3:00pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

Education advocate says local school districts need more flexibility

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A national leader in education policy is advocating for more school flexibility at local levels.

Jeans, argued Matt Williams, vice president of policy and advocacy for KnowledgeWorks, are not one size fits all and education should not be either.

“Why are we trying to keep kids in a box? Why don’t we allow them to prosper a little bit more than what we are currently?”

Matt Williams, vice president of policy and advocacy for KnowledgeWorks

Williams was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” prior to delivering the keynote address at the Education Alliance’s 2015 Education Summit in Charleston.

“Our education system, as you well know, was designed in the 1890s essentially for white males. That’s not what our society looks like today,” he said.

In his view, solutions do not start at the federal level. “I don’t believe top down notions of, ‘You must innovate from on high,’ necessarily work,” Williams said.

“I think it’s about states looking at — what are their regional needs? They know it best. What are their economic needs? What are their economic holes or their educational holes? And (then) building a system that supports that and supports the students in their own states.”

Williams talked about concepts of competency based teaching, blended online education along with additional expanded online learning emphasizing actual quality of lessons, rather than judgments based on physical time spent in classrooms.

He used his oldest son, who excels in math but struggles in reading, as an example.

“He needs more help in English, in being able to write, in being able to infuse it with imagery, with metaphor, but he can speed ahead in mathematics,” Williams explained. “But the current system says, ‘No, you can only go so fast in mathematics and, gosh, we can only provide so many supports for you in English.'”

Better assessments of student progress, Williams argued, could provide rapid feedback, allowing adjustments to be made.

In his role with KnowledgeWorks, Williams directs federal and state policy for education, advocacy and strategic planning for the future of education work.

Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was also scheduled to speak at Monday’s Education Summit from the Education Alliance.

Formed in 1983, the Education Alliance is a nonprofit organization that advocates for a quality public education for all West Virginia children.

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