From the right to the left, from those who support school choice to those who have sought to protect traditional school districts, from superintendents and principals to the presidents of the two major teachers unions, and from industry leaders to researchers, a diverse group of unlikely bedfellows released on Tuesday a new effort and accompanying report to rethink education in America titled Education Reimagined: A transformational vision for education in the U.S.

It’s a stunning effort and document that Convergence, a non-profit, non-partisan center for policy resolution, helped broker. Stunning not for its “answer” to the challenges we face in education, but stunning for its consensus around the end vision of what our education system should look like. And notable from our perspective because the vision is remarkably similar to the one which we at the Christensen Institute have been advocating since the publication of Disrupting Class.

As the report says, “We came together recognizing that we have strongly held and often divergent views on a number of current issues and controversies in public education. We were determined to create a vision of the future of education that could unite us and many others. Not only are we tired of the same recurring debates about what is wrong with today’s education system and who is to blame for its inadequacies, but we also realize that no amount of tweaking or modifying the current, industrial-era system will fulfill our vision of all children learning and thriving to their full potential.”

The report continues with a refrain we’ve said often: “SIMPLY PUT, the current system was designed in a different era and structured for a different society. Our economy, society, and polity are increasingly at risk from an educational system that does not consistently prepare all children to succeed as adults and is least effective for the children facing the greatest social and economic challenges. Conversely, the Internet revolution has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity for new approaches to learning.”

Indeed, online learning’s emergence as a disruptive innovation has given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink the monolithic, factory-model education system and create one, as the report says, where “the education system is structured with the learner at its center.” Critically the report doesn’t gloss over the importance of knowledge, but says that it in and of itself is inadequate, as in the future system “Learners [will] seek mastery not only of core knowledge but also of skills and dispositions that promote lifelong success. Learning experiences are intentionally designed to support, challenge, engage, and excite all learners. To realize this vision for all children, incremental change is not sufficient. It is time to transform education.”

Now it’s true, as the report itself says, that “It puts forward a vision for the future of learning but does not provide a one-size-fits-all answer for how to get there. Instead, it stands as an invitation and challenge to engage in the next set of conversations about how this vision could manifest itself in the diversity of communities across the country.” But the mere fact that Education Reimagined brought such diverse people together and emerged with a common understanding of the desired end point for our nation’s education system is significant. It stands as a rebuttal to the accusations over the years that have questioned the end-state motives of those seeking to transform our current education system into a learner-centered one that is competency-based and personalizes learning for each student. As such, it should allow us to move beyond those accusations, the result of which has often been to undermine productive conversation toward how we could achieve that robust vision.

There are of course quibbles to be had in the details of the report—for example, in characterizing the future of assessment, it misses the exciting shift that can occur when moving to a competency-based system in which we can blow past the familiar categorization scheme of summative versus formative assessments and move to a world in which assessments are both for learning—to drive what a student does next—as well as of learning—and thus have stakes attached to them, in the sense that students move on only upon mastery.

Overall though, the direction is bold and correct. And the pieces of the future it articulates are actually already present in many places, but they are not evenly distributed. It’s time to keep building and transforming.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.