Future Ready: Why Action Today is Required to Meet the Challenges of Tomorrow

John Hutton

Superintendent John Hutton participated in the President’s “ConnectED to the Future” at the White House on Nov. 19. (Photo credit: Gurnee School District 56)

I had the opportunity to join the President at the White House recently to sign the Future Ready pledge for transforming education through increased digital learning. The convening drew 109 fellow superintendents in person, and thousands of others virtually. My selection as an attendee was based on the incredible transformation Gurnee District 56, north of Chicago, Illinois, has made in establishing a student-centered learning environment. Buoyed by a 1:1 iPad initiative and a supportive school culture, personalized learning, self-paced instruction, and digital and open source content have become the norm in our school district.

The accolades we have received are based on very real progress which is directly related to how we use technology. Last school year our K-8 students achieved unprecedented targeted growth proficiency in reading, from 56% to 63.5% and math, from 56% to 71%. In recognition of our accomplishments, the district received the Apple Distinguished Program award in November of 2013 and in the spring of 2014, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, lauded the district in his annual speech to shareholders.

As the President said in his speech, we are losing ground in this race to ensure that our children can compete in the 21st century global economy. To reverse this, students must have access to a rich digital learning environment. I have always believed that in order to create change of this magnitude, and compete with countries that are currently Future Ready, we must establish a sense of urgency and make it clear to everyone that nothing less will solve the problem.

The President challenged all of us to carry the torch on behalf of our nation’s children to ensure that we are prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. After his speech—and I believe that I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues—we were convinced of the need to be Future Ready and eagerly accepted his challenge to join him on this journey.

It is now time for us to continue this conversation. As Deputy Secretary of Education Jim Shelton asked, “What will Future Ready look like when we accomplish it?”

Consider these questions:

  • Does Future Ready apply to our technology, curriculum, students, teachers, parents, the nation? If so, how will we be able to, in specific terms, describe what Future Ready means?
  • How do we make Future Ready an important concept to those school districts that are not even close to being Future Ready?
  • For those of us who are committed to this path, how do we ensure that our conversations are practical rather than philosophical?
  • How committed are we to helping others rather than spending all of our time and attention on our own school districts?

The President has made it clear that the time to act is now. I look forward to working in unison with my colleagues to make sure that Future Ready is a road map that will protect the greatness of America.

John Hutton is superintendent of Gurnee School District 56 in north suburban Chicago, Illinois. He participated in the President’s “ConnectED to the Future” convening at the White House on Nov. 19.

5 Comments

    • I AM 63 YEARS OLD NOW. JANUARY 26 NEXT YEAR WHICH WILL BE2015,IWILL BECOME 64 YEARS OLD. MY BIRTHDAY IS. JANUARY 26 1951 SO DO THE SAME BENEFITS THAT APPLY TO THE YOUTH APPLY TO ME AND OTHER AMERICAN SENIORS AS WELL ljohnson0099@gmail.Com. CAN YOU HELP ME?

  1. On a personal note, the initiative D56 has enbarked on and the progress that continues is not a dream or wish for the future. It is a goal that is real and attainable. However, none of the educational community can rest on their laurels or become complacent as targets are met. We must continue to exceed in meaningful ways. I am so glad the President recognizes the need and is willing to commit his energies with the superintendents in this country and ready our children for the future. I am proud to live in Gurnee School District 56 where quality education remains the first priority.

  2. Our schools being ready for the Future is indeed a concern especially for so many low-income and rural schools lacking wifi and technology. I am encouraged that the FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler has proposed a $1.5B increase on E-Rate spending from $2.4B to $3.9B, which will be voted on December 11th.

    I think there needs to be audits that clearly show how and where the money is currently being used and where it will be used. We must assure that the schools with the greatest needs are online or upgraded first!

    I also have these three suggestions: 1. Build partnerships with companies to donate some service/supplies to the schools. 2. As you quantify what “Future Ready” means, provide standard scales that schools can use to evaluate their status and where they need to be. 3. Provide incentives for districts to build School-to (Out-of-District) School mentorship-especially for those districts nearby identified at “low-performing”. Districts should not be competing against each other as sometimes constant scoring and ranking might promote.

    As mentioned in the article, there are other skills important for being Future Ready that include better developing 21st century skills. This must involve “Deeper Learning”.

Comments are closed.