The Next Normal

Principled provocations in education

Dean Basile

Dean Carole Basile

The Next Normal

In 1865, Arizona State University, where I serve as dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, came into this world as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe. Since the early 19th century, the term ”normal school” has been used in the U.S. to refer to institutions that train high school graduates to be K-12 teachers.

At MLFTC, we want to push conversation and action about education beyond normal. In this blog, I and others affiliated with MLFTC share some of what we are doing and why we are doing it. We’ll reflect on what we’ve learned and what continues to challenge us.

Normal isn’t good enough. It doesn’t deliver enough for learners, educators or communities. We need to think, argue and act our way toward next practices in education.  

What makes a transformation in education desirable is the long-simmering failure of our education system to do most of what we need it to do for all of our learners: prepare them, as economic beings, to thrive in the next workforce and, as civic beings, to thrive democratically as citizens.

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Superintendents and principals are measuring out six-foot-long spaces between desks and checking inventories of bleach. So we don’t want the question of what to do with our ASU teacher candidates to be an unresolved problem on the lower third of the to-do list of our school partners. We want to be part of the solution to the challenges already high on that list.

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Crisis planning is unavoidable in the face of a pandemic. Yet, as we and our partner districts make future plans, we’re finding that school-related challenges presented by COVID-19 are not new. 

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Times of extreme stress reveal cracks in the normal that have been there all along. As our college has responded to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, we have lived in and peered through the cracks in the normal. What have we seen?

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As we have engaged schools and districts in this work, we are seeing how prevalent school staffing practices mismanage human capital in ways that impede equity.

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It’s instructive to me and to others at MLFTC who are designing Next Education Workforce models that, among the most salient questions we are asked, is the question of equity – of which the attainment gap is a crucial component. 

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Earlier this month, Education Week published a special report comprising a series of articles that address the challenges and promise of personalized learning. Based on a survey of nearly 600 teachers, the report offers considerable insight into how practitioners feel about their experience with whatever is called “personalized learning” in their schools.

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As dean of a college of education committed to producing top-tier scholarship and to operating a large teacher-preparation program, what, when all is said in done, is my job? What makes a good dean of a college of education? What would success look like?

It’s not enough to credential people and generate ideas. We need to bring people and ideas together to increase the capabilities of individual educators and the performance of education systems.

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