"We spent $10bn on [physical] school improvements yet no measures of educational outcomes improved."
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
If you have missed the previous articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can view them here.
I do not intend to write a hugely detailed review of Prakash's keynote as there was significant overlap between this presentation and the masterclass, which I have already reviewed here. There were, however, some differences. One of the differences was the inclusion of his statement which I have included at the top of this article. It was part of his opening phase, giving some of his own background, including his early career where he felt that he was doing some great work with the company he was employed with and the realisation that there had been no measurable improvement in learning outcomes for students as a result of the work done by his company.
It was, for him, a watershed moment and he took the bold step of starting his own company on the back of that realisation in order to be able to work to positively impact student's learning outcomes. It was asked by one audience member, Martin Levins, that perhaps the reason no improvement in student learning was observed was that the wrong things were being measured. This does go back to the general theme that had come through from Milton Chen's keynote and Jan Owen's keynote, that education needs to change the focus from high-stakes testing.
Prakash commented that there are two trillion dollars worth of obsolete school buildings in the United States, if one goes with the definition of obsolete as those which are based on cells and bells. There are two categories of people in society who are typically given no choice in their movement; students and prisoners. He continued this theme by stating that there is less square feet of space given to students than to prisoners in current school building designs, with around thirty percent of space in schools lost to useless corridors. It does not take much work to change that, however, nor an overly large investment in money to do so.
Prakash exhorted us to stop assuming that students need to be taught in order to learn and to go forth bravely and be the change we want to be in our schools. I am going to hold the article there as I do not feel I can write much more that I have not already said in my review of Prakash' masterclass. That said, feel free to read through the Storify of the Plenary session to get an insight into the general flavour of what was being said.