Defining and Leveraging for Innovation and Excellence in the AC-Stage of Education

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David is the Chief Executive Officer of the Urban Assembly. He started with the UA in 2014 as the Director of Social-Emotional Learning, where he created the Resilient Scholars Program (RSP), a unique approach to integrating SEL into curriculum and classroom practices across the UA network. As the Senior Director of Strategy, David led the expansion of the organization into a model provider of school support, with an emphasis on innovation and equity in public education.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening and welcome to another episode of Voices for Excellence. I am your host, Dr. Michael Conner, CEO and Founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group, and as well the proud host of VFE. And today’s guest, I like to put the in front of his name. Absolutely. This individual is a remarkable educator who has impacted education in totality in a variety of different ways, whether it be his voice nationally with regards to policy amendment and changes for equity and excellence, innovation in the context of architectural and organizational designs, but just being a voice and advocate for our families. He is the CEO of the Urban Assembly out of New York City. And also just recently, David and I, we were just inducted into the Leverage Ed Collaborative. It is a very, very good group. This group is divergent of multiple educators in the education ecosystem who are really trying to have impact within this space, as well as change the landscape for opportunities for all of our students as well as families. So it is my absolute honor. I’m humbled to have him on Voices for Excellence. Yes, everybody the David Adams, the CEO of the Urban Assembly. David, man, you made VFE, how you doing, brother?

David Adams

I’m very excited to be here, Michael. It’s a great day, a great Thursday. Dedicated to improving public education. I really appreciate your energy with that intro, and I’m excited to talk to your audience about what we’re doing here at the Urban Assembly.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely, David. And it is such a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Obviously, my audience is going to be taking strategies as well as ideas back into their own professional practice. So again, this conversation, David, is just more on the lines of two individuals who are trying to make impact within the education ecosystem so that people will just be able to have an understanding of how we think and then also how you try to leverage this all together. So let’s just just jump right into it and present you. Let’s go, brother. We’re gonna have a great conversation. But listen, throughout the nation, you are just well-respected within the ecosystem, specifically your work with the Urban assembly. You are also respected nationally in the context of your commission work, underscoring equity and excellence. So when leaders and education stakeholders across the country meet the David Adams, what song comes to mind that describes you in your work for all? 

David Adams

Well Michael, that’s a great, great question. And first, I want to really appreciate all the folks that I’ve worked together with. Obviously, the work at the Urban Assembly is around economic and social mobility by improving public education. And we do that every single day by investing in things like social emotional learning, post-secondary access, high quality academics. And I’ve got a great group of principals who get out there and solve problems every single day. And so why I could be the David Adams, I would not be the David Adams without the folks behind me or pushing me, making sure that the things that we talk about operationalizing turn into reality for kids in New York City and across the country. Now, when it comes to a song, I got two songs in my mind. On the one hand, when I’m feeling good, motivated, dedicated, you got DJ Khalid, right? Because all I do is win, win, win no matter what. You ask my folks, I’m a winner. I care about solving problems, pushing through and making sure we get to the kind of education system that our young people deserve. So my wins are the education systems wins, our principal’s wins are their teachers wins, and our teachers wins are our students wins. Those wins belong to our community. So when I say I’m going to win, I want our whole community to win. I want the education system to win. And, you know, I’m dedicated towards that. The second song, when I’m a little tired, I think about Just the Way You Are. You got to bring the person as Billy Joel, the person that you are, to success, or you got to bring the person that you are to your job, to your partners, to your kids. And every day you can be a little bit better, a little bit more refined. And you got to be a new version of just the way you are. So when you’re not winning, getting better, and when you get better, that’s going to help you get back to winning.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. David And what I love about your response, David, is the work of the Urban Assembly. And when we look at economic and social mobility, that to me is just a baseline, a baseline, civic and civil right for our families and students, specifically in public education. I really love, you know, the aspect of operationalizing best practices, but having your principals, giving them that structured autonomy to be able to solve problems. So when you have that as this great conglomerate, all you do is win, win, win by DJ Khalid, DJ Khalid, right? What when after two wins at the UA. But underscoring it, we’re just the way you are there is that you know symbiotic synergy that’s going on in this great conglomerate. But I really want to expand on your work, David, at the Urban Urban Assembly. You’re the CEO… Now, also, I want to take you back a little bit to your previous capacity in the U.S. when you were responsible for the expansion to support national equity and innovation initiatives as the senior director of strategy. So senior director of strategy and then now CEO now for level setting purposes, right, for people around the world, internationally, domestically, that do not know anything about the Urban Assembly. Can you just highlight and unwrap the mission and the vision of the UA and then also how the work is closing access gaps in the AC stage of education, which is after COVID, I distinctively identified that in my book. And then also another layer to this question is the UA is doing some remarkable, innovative, creative things. I know this personally from the Collaborative Leverage Ed, but for my audience break, what are some of the future initiatives as well?

