Fred Bramante, co-author of the new book, Off the Clock: Moving Education from Time to Competency, joins us this month. Fred is a past chairman and a long standing member of the New Hampshire State Board of Education, where he has led a full-scale redesign of public education. In this system, student achievement is based on mastering competencies not “seat time,” and learning is not restricted to a school building or the traditional school calendar. It is a uniquely 21st century learning environment in which every student is engaged; parents and students have more control over learning; dropouts are all but eliminated; and the curriculum becomes virtually limitless.
Q: Thanks for taking time to speak with us today, Fred. You believe that the 20th century model of education, where we deliver content inside classrooms during specific times, is deeply flawed. In its place, you’re promoting a model where time and place become the variables in a child’s education and achievement is the one constant. Tell us how your system works.
Fred Bramante: Well, if you look at the system that we have now, it’s based on time. It’s 180 days a year. It’s first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, fourth quarter, first grade, second grade, 8th grade, and 10th grade. 7:30 to 3 o’clock. It’s all about time, and achievement becomes your variable. And, you know, kids get A’s, B’s, C’s, and D’s, and they still pass the course. And what we’re saying is that we don’t care where or when or how kids learn. We really don’t care. All we care is that they learn at a high level. And so sometimes I make the statement that, “We don’t care if kids … we don’t care if schools teach.” Pretty strong statement. We only care that kids learn. And that could happen in a traditional classroom environment. That could happen online. That could happen in a real world environment. That could happen morning, noon, or night. It could happen weekdays, weekends. It could happen vacations, during traditional school vacations. It could happen in summertime. We really don’t care! And so it changes the paradigm of what school looks like and really puts school … it has schools actually giving up some of the control that they now have. We moved from a system-centered system to a student-centered system so that, you know, it’s not how well students navigate school hoops. It’s really about kids learning their way.