About a decade ago, I had a conversation with a friend about her company’s fear of change and innovation. She worked for a marketing agency that she believed was “stuck in the past” and was particularly concerned when she overheard the CEO calling the internet “a fad.” The CEO refused to embrace new ideas and marketing innovations in the digital age, giving preference to older, traditional forms of marketing. Unsurprisingly, the company is no longer in business.
As you look around the world at successful companies, they have at least one thing in common – as times change, they change. Embracing new ideas and technology, improving culture and enhancing techniques enables them to grow. Companies that reject change remain stagnant at best.
We accept the need for innovation in private industry, but here in Kentucky, we insist on educating children in the same way we did 50 years ago. Many of Kentucky’s leaders sit in terror when considering trying something new like empowering parents with choices of where to educate their children in the form of scholarship tax credits, charter schools or education savings accounts. However, fear of these new approaches is unjustified as we see them working in other cities and states.
Take New Orleans, for example. After Hurricane Katrina, the city began opening charter schools to replace its formerly troubled traditional public school system. New Orleans’ charter school model has given way to improvements in test scores and graduation rates while failing schools turned charters continue to rise in the rankings. Embracing this progress, the Orleans Parish School Board voted last week to move to a nearly 100% charter school model.
Yet, as we watch New Orleans build on their charter school successes, Kentucky has yet to fund even one charter school.
The improvements seen in present-day New Orleans’ schools show that the right charter schools could be the key to turning around our own deficient schools. With struggling schools across the state and our largest school district ranking as one of the worst in the country, we cannot remain paralyzed by fear of change and continue down the same path that’s failing too many of our children. If we’re to prepare children for the future, we must begin embracing proven, present-day solutions to our ailing education system.