David Adams

So some great questions there, Michael. Let’s start at the very beginning. I like that AC. After COVID, there was recently published coming out with the State of the American student, and this was published by CRPE, the Center for Reinventing Public Education. I contributed an essay to this, talking about post-secondary readiness, social emotional development. And I want to name something very important. This is coming out of the political COVID era. I don’t know that we are paying enough attention to the lasting impact of COVID on students, academic and social emotional outcomes. The paper is designed to really be a call to action, so folks recognize that what we are doing needs to shift. What we are thinking about needs to reframe around what is it going to look like for our students to be successful. So I want to sit with that. I want to recognize that and I want to name that AC period that you talked about as truly a B.C., AC situation in public education in the United States. Now let’s talk about what the Urban Assembly is doing, what we’ve been doing, and what we’re going to be doing in the future to continue to innovate and improve public education. The Urban Assembly is a educational nonprofit, and our mission is to advance the economic and social mobility of young people by proving public education. Now, we do that by looking at generalizable problem sets that come out of our two schools here in New York City that we designed. And we studied those schools and they say, okay, what are the challenges constraining students postsecondary success? And then how do we solve for those challenges in ways that scale to places across the country and that that the pillars of our solution sets tend to be focused on four areas. Number one is the social emotional development of young people. We know social, emotional learning skills predict all sorts of important outcomes in our students youth. We’re talking about college, career and community ready. You talked about civics. What kind of people are leaving our schools and entering society? We want to make sure it’s people who know how to solve interpersonal and intrapersonal problems effectively and be successful citizens, relationships and people who are going to work. So social and emotional learning. Let’s talk about post secondary readiness. The Urban Assembly holds seven CTE schools, which is career and technical education. We have two P-TECH schools in our network. Newly minted the Urban Summer school for Emergency Management, the Urban Assembly, Newark Harbor School. We have been focused for 25 years on preparing our students for post-secondary success. That means when they leave our schools, they should be leaving with a credential or prepared to take on an additional credential that leads to a family sustaining wage by age 26. And that’s why we focus on CTE, career technical education. That’s why we’ve brought on P-TECH schools, and that’s why we have career pathways where students can earn credentials as soon as they leave high school or within the high school space so that they are on the path to post-secondary success. Lastly, we got to talk about relevant academics, right? And we need to talk about in this space the kinds of academics that engage young people in the problem solving skills that they need to be successful in 21st century economy. We know A.I. is here. We know the world of work is changing. We are still focused on a knowledge, information based transmission, and too many of our schools and urban assemblies focus on the kind of instruction and academics that has students solve problems, pull in information, transform that information into knowledge, and apply that knowledge to novel problem sets that they can use to be successful. Lastly, we talk about leadership in community, the Urban Assembly, the network of schools who learn and community. We share solutions. It is not proprietary. One of our schools is doing well. Everybody should have that solution so that our kids can benefit. And those are the things that we care about at the Urban Assembly, and that’s how we get it done.

