Proposing a New High School Way

High school reimagined (and we mean truly reimagined) was the title of the winning entry in the Fordham Institute’s annual policy Wonkathon (asking this time whether graduation requirements need to change). Here is that powerful article (with a nod to Indiana) from two leaders of K12 Inc, an online learning provider:

So what is the purpose of high school in America? We think most agree that it is to train our students up to be responsible and productive citizens. But how exactly do we measure that? Research over the years has shown the numerous benefits of high school completion, how it improves the likelihood of higher wages and decreases the likelihood of being arrested for a crime, for example. This type of research led to a focus on graduation as the ultimate measurement. It’s as though we believed that something magical happened by simply pushing all students to get across the graduation stage in four years.

In turn, while the national graduation rate has soared to record highs from 2005 to 2015, the value of a high school diploma, as measured by median annual earnings, has taken a significant dip over that same time period. The value of the diploma has decreased, even as more students have crossed the stage. Would we say that 84.1 percent of our students, all those who graduated in 2016, are leaving high school prepared for successful lives? Ask ten people and we bet you won’t get a single “yes.” Therein lies the problem we are faced with today.

Where did we go wrong and how do we fix it? First, it’s important to change how we measure success. If we want high schools to ultimately turn out responsible and productive citizens and we agree that not every graduate in America today fits that criteria, then let’s not use graduation rate as our ultimate measure of success. Let’s instead measure the outcomes we wish to see after high school; things like employment rates, median annual wages, job satisfaction, and postsecondary educational program enrollment and completion rates. Are these metrics as easy to calculate and report out for every school and district as the four-year cohort graduation rate? No. Should that prevent us from doing it? No (but it often does).

With our focus firmly planted on student outcomes after high school, we can now begin to reimagine the experience itself. The solution – personalized learning, the educational buzz word that has every school across the nation attempting to better serve each student’s unique needs and goals. All the while the system in which these schools operate has continued its one-size-fits-all model. The right hand is saying, “Every child is unique, has different strengths and weakness and dreams, and should have ownership and agency over his/her learning,” yet the left hand is simultaneously shouting, “But don’t forget you need to ensure he/she masters every single rigorous standard, passes every standardized test, and graduates college-and-career ready in four years.” It’s time we take the hands and align the left with the right (and no, that isn’t a political joke).

To build a personalized learning model that effectively graduates students prepared to successfully contribute to society, let’s do three things:

  • Embrace cross-curricular competency-based learning
  • Personalize graduation paths
  • Realign learning across the preschool to higher education/career continuum

Cross-curricular competency-based learning

Across the country at this very minute, there are thousands of students sitting in classes they could have aced on the very first day of school. An even larger population of students are being dragged along to more advanced concepts before they are ready simply because the teacher needs to cover all of the course objects in the allotted amount of days for the semester.

Our current system based entirely on the accrual of seat time and credits in individual subject areas is incredibly outdated. Instead, our high school “graduation plan” should be a cross-curricular checklist of knowledge and skills that students should master in order to graduate. Education Reimagined is partnering with schools nationwide to make learner-centered education like this a reality. The beauty of this model is that it not only allows a student to advance at his/her own pace, but it opens up a wide range of pathways by which a student can demonstrate mastery, which leads us to our next recommendation.

Personalized graduation paths

It’s time we truly acknowledge that every student is unique and in turn provide fully personalized graduation paths. Career and technical education (CTE) and college preparation programs should be seen as equals, preparing students for the next step they choose to take. For example, if the graduation checklist requires students to be able to write a research paper, let’s give them an option to fulfill that in any course whether that is advanced English Literature or a welding course.

A 2016 CTE Study from the Fordham Institute shows many benefits to a quality CTE program, including an increased likelihood that the student will graduate from high school, enroll in a two-year college, and be employed with a higher wage after graduation. Every student should be given control to create a path toward graduation that uses his/her interests and future plans as a foundation upon which to add relevant coursework, internships, and life skills training. Indiana seems to be leading the way in this area with recently-approved Graduation Pathways.

Realignment across the learning continuum

Embracing the above two recommendations means a shift in American high schools as we know them. Knowing that, it is important that our last recommendation be to reimagine learning across the entire preschool to higher education/career continuum. Instead of moving students in primary grades with age cohorts, let’s focus on competency-based mastery. Give students who need extra time the time that they need to gain understanding and allow those who are ready to move on the chance to advance.

Instead of labeling a student as a “failure” for not having graduated from high school in four years, set the expectation that students may master all of the competencies required in anywhere from three to seven years. Connect that high school graduation checklist with expectations of colleges, universities, career training programs, and jobs in order to ensure that when students do graduate they are truly prepared to embrace the next step, whatever that is for them.

