.

The rapid pace of change in our society and in career options naturally leads to a discussion of technology in schools. Upper Arlington Schools and Hilliard City Schools are both considered new standards in making technology a priority in their teaching strategies. Both Paul & John stress that it isn’t about finding “new” money in the budget but about revising priorities and using money that is already there. Paul emphasizes that with technology you have a possibility of personalization and connection. He recalls how one teacher told him that thanks to the personalization technology allows, “I used to teach a class, now I teach individuals.”

John expanded on this idea by illustrating how Hilliard creates their own curriculum using technology. Using open source resources and creating their own digital resources, Hilliard updates their “books” in real time for accurate and up-to-date historical, science and technology curriculums. This gives their teachers and students a powerful advantage.

Of course, having the technology on hand doesn’t automatically equate success. John notes that most teachers in today’s schools were taught in classical education environments and making the transition to integrated learning ” falls on us to create an environment that is comfortable for our teachers to change. Providing them with the time and the resources and the professional development to be willing to take that step.”

Another important trend that Paul & John discussed with Carole is the idea of looking at the “big picture” which is a movement away from solely relying on standardized testing to judge the efficacy of schools. Hilliard & Upper Arlington both work with Allerton Hill Communications to create Quality Profiles. These annual reports are a powerful way to report to communities on what a school is doing well and how the community can support more positive growth. Both Paul & John emphasize the importance of knowing what the community values and using that to shape the Quality Profile. John asks, “Are we willing to be reflective about our practices and provide the community the information they want?”

Paul leads a discussion that looks at the recent resistance from parents to standardized testing. “We are now at the end of an ‘age of accountability'” that was driven by standardized testing and the government. “We tried to make it too simple and made it all about a test given on a day… We’ve seen something fascinating over the last year. And one of the great things about our country is that people can stand up and make a difference… parents have stood up and said ‘This is too much. I want more for my kid than to be sent to school to prepare for a test. I want my child to be educated as a whole child.” The solution to the “age of accountability” isn’t here yet but, Paul notes, “What we are looking for right now is that point of balance.”

John agrees with this movement towards whole child education and a more balanced look at education and reflection. “Every day we are testing is a day we are not teaching. You’ve got to balance that accountability with the price of time. And the price of time is precious.”

One of the last (of many!) topics in this valuable podcast roundtable is the idea of creating a positive culture.

“Schools are organizations… you have to be intentional about building and fostering a positive culture. Culture beats strategy every day of the week. …This work towards a positive culture [for our teachers and students] is some of the best work I’ve been a part of in my life.” — Paul Imhoff

John adds, “It’s a journey that our districts are taking. It’s being intentional about what do you value? What is important to you? It’s not new work, it’s focus. …Build that trust within your team. Build that trust between the adults and the students. And then build that trust as a partnership between the school, the parents and the community. You have to be in alignment. Know what’s important. Talk about it. And share it.” — Dr. John Marschhausen


Paul Imhoff, Superintendent at Upper Arlington Schools
on twitter: @imhoffpaul

John Marschhausen, Superintendent at Hilliard City Schools
on twitter: @drjcm