Dr. Michael Conner

Excellent. Excellent. David, one thing that I was, as you were going through, the problem sets problems of practices to be able to look at and then switches sets to curtail some of those problems in practice. I kept on referencing back to the Disruptive Effect Model, the conceptual model that I developed. And when I hear about social emotional development of people developing, develop civic strategies and skill sets for engagement, really focus on the excellence loop elements are around access gap and performance gap, right? When how we’re intentionally looking at methods and strategies to be able to address those. I like to say draconian gaps that we see in education, specifically around developing the civic skills within our students social, emotional, post-secondary readiness, that whole aspect of rail, closing the access and opportunity gap to ensure our students are post-secondary ready but relevant academics right. And I really want to expand on that for a second, David, because when we talk about now, I like to say the legacy model, right? The fact the factory model of education, what we saw and the B.C state of education before COVID 19, now when we look at the AC stage of education and when we talk about relevant academics specifically around Generation Z and Generation Alpha, you alluded to it with the incorporation of artificial intelligence and emerging technologies to be a part of that relevant academic experience. Can you expand on that focus? Right, Because you talked about a knowledge based world where now we have to be able to find this equilibrium between existent in a knowledge based world, and we have these emerging technologies, algorithms, machine learning that are getting even more sophisticated by the second, not the minute, the second. Where do you see that equal Librium with regards to relevant academics for Generation Z and Generation Alpha?

David Adams

Well, let’s take it back. Homosapiens, right. The toolmakers right there is this notion that Aristotle had a critique of Plato, quoting Aristotle had a critique of writing that it would build the mind and make it so that folks were relying on words rather than relying on the memories in order to be successful thinkers. Right. And so throughout kind of the human development, we have developed tools that have allowed us to expand upon and expand beyond the capacity of our ourselves. The ability to write allows me to create information and create knowledge that I can pass to generations. When I’m when I’m gone. Right. Does that in that context, does it make it does it make it so? Elders And the oral tradition has less prevalence in a culture, perhaps, right? But the trade off in this case positively is that the new generation has access to so much more information that that they could not have if they were relying on simply an oral tradition. Right. So the reason I’m taking the strain here is that every time we come up with a tool, a technology that allows information to be transferred across generations more efficiently, we uplift our future to be able to do things that our past was not able to do right when the information age came upon. In terms of the Internet, the information on the Internet was the big kind of shift. It was no longer that I had to have an encyclopedia 45 cards. And I remember we went from the Encyclopedia Britannica, then we had a Carter on the CD-ROM. Then we had a Wikipedia, which was all people just coming together, refining each other’s knowledge base. Right? And now we are at a place where information is really available to most particularly United States with Wi-Fi issues and places. But we are public libraries, right? It’s added information to all available to many folks who want it. Now, the shift in is removing from these recall kind of what what’s the first president of the United States kind of models of information, access to more high level synthesis refinement, combining rate. And it’s pushing what is available for people to be successful around. So what kinds of skills now do students need to be are to have to be successful, given that this guy’s here? And on one hand you’re going to have folks who are just like, Well, students don’t need to memorize. Students going to be able to recall. Students need to be able to detail. And on the other hand, you’re going to have these folks who are saying this is a tool that’s going to allow us to be successful. I’m just don’t want one more thing out here. It used to be that people used secretaries and offices to do a million things, right? Everything from writing emails to push calendars that has all been combined in like your Microsoft Outlook or your Google, right? And that is it shifted the roles and responsibilities of what’s happening in the world because technology has created tools. So Michael the point is that that’s the new version of an educated person in 2050. Ray is not going to be I can quote Shakespeare to you. It’s going to be I can identify how Shakespeare relates to a problem set that I may not even know about and then pull relevant information from different domains of knowledge Using artificial intelligence to help highlight synthesis that I may not understand. Refine those solutions and do that in a group to be successful. That’s going to take the kinds of teaching that’s not about recall. It’s not about replication, it’s about creativity. It’s about problem solving. It’s about getting to nebulous problem sets that we don’t even know what it is. And then we’re finding solutions that so we can be successful. 