So with three simple recommendations we have successfully turned the entire high school system on its head.

Social Connection at What Cost?

It’s been fun, guys.

Digging our heads into the sand and enjoying our social media. Happily sharing gifs, memes, videos, photos with one another, connecting with friends (or frenemies) from high school and posting political opinions that will change exactly no one’s mind.

On some level, we probably all knew that Facebook was tracking our every “like” and “share” online. And yet, the reality of that fact has come crashing down on us over the past few weeks as privacy scandals at Facebook are making headlines.

Understandably, there’s a #DeleteFacebook campaign ongoing. And yet, I haven’t deleted my Facebook account, with no plans to do so. What about you?

While I’m not planning to leave Facebook, I have identified recently with a scene from NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” where privacy-conscious Ron Swanson is alerted that web site cookies exist and that Google Maps has a photo of his house:

(He’s throwing his computer in the dumpster, FYI.)

But that’s not a solution. Maybe for some it is, but not for me and probably many others working in today’s world, who need to utilize and understand technology and social connection.

However, we can – and should – all do a better job of understanding just what we’re agreeing to when downloading new apps and sharing on social media. Instead of an “ignorance is bliss” outlook, take a thorough look through your privacy settings and advertising settings and be very specific about what information you want to share with each platform or app.

If you are interested in downloading the full archive of what data Facebook contains about you, this article from Inc. includes an easy five-step process:

How to Get Your Data

In typical Facebook fashion, it’s easy to get this data, but only if you know exactly where to look. That’s what I’m here for.

  1. Click this link. You’re looking for facebook.com/settings. If for some strange reason that doesn’t work, on desktop, you want to click the little upside-down triangle in the upper right-hand corner, then drop down and click “Settings.”
  2. Click where it says “Download Archive.” You will likely have to reenter your password. Facebook will need about 10 or 15 minutes to compile your data and will send you a link via email to get your information.
  3. Check your email spam folder; the message Facebook sent me wasn’t readily visible in my inbox. The subject should read “Your Facebook download is ready.” Click the link in your email and you’ll be sent back to Facebook again–and probably have to enter your password once more. (This is a good thing; there’s a lot of personal information in the files they’re sending you.)
  4. Click the “Download Archive” button on this second screen, and you’ll download a .zip file that should be called: “facebook-YOURUSERNAME.zip.” Extract the files by clicking on the .zip file in most cases, and you’ll wind up with a series of folders. There should be a file called simply “index.html.”
  5. Click on that, and the archive should open in your browser.

I’m going to download my Facebook data – mainly to see what it contains and how accurate some of it is. I joined Facebook when I was a sophomore in college, back in 2005. So, I’ll have 13 years of data to comb through and I’m assuming it’s going to be as embarrassing as when I read back through my diary from junior high.

Tech Talk: Special Locations; Special Outcomes

Yes, we understand technology allows business processes to take place today that were never possible before. Yes, we know that people – no doubt about it – are the most important asset in any organization.

But location still plays a factor. And location is a central theme to two recent EchoChamber conversations. The guests: Rich Carlton of Data Realty in South Bend (where tech is thriving on the site of the former auto manufacturing giant Studebaker) and John Hurley of SmartFile and the Union 525 (the scale-up home in Indianapolis that is becoming the centerpiece of innovation and activity).

A few nuggets from each are below. But we encourage you to check out their full conversations.

Carlton

  • Data Realty family of companies is making 40 million calculations a day on data coming in from around the world
  • Talent from Stanford, MIT, Carnegie-Mellon and more now calling South Bend region home
  • Goals include becoming the first company out of South Bend to be valued at $1 billion
  • “If South Bend was a stock, I’d be buying. We’re in the infancy of what we’re going to be able to do.”

Hurley

  • Celebrating its ninth anniversary – “we’re like a grandfather in tech” – SmartFile manages digital content to meet regulatory and compliance standards for 1,400 organizations in 80 countries
  • Hurley loves the “collisions” at Union 525 where “great risk takers and thinkers are all there creating a lot of energy”
  • He is now receiving near daily communication from venture capitalists looking at Indiana and the Midwest. Union 525 is a part of helping to make that happen
  • The next phases of tech development on the southern edge of Indianapolis’ downtown are being formulated

And be sure to check out this week’s new episode featuring Brian Schroeder of Eskenazi Health. The subject is wellness – utilizing workplace wellness as a business strategy and the idea that we can move from treating chronic disease with a pill to utilizing lifestyle medicine.

