With a focused commitment to help K–12 districts and Kansas communities, the Kansas Research and Education Network (KanREN) has become a regional partner with the U.S. Department of Education (USDoE) Office of Educational Technology, and the Alliance for Excellent Education (Alliance) in the Future Ready Schools (FRS) effort.
Launched in the fall of 2014 by the USDoE, Future Ready Schools represents a coordinated effort of the USDoE’s Office of Educational Technology and the Alliance for Excellent Education, with support from a coalition of partners. Efforts focus on helping K–12 school districts maximize digital learning opportunities and move quickly toward preparing students for success. With strategic planning in mind, Future Ready equips school leaders with the knowledge, support, tools and resources to dynamically lead their districts through a team-driven planning process to generate a digital learning action plan.
A Vision of Future Ready Schools
Future Ready Schools catalyzes digital learning opportunities and helps districts move quickly toward preparing students for success in college, a career, and citizenship. This effort comes at a critical time as districts embrace college and career readiness as the goal for all students and recognize the potential of digital tools to help teachers personalize learning for each student. While less than 30 percent of U.S. schools have the bandwidth they need to teach using today’s technology, federal and state efforts are expanding this capacity to ensure that at least 99 percent of the nation’s students have access to high-speed internet in their schools within the next five years. Such connectivity, along with strategic planning by districts to maximize access to digital learning technologies, can transform the educational experiences for all students, regardless of their background.
Future Ready provides State and District leaders with the expertise, tools and resources through a thoughtful planning methodology to strategically align their vision for teaching and learning, leadership efforts, education mission, and best practices—operationally and instructionally—to get there. The Alliance for Excellent Education and the U.S. Department of Education have engaged a strong coalition of national and regional organizations, including KanREN, to help with the effort.
“Regional partners provide critical support in helping state and district leaders shape a vision for how technology can transform learning and provide equity for all students,” said Katrina Stevens, Deputy Director, Office of Education Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. “Working with partners like KanREN brings additional resources and expertise to help make our schools Future Ready.”
Start with a Commitment
The Future Ready District Pledge, according to the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to set out a roadmap to achieve transformation success and to commit districts to move as quickly as possible towards a shared vision of preparing students for success in college, careers and citizenship. As of November 2015, approximately 2,000 school superintendents have signed the Pledge. District superintendents sign the Future Ready Pledge, a commitment to work with educators, families, and community members to make all schools in their districts Future Ready schools.
Specifically, leaders commit to:
- Fostering and leading a culture of digital learning within our schools.
- Helping schools and families transition to high-speed connectivity.
- Empowering educators through professional learning opportunities.
- Accelerating progress toward universal access for all students to quality devices.
- Providing access to quality digital content.
- Offering digital tools to help students and families #ReachHigher.
- Mentoring other districts and helping them transition to digital learning.
The Future Ready Schools Leaders component provides direct support for school leaders to keep this commitment. Strong leadership is essential to systemic, sustainable change. The Future Ready Leaders equips district leaders with evidence-based approaches, research and personalized professional learning through virtual site visits with Future Ready district leaders sharing lessons learned, effective policies and practices. Transformation begins with creating a shared vision—leaders who believe this can be delegated or outsourced fundamentally misunderstand how technology enables transformative learning—for students, staff, and the broader education community.
In an effort to support superintendents and district leadership teams and to fulfill the Future Ready District Pledge—and determine their readiness to do so—The Alliance for Excellent Education has developed both the Future Ready Schools Framework and Future Ready Schools Interactive Planning Dashboard. The Future Ready Framework (below) provides the roadmap for a successful digital transformation. With student learning at the center–the heart of all decision-making– a district must align each of the seven (7) key categories, called gears, plus leadership, in order to implement and sustain successful digital learning. The Future Ready Schools Interactive Planning Dashboard is a free, online tool to help district leadership teams plan systemically to use technology effectively to engage students, empower teachers, and improve learning outcomes. Through the dashboard, district leaders assess their digital readiness levels, identify gaps, obtain strategies, action plan and track their progress over time.
The 7 gears of the Future Ready Schools framework:
- Curriculum, instruction, and assessment
- Personalized professional learning
- Technology and infrastructure
- Data and privacy
- Community partnerships
- Budget and resources
- Use of space and time
Future Ready Partners
“Today we set a new vision for technology to support learning and have assembled an unprecedented coalition of partners dedicated to making sure that vision becomes practice to transform the learning of all students.”
— Richard Culatta, Director, Office of Educational Technology, from the 2016 National Education Technology Plan
National, state and regional partners bring expertise and resources to support the effort through tools, professional learning opportunities, expertise and best practices to assist K–12 districts in the process.
“Partnerships are a key aspect of the Future Ready effort. The Alliance for Excellent Education seeks out regional organizations to support local school districts in the use of the Future Ready offerings such as the summits, planning dashboard, mentoring program, and online tools and resources. The unique expertise that these networks can bring to this effort is unmatched,” said Sara Hall, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy and the Executive Director of Future Ready. “We are grateful to have regional partners like KanREN to extend our reach and help schools prepare digital learning environments for their students.”
Working alongside USDoE’s Office of Educational Technology and the Alliance, regional partners commit to provide a website presence and support the Future Ready effort through state/local conferences, webinars, and outreach. The Professional Learning opportunities available are extensive and ongoing, and KanREN both promotes and provides opportunities to extend the reach for K–12 districts and education organizations to participate.
“We bring a broad range of expertise and deep knowledge to provide unbiased assistance,” said Cort Buffington, Executive Director, KanREN. “We’re here to help K–12 schools and their communities make the best connectivity decisions they can—with the future in mind. Our work with higher education and research positions us to know what’s coming in connectivity and technology, while our ongoing work with districts of all sizes gives us insight into specific needs of Kansas schools. Becoming a regional partner in the Future Ready Schools effort codifies our commitment to the learners and educators of Kansas.”
- Future Ready Schools
- U.S. Department of Education, Office of Education Technology
- USDoE, OET 2016 National Ed Tech Plan
- Alliance for Excellent Education
If you’d like additional information on the Future Ready effort, contact Melinda Stanley, Assistant Director for Membership Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org.