Dr. Michael Conner

David Excellent, Excellent. I really appreciate how you conceptualized it for my audience as well as contextualize that. One thing that I got from that is and you stated that specifically, we are shifting to these three different paradigms, right? The from the Industrial age paradigm to now what you were saying, the information age paradigm, but also you were alluding to this new paradigm, which is I’m calling the digital age paradigm, kind of correlates to college ready, career ready now in this new age, digital ready, right? And finding where that synergy of reciprocity is between the triangulation of the industrial age paradigm, information age paradigm, digital age paradigm to go to college, career and being digital ready. Loved how you interfaced David on the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and how that can coexist with this, this evolution, right of the technologies and AI into the education sector. But one thing I think you really highlighted, and I want to contextualize to my audience, please replay this because David said something that is going to be critically important shifts of roles and responsibilities within this new paradigm that we’re underpinning. Right. And that’s intentionality to my audience around the word culture and the organizational culture. Because when roles and responsibilities shift again goes back to what I stated before to my audience, you have to learn to unlearn, to relearn, to be in alignment with this new paradigm. And David, going back to that, the fourth solution is set leadership and community. So critically important, but I really wanted you to expand on that relevant academic notion because I think that’s really, really important. Critically important because we’re still seeing and in some areas, monolithic didactic instruction that continues to emulate the legacy model. And we’re not prepared or adequately preparing Generation Z, Generation Alpha for this new demand of what I call Delta 2030. But, David, you have been met. I tell you, right, listen, brother, you are everywhere. Everywhere I see you, you on this commission, you are on that board. You speak in action. This is rather come on me. That’s why I put the brunt of the David Adams. But one thing I want to focus on, right, is you most recently served as a core member of the new Teachers Center Equity Commission right now, and you highlight the work of the commission and next steps for my audience and subscribers you will like to see with implement and the recommendations from this commission.

David Adams

Yeah, So I’ll give a shout out to CEO Tommy Chang. He’s out there at the new Teacher center and I had an opportunity to contribute to their equity commission. And I’m one of the key things that we worked to do was one is to establish some of the key core purposes of public education. And one of the things I think is important here is often the paradigm shifts that we talk about in public education to the standards based movement. In the eighties, No Child Left Behind, late nineties to Obama’s Race to the Top. All these these shifts often reflect some of the tension points in what we were trying to accomplish in public education. We are trying to do two things. Three things excuse me. One is we are trying to ensure that students have the ability to understand the world in themselves, right? That’s the knowledge piece. We are working to ensure that students can be a part of a community. That’s the social, emotional, civic piece and know their place in that community and can develop a place in that community. And we are working to ensure that students have the skills that they need to be productive members of society. As we talk about employability, right, these three things just sit in tension all the time. All right. So you’ve got to evoke schools and people like, yes, how many people are getting their skills for industry? And then people like, okay, well, you know, what’s your algebra one regions? How come not everybody’s taking calculus, right? You have your current cultural wars that are happening in schools and different state boards across education. What should we teach our kids about themselves when we teach our kids about the country? These things are all schools. Yeah, like people are like, I want politics in schools. Like Brown versus Board was politics in school? Was that Plessy versus Ferguson in 1856? Right. That was about railroads, that wasn’t about schools, but that established the precedent of separate versus equal. And they attacked schools. That is the DCB and Thurgood Marshall’s to say what is the impact of that concept on the 14th Amendment, everybody’s opportunity to be a citizen. So the commission right first said that the the elephant in the room as it was is that the system is designed to do these three things and it’s imperfect. And we need to continue to rationalize these tensions in schools and integrate them effectively if we are going to produce the kind of equity and equitable outcomes for our students that they deserve. And so the key things that I continue to care about, Michael, when it comes to equity in schools is, number one, making sure that schools use a value add model so that parents are clear what quality schools look like and feel like for their young people. I just read a report recently that is looking at some some determinants of school quality and there is no surprise here. The number one determiner school quality is the percentage of excuse me, school performance is the percentage of parents with college educated backgrounds. We as educators cannot fall into that game. We as educators cannot fall into that gap. We need to take pride in what we are doing in our schools and not just selecting and refraining and refining the the parents and the students who are already going to be successful. So those are two things I continue to care about. I want parents, I want schools. I want educators to know what school quality looks like. I want them to be able to invest in school quality. And I know that new teacher centers focus on what kinds of teaching moves, what kind of ways do we develop our teachers so that they know what they need to do to support outcomes across ranges and potential in performance?