Subscribe to the EchoChamber via iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts to be sure not to miss out on future guests from the innovation, business, education and political worlds.

#BizVoiceExtra: International School Impresses

I’d heard of the International School of Indiana long before I had the chance to visit for a story in the current edition of BizVoice®, but really didn’t have any idea of the school’s mission as it was founded in Indianapolis over 20 years ago.

Now I can’t stop relating to it.

As you can read here in the story in our March/April edition of BizVoice, the school was created in 1994 to offer an international education option for families of foreign executives and since that time has become known for offering one of the most rigorous curriculums for students in Indiana. The high school has a 100% graduation rate and a 100% college acceptance rate and last year’s class of graduating seniors (there were 42 of them) was offered $6 million in merit scholarships.

I toured both the lower school (ages three up through grades five) and upper school (grades six through 12) and walked through classrooms of pre-kindergarten children learning Mandarin, Spanish and French and was blown away by the poise and passion of high school students speaking about their experiences with the school.

Seeing today that the city of Indianapolis has received a final license from the World Trade Centers Association to establish a World Trade Center in the city makes me think of the International School. While the school was established nearly 25 years ago, the founding mission is still relevant in offering an international curriculum to students in Indiana (whether local students or those from other nations).

I was also reminded of the school when I recently visited a friend in San Francisco and met numerous people – from my friends’ housemates from Russia, to one of our Lyft drivers from Algiers – who were multilingual.

While I was accidentally interviewing (yes – it’s a hazard of my job) that Lyft driver from Algiers, I asked him what language is dominant there and was thinking the answer would be French. It was but, in addition, he listed two others I’d never heard of. English is his fourth language.

The students at the International School are also able to learn up to four languages, right here in central Indiana. It’s the only school in the Midwest with a trilingual option, in addition to English.

As Indiana continues to make a name for itself around the world, seeing the impact of the International School up close and personal was enlightening and – as I’ve mentioned – sticks with you.

Indiana Chamber Comments on SaaS Tax Clarity Bill Signed Into Law Today

Bill Waltz, Indiana Chamber of Commerce vice president of taxation and public finance, comments on Senate Bill 257 being signed into law, providing clarity on the tax exempt status for software-as-a-service (SaaS) transactions:

“Since last summer, the Indiana Chamber has been leading the charge to see this clarification become law, with language originating in our tech policy committee. Our advocacy team and several members of the committee met with all the interested parties to build momentum and consensus. We put a lot of work into the effort because the stakes were high. The state’s significant momentum as an attractive place for innovative and entrepreneurial companies was in jeopardy without a sensible solution.

“And this policy is important not just for tech companies, but for those who do business with them. The new law is straightforward on what transactions are exempt. Having clarity around that will help grow Indiana’s software development economy, as well as prevent onerous taxation of other necessary business expenses throughout the business community.

“We thank Governor Holcomb for his leadership and legislators for listening to our members and taking this important step forward to further demonstrate Indiana’s technology commitment. The state is now in a very favorable position to reap very real economic benefits and attract more and more of the software-as-a-service industry.”

Sen. Travis Holdman, author of SB 257 (left) and the Chamber’s Bill Waltz 

Cheers to the Network Security Administrators

Here’s a little tip – don’t check your work email on your mobile phone while riding in an airport shuttle on the way back to your car from vacation.

Don’t quickly open any emails saying you had a recent sign-in attempt and need to remedy your information.

Don’t click the link! DON’T do it.

I did it.

Yep, it was me. The person who studied and learned about fraud, email phishing, social engineering (and a lot of other terrifying cybersecurity issues) for a 1,200-plus word story for BizVoice® magazine last year. The person who has warned everyone about these issues since learning all those terrifying things. The one who pays close attention when data breaches are discussed in the media.

It was me. I did it. Ugh.

Thankfully, I realized what I’d done nearly immediately. I clicked on the link, but I didn’t enter any information and I quickly alerted our network guardian angel administrator, Jeff. Then I panicked all the way home from my relaxing vacation.

But Jeff let me know he was keeping an eye on it, and that I hadn’t broken everything (I was sure I had). Such a relief I have rarely felt in my adult life.

After a self-admonishing mea culpa when I returned to the office, I was again put at ease upon being reminded that this happens more regularly than I realized and that it’s a very easy thing to fall for.

That is NOT an excuse for complacency, of course. Think before you click! Make sure you know your company’s security protocols, think critically about the email address the email is coming from (does your security administrator typically handle anything related to Microsoft? Then Microsoft is probably not emailing you directly!). Just pay attention.

