Innovation: The Key to the Nation’s Most Rapidly Improving Schools

The following excerpt is taken from Dr. Bill Daggett’s white paper series, Innovating for Impact, which discusses effective innovation in education.


Let me illustrate the answer to this question with two more questions:

Q: What skills will be most important for today’s students to master in order to succeed in the workplace they’ll encounter?

  1. A.) Reading
    B.) Statistics
    C.) Logic
    D.) Probability
    E.) Data analytics
    F.) Social media skills
    G.) Writing
    H.) All of the above

A: If you answered “all of the above,” you are correct.

Big data is changing how we work and live, and the kinds of technologies transforming our worlds are many. But their impact on schools is consistent and clear. Students today need specific skills for success tomorrow… Employees in today’s workplace take action with data. Doing so is collaborative and interdisciplinary. They need to analyze the findings; discuss the analysis with colleagues from other departments, sometimes across the globe; consider the findings relative to other information, research, constraints, or needs; and determine a path forward that meets all company priorities and goals. Put another way, employees need to work together and smartly share and use resources.

Q: If your students were to use their cell phones while taking a test, would they be “cheating” if they looked up answers or texted friends to compare information?

A: Rather than cheating, could it be considered sharing and using resources? In the workplace, it’s called collaborating and being efficient—two characteristics that employers look for when hiring. The fact is that most of our schools have not caught up to the world around them. There is a major disconnect between what we are teaching and what our students need to know and do to be successful in their lives beyond school.

The point I’m making with these examples is that in order to prepare students for 21st-century careers, we must strive for the kind of innovation that moves everyone in education—from administrators to students to the community—out of the 20th-century paradigm of instruction and learning.

How do we achieve such innovation?

My colleagues and I at ICLE have the privilege of working with and analyzing the practices in our nation’s most rapidly improving schools. Here are a couple of key takeaways these schools have taught us:

  • Culture trumps strategy. If innovation is going to work, everyone on your campus or in your district must feel empowered. Everyone. This is only possible through a culture of empowerment.
  • Successful schools are future-focused. Begin with the end in mind: The end goal gives clear purpose to all decisions you will make and actions you will take to innovate for impact. It creates a vision. What’s the end goal? Arming graduates with skills relevant to tomorrow’s career landscape. Every facet of your district or school must then be built to meet that end.


From our decades of collaboration with rapidly improving schools and our own research on innovation in education, we at ICLE have pinpointed nine interrelated areas that must evolve to make room for future-focused innovation.

Interrelated Areas for Future-Focused Innovation 

Read more on Dr. Daggett’s case for innovation and evolution in these nine key areas.Download the complete white paper, “Innovation: The Key to the Nation’s Most Rapidly Improving Schools.”


Each June, 5000+ educators come together at the Model Schools Conference to learn about these effective strategies and develop an action plan for change. The participants come with different challenges, but focus on the same future-focused question: What do our children need to know and accomplish to be successful in the 21st century?

I invite you to explore your answers to this question at the 25th Annual Model Schools Conference on June 25, 2017!