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. David. Fascinating. Right. And Tom Chang, one of the brilliant minds in education shout out to Tommy as well. Hope he’s doing well, but really love this focus. Right? And I love how you intentionally create this. I like to say tension or has an alignment to Peter Singer’s work, you know, with creative tension from the fifth discipline, but looking at it from a value add model around school quality, I want to take that phrase school quality bright and from a measure and standpoint, right. And when we talk about value creating value add models around school quality for my audience. David, because I know you’re an expert in this and have done this really well with the Urban Assembly and across the country, just so that my audience can unwrap this from a strategic or strategy standpoint. Value add school quality or value add model, school quality, what does that look like in practice?

David Adams

That’s a great question. Thank you for giving me the chance to explain a little bit more. Michael So essentially we have what we these ideas of correlation, right? So there’s an idea that height, for example, is predicted by weight or excuse me, weight is predicted by height. We can predict violent crime by the amount of people outside. We can predict grade point average in fifth grade by grade, point average and third grade right. And essentially in schools, much more than people understand. Much more than people understand, we can predict performance of schools a lot by incoming demographics. We can we can I could give you you could tell me nothing about the school quality of teaching. You could tell me school. You could tell me nothing about a school. And I could look at incoming demographics and probably give you a good sense of what that school’s graduation rate, what their achievement rate is. Right. And so one of the things that happens is that schools start to play the game of like, well, let me get the most potentially successful students into my school district and into my schools. Right. And what I’m arguing for here is when we talk about a value add is what contribution has the school made above and beyond what we would already predict that student being able to do. So here’s an example, Michael. Let’s say you and I, we have the same demographics. We come from similarly educated backgrounds we call to different schools. All right. We would probably be predicted to do similar outcomes. Let’s say you just knock it out of the park. I can probably attribute that shift in your outcomes to the school itself because you and I demographically look pretty similar, have similar backgrounds, all the things that we know already predict school outcomes. So at the end of the day, we want schools to be great for all kids. At the end of the day, we want students to succeed across the spectrum of potential options. At the end of the day, if we want to improve what we are doing in our education system, our metrics need to be sensitive to the kinds of things that matter and I’ll say one last thing about this, Michael, because this particularly hurt urban school districts. So you’re coming around into high poverty areas with high risk spaces, and urban school districts are a constant kind of pressure to perform to standards that are important. We will we will push and push to make sure our streets perform. And also their teachers are working a lot harder. A lot of times they’re doing a lot more work just to get students from first grade reading levels to third grade levels because they’re came with no reading at all. And so if we’re going to hold those places to account and we need to, we need to be able to compare them effectively against other school districts who don’t have the level of need, who don’t have the level of talent in terms of income proficiencies, so that we can say this is truly a high quality school made performance differs and we need to get on that. But this is a high quality school. Teachers matter, the principals matter, the leadership mattered, and that’s why the outcomes are outpacing any other school in that district or state.