I was reminded firsthand that our information technology and network security administrators are on the front lines of keeping our dumb mistakes at bay.

Thank goodness for that.

If you’ve got a great networking security team supporting your workplace, thank them when you get the chance. You probably don’t always know or understand what they do, but when things get dicey, you’ll really appreciate their expertise.

(If you don’t have a network security team, you’re risking a lot. Check out that BizVoice story I mentioned above for more about the pitfalls of not being covered by good security measures.)

Wrap-up: 2018 Indiana Safety and Health Conference

If you attended last week’s 2018 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo, you most certainly came away with enhanced knowledge, new industry connections and the determination to make your workplace a safer and healthier one.

The largest safety and health conference in the state provided over 70 education sessions, leading industry speakers and access to more than 100 exhibitors and safety vendors over the course of three days in downtown Indianapolis.

The conference was sponsored by Gibson and presented by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Central Indiana Chapter of American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), in partnership with INSafe and the Coalition for Construction Safety (CCS).

Kina Repp, keynote speaker for the opening general session (“It’s Your Safety, Don’t Give It Away”), shared her story of lessons learned from losing her arm to a moving conveyor belt 40 minutes into her job at a fish processing plant. She spent two months in the hospital and endured 11 surgeries.

At the time, Repp knew what she was doing was not safe. Today, she describes the ripple effect – the impact the accident had on her family, co-workers, supervisors and more.

“I made choices that day that hurt all those people,” she told the hushed conference attendees before posing two questions: “Whose life are you willing to change? What is it that you’re willing to trade your safety for?

Life – and safety – come down to choices, Repp attests. In looking back at her decision to take advantage of her second chance, while at the same time offering guidance to others in determining their safety outcomes, she relies on a Henry Ford quote: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

March 14 keynote speaker Sgt. Sammy L. Davis delivered a poignant recollection of the Vietnam War. A powerful philosophy guided him during the battle that won him a Congressional Medal of Honor: “If I don’t do my job, the guys behind me don’t stand a chance.”

Davis’ actions on November 18, 1967, inspired the wartime service depicted in Forrest Gump, including his citation ceremony with actor Tom Hank’s head added on top of Davis’s via computer-generated imagery. Last week, Davis was bestowed Indiana’s highest honor, the Sachem Award.

The Governor’s Workplace Safety Awards were presented to organizations and individuals that have made health and safety a priority. Find the press release with a list of winners here.

See photos from the awards luncheon and the conference here.

Ice Miller is the conference’s platinum sponsor. Gold sponsors are Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP); Community Employer Health; and RMS-Safety. Silver sponsors are Athletico Physical Therapy; CLMI Safety Training; Faztek, LLC; Indiana Safety & Supply; Indiana University School of Public Health Safety Program; KHA Online SDS™; Safety Management Group; and Sentry Safety Services, Inc.

The dates are already set for the 2019 Indiana Safety and Health Conference & Expo! Mark your calendars for February 26-28, 2019 at the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find conference materials and more at www.insafetyconf.com.

Tech Talk: McDonald Lights Economic Fire

John McDonald, CEO of ClearObject and chair of the Indiana Chamber’s Tech Policy Committee, is proficient in many areas – including crafting analogies.

In the current BizVoice® magazine, he authors a thoughtful column titled “Indiana’s Economy: Great for Business, Not Yet for Entrepreneurs.” On the analogy side, consider this excerpt:

“If the spark that ignites an entrepreneurial company is initiative, then what are the other necessary components that fuel the fire of innovation? Like we learned in elementary school, fire requires fuel, oxygen and heat, and if any of these elements is removed, the fire stops.

“Similarly, entrepreneurship requires three elements: ideas, capital and skilled people, with the spark of initiative to light the flame. Take any of these away and the fire of an entrepreneurial company ‘flames out.’ “

Check out John’s full column.

The focus of the March-April issue is on Outstanding Talent. Nearly 20 stories outline programs, initiatives and people making a difference in the worlds of education and workforce development. Among the features:

  • The Excel Center, where adults gain the assistance and pair it with their own motivation to reach new heights in education and career opportunities
  • The Crossing Schools, where high school students in need of direction find it in the form of hands-on learning and work experiences
  • The International School of Indiana, where a challenging curriculum is only part of the mix for high-performing students

The Indiana Chamber is highlighted through the Foundation’s Business Champions Advisory Network, Indiana INTERNnet’s 12th annual IMPACT Award winners and an overview of the organization’s workforce development efforts.

View the full issue.

Celebrating Failure or Something Else?

