When I first joined the Learning Counsel, I had no idea what an integral part our schools and districts played in the Learning Counsel’s efforts. Having come from a more traditional media company in my former life, my experience was limited to putting out some very fine articles and hoping they had an impact.

Until I joined the Leaning Counsel, I rarely had the opportunity to see my work in action. Perhaps the difference is the 30+ live events we do each year. Perhaps it is the utter size of our media’s reach. Or perhaps it is the urgency and efficacy of our message. Whatever the case, we see you, the most influential educators in America, becoming the change agents and taking personal responsibility for the necessary transition in American education.

The Learning Counsel just completed its best year ever in terms of reader engagement and an actionable call to action. As the Learning Counsel’s editor, I take very little credit. The kudos on our side go to the research team and all the folks responsible for our events in your cities. But even greater kudos go to each of you. Your ability to take our message and make real changes in your own schools and districts is astounding. It is both a pleasure and an honor to watch those of you in the trenches, fighting for the changes that guarantee a better future for your learners.

Educators are very passionate people, and your passion is on display for everyone to see. You are both a role model and a catalyst for change in your own communities. It’s gratifying for our team to see, and inspirational for your own teams and communities. Often, fear is the common denominator that keeps us from the changes in our lives we know to be necessary. Your courage in the face of that fear allows others in your community to join the fight and make the changes that your students need.

These notable districts are leading the way

Some of our Learning Counsel districts are simply amazing in their progress. One great example is Meriden Public Schools in Connecticut. Meriden Public Schools can be described as a vanquisher of teacher unwillingness. They continue to drive towards a high level of interactive individual/personalized resources with a 70 percent coverage model for core curriculum; this district is a very bright star. Highlights include this year’s partnering with The Bushnell Theater and piloting a new program called Musiquest.  With it, students are learning how to create their own musical pieces and synchronize them with their Ozobots.  In addition, students have created musical pieces to support their work in core content areas.  Meriden Public Schools continues to promote equitable opportunities for all students.  Their 1:1 initiative has put devices in the hands of every student and they now offer loaned hotspots for access anytime, anywhere.  Their buses even have hotspots so that students have access while traveling or at sporting events or field trips.

Another district whose progress we celebrate is the Buckeye Union High School District in Arizona. Buckeye has fearlessly tackled their biggest challenge: complacency. Unwilling to rest on its laurels, Buckeye has true leadership taking on new demands for metrics with a ferocious change-agency from the Superintendent down through a uniquely engaged team, the likes of which can be found in very few districts. Buckeye's long list of digital resources is accompanied by an abundance of professional development activities. Their Get Connected 1:1 initiative has now been in place for five years, and their unique learning modeling has melded a traditional standards-based instructional model with technology infused pedagogy resulting in increased student achievement. Buckeye is moving to new levels with their new Aim High program, designed to provide targeted, intentional academic interventions and academic enrichment strategies to a broad student audience across the district.

Still another district that is winning the digital transition is a small district in a rather remote area of Minnesota, ISD 690 – the Warroad School District. This is one of the best examples of leadership we have seen, as Superintendent Peter Haapala came out of retirement and for two years worked tirelessly to transform Warroad into a true student-led learning experience, changing the very paradigm of learning there. This nimble district is now facing off with its biggest challenge, the multi-faceted social and emotional needs of students, and using an increasing sophistication in their digital architecture and professional development to do so.  Unwilling to accept their small size as an obstacle to innovation, Warroad is in full development mode for real personalized PD programs.  A major gain is that their redefined administration is not just a new mission statement but a state of active operation. Great strides have been made in digital learning experiences with a new LMS, complimented by full development of all users' digital skills and responsibilities. Warroad has evolved to an advanced stage of refinement of their curriculum resource acquisition, including responsibly choosing options that allow for anywhere/anytime access, all in order to push for the personalization of all learning. 

You make the Learning Counsel possible

As the Learning Counsel’s message continues to lap across the shores of American education, we have become aware of the increasing value of listening. Particularly in asking questions and listening to the individual challenges that our schools and districts are facing as they work to find their own success in the digital transition. The good news is that chances are, you are not alone, and there are others who have been able to meet the same types of challenges in their own journeys. That may be the greatest benefit of all as we travel the country speaking with superintendents, technology and curriculum directors and education leaders of all stripes. Granted, we have some pretty smart folks at the Learning Counsel. But none of us is as smart as all of us, and one of the key tenets of the Learning Counsel is that knowledge is freely shared.

In closing, I’d like to thank every one of you for what you do. Being an educator is never easy, and you rarely get the type of recognition you deserve. Without you, our work would not be possible. We produce research, papers and special reports, and we take our research to the streets to empower you, so you can put this knowledge into practice. But without your dedication, your grit and determination, we would never see the kind of remarkable transition we are monitoring in American education. Together, we are 215,000 strong – 215,000 of America’s brightest best education professionals with whom we share our counsel. We are changing the prospects of our nation’s learners, and with that, the very future of our country.

It’s been a fabulous 2019, and I can’t wait for 2020. Together, we’ll make it the best year ever.

About the Author

Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel.  Charles uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. He is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including The Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, edCircuit and EdTech Digest. Charles is unabashedly Southern and likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.