Yesterday, I had the opportunity to tour an amazing school. Yesterday, I met some incredibly talented kids doing unbelievable work. Yesterday, I saw the future. Today, and this day forward, I will share their story in hopes we can move in this direction as an educational system. Iowa BIG knocks down the traditional walls of school and follows this mantra: Let your passions drive you to do something great and be open to building authentic relationships and teams. -Dr. Trace Pickering, Co-Creator & Associate Superintendent.
Iowa Big in Cedar Rapids, was started in 2012 as somewhat of an unorthodox experiment. Three years later and octupled in size, it is bursting with student success that needs to be shared. Something is working very, very well in this fully competency-based model. Below is a breakdown of the differences between the BIG model and traditional or “regular” school:
|The Iowa BIG Model:||The Current K12 Model:|
|-Content is delivered on demand as a project requires.
-Students are measured individually against the Iowa CORE, Common CORE, and NGSS.
-21st century and employability skills are embedded in every student’s experience.
-Curriculum comes from business, nonprofit, and government agencies in the form of projects, problems and initiatives.
-Responds directly to needs in the economy by embedding students in the economy.
-Personalized educational experience to honor student goals.
-Focus on service and entrepreneurialism.
-Subjects are integrated as they appear in the adult world – content is contextualized for deeper learning.
-Learning centers on fundamental tenet of core subjects like economics and computer programing.
-Designed to prepare citizens for the information-age world.
|-Focuses on delivery of specific content.
-Curriculum is often standardized and legitimized by historical use.
-Content is delivered on a pre-determined schedule.
-Focuses majority of efforts on preparing students for college.
-Subjects are separated from one another for ease of scheduling and management.
-Students are clustered by age and ability level for efficiency purposes.
-Designed to prepare citizens for an industrial-age world.
Who doesn’t want the Iowa BIG column for our children?! Is what they do in Cedar Rapids the perfect solution for all schools and should our educational system do a complete overhaul? No and the leaders at BIG would agree. Should we start the discussion and movement towards a VERSION of this model in our schools? YES! It will look very different in rural communities and that’s okay, it should. Cookie-cutter is not what the BIG idea is. If we keep our focus on offering students an opportunity to follow their passions and interests, integrate the community to use the student’s learning in context to the real world, and integrate subjects just like they are used and referenced in the real world it will be a win:win for everyone, especially our students.