Big Ideas for Better Schools

Ideas for teachers, students, schools, and the communities in which they work are included.

The George Lucas Educational Foundation was established in 1994 to encourage and celebrate innovation in schools. It is a non-profit organization. We’ve met a lot of parents, educators, business leaders, and other people who are working hard to make positive changes in their children’s schools. Since then, we’ve been telling their stories through our website, documentary films, and the Edutopia Magazine, among other mediums.

We listened intently and took notes along the way. Our educational system is a complex institution, and it is difficult to strengthen and revitalize it at the same time. We did, however, come up with some common suggestions for improvement. These considerations have been condensed into the ten-point credo that follows.

In the coming year, we will publish essays on each aspect of the agenda that has been set. This is done for educators on the front lines to be able to include them in their classrooms.


1. Become involved: Project-Based Learning

Students go beyond the textbook and investigate real-world topics such as the water quality in their community or the history of their hometown, among other things. They also conduct research and analyze information from a variety of sources, including expert interviews and the Internet. The project-based learning approach is more difficult to master than the traditional book-based learning approach. It is possible that students will not be able to recall facts from a single source. Students learn the principles taught in traditional courses by interacting with real-world data and documents. Multiple projects can be completed in a matter of weeks if the right resources are used. Students’ work is displayed to parents, community groups, and other individuals outside of the classroom.

The real world: Fourth- and fifth-grade students at Clear View Charter School in Chula Vista, California, collected insect specimens and studied them under an electron microscope. They also connected to a nearby university via a fiber-optic network to conduct their research. They then had a discussion with entomologists from the university about their findings.

2. Connect the Dots: Integrated Research

Similar to what James Burke describes in his book Connections, students should be able to cross-pollinate and examine the relationships between traditional disciplines. You can combine literature with history and art to get a better understanding of the world. Integrative studies allow for the investigation of subjects using a variety of different modes of knowledge and expression. Skills in reading and writing are broadened to include not only words and numbers but also graphics and color, as well as music and motion.

Checking in on Reality: As part of a national project called Nature Mapping, fourth-grade students from rural Washington are learning to read, write, and use technology while searching for rare lizards in the wild.

3. Distribute: Collaborative Learning

By following the instructions of their teachers, students learn how to collaborate on projects, manage their emotions, and resolve conflicts in groups. Each team member is responsible for learning the subject matter and assisting their fellow teammates. The advantages of cooperative learning are primarily social and emotional. They can lay a strong foundation for their futures as citizens, employees, or members of their families.

A Reality Check: Students in Eeva Reeder’s Mountlake Terrace High School tenth grade geometry class, under the guidance of local architects, design “schools for the future.” Their collaborative efforts enable them to meet deadlines and develop solutions that go beyond the capabilities of anyone individual student.

4. Comprehensive Evaluation of the Situation

Assessment should not be limited to merely evaluating student performance on standardized tests. It should provide a detailed and continuous profile of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Families, teachers, and students can closely monitor academic progress and use the assessment tool to identify areas in which they can make improvements together. To improve their scores on a test, students should be allowed to learn from their mistakes and retake the test.

Reality check: Teachers at the Key Learning Community in Indianapolis use written rubrics to evaluate students’ strengths and weaknesses based on categories derived from Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory, which includes spatial, musical, and interpersonal skills, among others.


5. Coach: A person who provides emotional and intellectual support.

The most important role in guiding students through the learning process is that of the teacher. Coach them as well, paying particular attention to their self-confidence and interests. Teachers can now spend less time lecturing to large groups of students and more time mentoring individual students and providing assistance in areas where they are struggling as a result of technological advances in education.

Realism check: Sarah Button, a fifth-grade teacher in Brooklyn, uses the Resolving Conflict Creatively program with her students to teach empathy, cooperation, and positive expressions of feelings through simulations and exercises.

6. Find out more about teaching as an apprenticeship program.

When preparing for teaching careers, it is recommended that the apprenticeship model be followed. In this way, novices can benefit from the expertise of more experienced instructors. Students should spend less time in lectures learning educational theory and more time in classrooms working with other students and master teachers, according to the National Council on Teacher Education. Take courses, attend conferences, and share lessons and tips with other teachers both online and in-person to keep your teaching skills up to date and improve your effectiveness.

Reality Check: Teachers Network, Middle Web, and Teacher Leaders Network are all online communities that bring together novice and experienced educators in a Web-based professional network to share ideas and best practices. Mentorship on the internet allows new teachers to connect with experienced practitioners who are eager to contribute to the advancement of the profession.


7. Make use of technology.

Intelligent use of technology can improve and transform almost all aspects of school. This includes the nature of the curriculum, the assignments given to students, and the involvement of parents. Simulations, lesson plans, and demonstrations are all available as part of online curricula that can be used in the classroom. Students can communicate with one another and share their work through the internet. This enables them to be more innovative and productive in their work. With the help of software tools, teachers can keep track of their student’s progress and conduct assessments. They can also communicate with their families by leaving voicemails and sending emails. Schools, like other industries, can benefit from the use of technology to reduce administrative costs while increasing funds available for use in the classroom.

Reality Check: Geoff Ruth’s high school Chemistry class at Leadership High School in San Francisco has thrown out his textbooks, according to the teacher. The resources available online help them plan, research, and carry out their experiments instead of going to a physical lab.

8. Reorganize the available resources.

It is necessary to reorganize financial, time, and physical resources to achieve success. Classes that last two hours or more should be able to be scheduled in blocks of three hours or more. The three-month summer vacation should not be a time when schools are closed. They should, however, be available for student activities as well as teacher development. Looping allows elementary school teachers to remain with a single class for two years or longer, allowing them to develop deeper relationships with their students and foster trust in them. School districts should prioritize spending money in the classroom over spending money on administrative costs.

School design must encourage teachers and students to collaborate and work in groups. Moreover, schools can be used as community centers to provide family-centered social and health services such as counseling, parenting classes, and other services.

Reality Check: At the Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center in Fort Worth, Texas, there are four blocks of classes that each last approximately nine weeks in length. Intersession workshops provide K-5 students with the opportunity to participate in science, mathematics, and art projects.


9. Involvement of the parents

When parents participate in their children’s schoolwork, they learn more. Children’s first teachers are their parents and other primary caregivers. They can instill the values that help students succeed in school. To achieve success, schools must establish strong relationships with parents and encourage their involvement in the classroom. Parents should be informed by educators about the educational goals of their children’s school and the importance of setting high expectations for their children’s future. They should also be informed of the various ways in which they can assist with homework.

Teachers in the Sacramento Unified School District make home visits to students’ homes to provide them with feedback. Teachers gain a better understanding of their students’ homes and families. Moreover, teachers demonstrate their commitment to strengthening relationships between home and school to parents. If English is not the teacher’s native language, translators are available to accompany them.

10. Incorporate the participation of community partners.

Partnerships with a variety of community organizations (businesses, higher education institutions, museums, and government agencies) provide teachers and students with essential materials, technology, and learning opportunities. Through internships and school-to-career programs, these organizations expose students and teachers to the worlds of work and the workplace environment. Schools should hire professionals to serve as mentors and instructors to students in their classes.

Check Your Reality: The Minneapolis-based Minnesota Business Academy in St. Paul offers internships at three to four hours per week in a variety of fields, including journalism, stock brokerage, and engineering firms. BestPrep, a philanthropic state-business consortium, was in charge of a project to renovate an old science building for use as a school.