Future Ready SchoolsⓇ (FRS) is a bold effort to maximize digital learning opportunities and help school districts, whether public, private, or charter, move quickly toward preparing students for success. Schools that are Future Ready are those with empowered teachers, courageous leaders, students who take charge of their learning, and the tools available to support personalized approaches that ensure college or career readiness for all students.

The Alliance for Excellent Education leads the effort alongside a vast coalition of over 60 national and regional partner organizations, including CUE. Future Ready Schoolshelps districts build capacity to:

  1. Lead with a vision for learning, not technology;
  2. Plan before the purchase of technology;
  3. Maximize a “return on instruction;”
  4. Build trust with educators and support them through personalized professional learning opportunities; and
  5. Systemically develop a culture of innovation.

This effort continues at a critical time as districts embrace college or career readiness as the goal for all students and recognize the potential of digital tools to help teachers personalize learning for each student. FRS provides districts with the needed resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and lead to personalized learning experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally underserved communities.

The History of Future Ready Schools®

Originally launched alongside the U.S. Department of Education at the “ConnectED to the Future” Summit at the White House on November 19, 2014, 118 of the nation’s most innovative superintendents gathered to share their experiences of implementing digital learning in their districts. The summit also recognized more than 1,000 school district superintendents from across the country who took the Future Ready District Pledge to show their commitment 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; and
  • Mentoring Other Districts and Helping Them Transition to Digital Learning.

Yet today, an estimated 21 million students in the United States still lack the needed broadband for digital learning while at school. An additional five million students lose connectivity the moment they leave their school campus. Gaining such connectivity, along with strategic planning by districts to maximize its availability, has the potential to transform the educational experiences of all students, regardless of their background.

During phase one of FRS in 2015, and through the support of the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission, a series of thirteen National Future Ready Summits took place where district teams collaborated to develop action plans and metrics to measure their progress in using digital resources to improve and accelerate teaching and student learning outcomes. During phase two in 2016, FRS launched five national summits and five newly created Future Ready Dashboard workshops, specifically geared towards supporting school district visioning and action planning for digital learning implementation. To date, more than 845 school district teams representing over 2,500 district leaders participated in the various Future Ready events that have been held across the country throughout the first two phases. These events enabled district teams to jump start their planning efforts and vision for student learning under direct guidance from Future Ready facilitators, national experts, and in collaboration with other district teams from throughout the region.

Today, over 3,100 district leaders, representing more than 19 million students (one-third of all students nationwide), have signed the Future Ready Pledge to move toward a digital learning transition that supports teachers and addresses the district’s vision for student learning. Furthermore, over 1,000 school district teams have used the Future Ready Schools Dashboard to gather data for a systemic plan—before they purchase any technology—for student-centered, personalized learning. Such an approach helps all students obtain deeper learning competencies they need to succeed in college and the workforce. These competencies include thinking critically, using knowledge and information to solve complex problems, working collaboratively, communicating effectively, learning how to learn, and developing academic mindsets.

What’s Next for Future Ready Schools®?
Momentum continues to build! Launching in early 2017, phase three will see an aggressive calendar of online and face-to-face events that will provide deeper professional learning opportunities and points of collaboration. These include Regional Institutes, designed to support the growing network of district leaders as well as innovative educators from around the country in the implementation of personalized digital learning. Whether you are just starting the FRS planning process or already in the midst, the regional institutes will provide many opportunities for participants to engage with colleagues with content-specific knowledge as well as with an array of regional leaders to network and share ideas on implementing personalized learning strategies in your schools. Finalized dates and locations, including events in Palm Springs and Sacramento, will be announced soon!  

Last summer, FRS announced its new Future Ready Librarians strand that supports school librarians as they lead, teach, and assist their school’s and/or district’s FRS goals through their professional practice, programs, and spaces. Due to the program’s tremendous success, FRS has continued to add additional educator strands throughout 2017, including Future Ready Teachers/Coaches, Future Ready Students, and Future Ready Principals, with more on the horizon. Together these programs build on FRS’s belief that all educators play a vital role throughout the digital transformation process; from planning through implementation. Finally, FRS will also continue to expand its Leadership Hub, a one-stop shop of free resources for all digital learning planning materials, tools, and activities. Keep your eye out for other tools and resources include a toolkit for rural schools, robust support for state leaders, and a brand new planning section of the Future Ready Dashboard aligned to ESSA’s Title IV. Let’s work together to provide every student with the ability to succeed in the years ahead!

Connect with Future Ready’s Tom Murray, one of our spotlight speakers, at the CUE 2017 National Conference! CUE 2017 will also offer a full “Future Ready Strand” with sessions aligned to the various gears of the Future Ready Framework.

Editorial note: CUE is one of the three conveners of FutureReadyCA along with ACSA and TICAL.

Thomas C. Murray serves as the Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education, located in Washington, DC. Connect with him at thomascmurray.com or @thomascmurray.

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