Kris Taylor focuses on change and change leadership in her coaching/consulting practice. In a recent writing, she questions the “celebrating failure” message. Or maybe it’s the wording used. Decide for yourself. The full post includes additional information on organizational behaviors to remove and embrace.

Face it: Failure stinks. No one I know likes it. And even the most successful and creative people I know, don’t celebrate things that turned out poorly.

Yet a mantra that has emerged in the last five years is to “celebrate” failure. Really? Celebrate?

Failure

While I get, on some level, the reasoning to encourage people to take a risk and actually “do something” or to even possibly do “something big” – the notion of celebrating failure is not, what I believe, is in anyone’s best interest.

Working in and with organizations, I fully recognize the great extents to which people will take to avoid looking “less than” or “foolish” or “incapable”. I also fully recognize the games that are played (some with intention and some unconsciously) to garner the coveted raise or promotion and at times, survive the latest reorganization.

Anything “less than” often is hidden, buried, ignored or rationalized away. I’ve seen multi-million projects that were abject failures be allowed to linger on, all to avoid embarrassment. I’ve seen amazing amounts of money, time and effort be put into a failing project in an attempt to prop it enough to get it over the finish line, only to declare “done” and then allow it to wither away.

And so, let’s celebrate creativity and contributing new ideas. Let’s celebrate experimentation, observation and rapid learning. Let’s celebrate bold steps forward into the ambiguous unknown future. Let’s celebrate persistence and pivots and progress.

And when we fail, we celebrate picking ourselves up, reflecting on what happened, and starting anew – smarter, more resilient and more likely to succeed this time around.

Developing the Entrepreneurial System – Here and There

ecosystem

A professor from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is writing from his home state’s perspective, but sharing insights regarding Midwest entrepreneurial ecosystems and how they might differ from international efforts. He notes four key elements, including the always popular capital and worker skill aspects:

  1. The most important step is connecting with your customer

While understanding the basic fundamentals of cash flow and knowing how to manage a staff is important, businesses everywhere must put finding the customer first if they want to be successful. For Midwestern businesses, that might be a challenge for marketing. For startups in some developing economies, the search can be less abstract: Infrastructure challenges can make connecting with customers more difficult. For example, in Vietnam, the single biggest platform for ecommerce is Facebook — but in rural Morocco, a lack of infrastructure makes ecommerce virtually impossible. Interpersonal connections and marketplaces remain indispensable.

  1. Success begets success

In the United States, the story of every successful startup cluster begins with capital — and one of the best sources of capital is another company’s exit. We’ve also seen that for every $1 a Michigan startup receives from a Michigan VC firm, it attracts $4.61 of investment from outside of Michigan. Cash is the fertilizer, and the more of it in the environment, then the more likely the economy will grow.

This logic doesn’t always hold in developing economies, one of the hallmarks of which is no middle class and a huge income disparity. When wealth is created in these environments, there are many places that the money can be reinvested in besides another startup: to fund education, for example, or to buy more land. That being said, more wealth generated by new venture activity has the potential to lift the income threshold and lead to a more stable, flourishing economy. 

  1. Give your talent the fulfillment they need

A major challenge for small communities is talent, no matter where they are located. But talent isn’t just about having smart people — it’s about having people with the skills needed to build a business, and a community that can support them. In the Midwest, that talent gap often takes the form of local workers who are educated, well-trained, and experienced in running a business, but who might not choose to stay and work in their communities if there aren’t opportunities that appeal to them.

Robust entrepreneurial ecosystems with more activity have the potential to attract top talent away from more metropolitan areas. It can become a self-sustaining cycle once it gets going, but may take a significant event or local unicorn to get it kicked into action. In developing countries, that more often looks like workers who have limited skills, who need the determination and resources to invest in themselves — and who need an ecosystem that can provide them with that base.

  1. Take local differences into account

What works in Silicon Valley doesn’t always work in Chicago — and what works in Kosovo might not work in Vietnam. When it comes to translating what has worked in one place to another, the details become local, and critical. Some business climates trust banks and credit lines; others operate solely in cash. In some places, the local language is widely spoken; in others, that local language could be six different dialects. Just as the National Venture Capital Association has local chapters to better understand and focus on the small ecosystems being built all over the United States, context is everything for entrepreneurs looking to get off the ground no matter where they are.

While languages, customs, and currency differ from country to country, one thing doesn’t: When entrepreneurs and innovation win, it can lift the outlook of an entire economy. With the right resources and support, the Midwest has stepped up to create the jobs and standing it needs to survive in the modern economy — and developing ecosystems around the world are doing the same.