On NationalJournal.com this week, Tom Vander Ark calls Arne Duncan’s recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute perhaps the education secretary’s most important yet. When Duncan outlined the “new normal” in public education today, Vander Ark writes, he reminded us of the forces shaping other American industries that were browbeaten to renew themselves in the throes of the Great Recession.
That concept is known as creative destruction, a phrase economist Joseph Schumpeter made famous when describing how market forces revolutionize an economic model from within, “incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” Now Duncan is urging educators to embrace “transformational productivity.” The industrial-age factory model of education doesn’t foster the innovation necessary to drive a 21st century model of education.
But for innovation to proceed in this scenario, one must accept that families no longer define a public education in the traditional way. In commentary published this week on edweek.org, former assistant secretary of education Bruno V. Manno shows how public education is transforming in one way: Parents are voting with their feet. According to Manno’s own analysis, 52 percent of the nation’s 57 million elementary and secondary school students are attending a K-12 school of their choice. Public education to these families no longer represents the traditionally zoned neighborhood school. It encompasses charter schools, magnet and alternative schools, faith-based schools and online schools.
And increasingly, it’s a blend of these options for a single student.
Call it creative destruction or, in Duncan’s more calibrated terms, transformational productivity. Either way, public education today is moving from a top-down model of education delivery to a teacher and parent empowerment model of choice. While traditional public schools continue to serve millions of students without exception, it’s the educational and technological options that are leading educators to transformational change.