Dr. Michael Conner

Thank you. Because you just gave it to my audience. Please rewind that answer. I say this in every episode, David that this podcast, right, the podcast is used as an asynchronous tool for professional learning. So when we talk about the meta analysis of Haddie, this is direct instruction that can be played back in a asynchronous manner. But David, you gave a nice, simplistic, warm, or I should say, explanation of what I like to say linear and would just go regression models. Now you got the statistician psycho magician coming out of me brother, because I think what we, we, we tend to do a lot in education is to look at causality as opposed to really focusing on what you said at the initial outset correlations. And if you think about it right, the development of the model and I was just thinking about the variety of different variables that go into that model where you’re setting it for school quality. From a value ad standpoint, I couldn’t have explained it even better. I would have probably been more take the goal because, you know, that’s where the whole yeah. David He’s talking about linear regression, looking at these dependent variables and the independent variables and looking at where the coefficients land from a predictability or forecasts standpoint. But David, if I ever need somebody to explain what value add looks like, I’m going to be like, look, no, no, no. You’re going to have the technical background made, but I’m going to have David come on. I’ll call him up and say, Hey, this is a simplistic or of how you really measure specific metrics or measure specific variables. And one resonated with me, David. And if you and another 30 seconds is metrics that are sensitive that matter, right? And I’m thinking about it from this psychometrics, a statistician lens of when I look at metrics and variables that are sensitive, one thing that we see, you know, when we start developing these models for predictive analytics or even to the level of forecasting, is that these models need to start taking into consideration cultural diversity. Right? Or, you know, with regards to what equity looks like. So there’s that level of rigidity in the models so that yeah, we know that some of I like to say the F1 accuracy of these models might be compromised, but looking at it from an equity lens, can you just explain or just go in depth with that? Because a lot of the model designs do not take a consideration of some of the cultural and equity dimensions that we see in education.

David Adams

You hit it right on the head. Let me let me talk about an example. It came out of Chicago. So in Chicago, black teachers are rated with lower teacher evaluations than white teachers. And this was an effect that was seen across the district. And when universities from the Chicago consortium at U. Chicago looked into some of the reasons, right. They identified that black teachers were concentrated in higher poverty areas. And the the the baseline climate of those schools tended to be lower than lower poverty areas. And so because black teachers were working higher needs areas in higher stress areas, Right. They were getting lower ratings. But when black teachers were working in less needy areas, they were getting equal ratings to other teachers and white teachers rate. And the impact of this was important because your teacher ratings matter. Yeah, and this is this Michael. This goes back to again, like the context in which you were doing your measurement matters. Understanding these things is not an excuse. I’m not saying we can’t expect high performance out of every single school in the United States. We we can and we do. Right. But it’s just understanding the difference of a student coming into an urban assembly school for green careers at a second grade reading level and then leaving at a ninth grade and reading level is seven years of improvement in three and a half to four years. That takes effort. All right. Now on the official state politics, like why did you not at 12th grade reading level. Okay. Like I got it you know next year will do 12 years of increase those things could be taken into account. And it’s really true when you talk about equity, you talk about climate ratings, you talk about teacher ratings. These things need to be sensitive to the context, not as an excuse, but as another variable to understand the differentiations between the ratings so that we can look at them and say, okay, I know what the score means.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. David amazingly contextualized right? And I goes back to my second pillar within the disruptive effect model, and that’s the acres of innovation science, which is big data and analytics and how we’re using big data analytics, running those regressions specifically around correlation as to exactly some of those persistent education problems that we see, so that we use metrics and use data and outcomes of these models to really drive decision making and informed decision making so that that process is iterative within the prototype. man, I need more time with you, brother, I’ll tell you that. But let’s go in now. I want to be able to unwrap your expertise around. I like to say, architectural designs in new and alternative models. Right. You are considered one of the most strategic education architect in the country. You a is the prime example. Somebody says talk about not just go to urban assembly, look at the schools that you design strategy as well brother I am which you congratulations with that right but you have a great great in-depth knowledge with governance structures and bureaucracies of public education, which I think are part of one. My goal are to acknowledge I also don’t want the governance structures of progressive public. You could have it, but here it is. It’s sitting with me. There it is, brother. Take it. Right. But here’s the thing. This is where we see the great disjunction, right? Is these historical governance structures of bureaucracies that exist in education. By design, they’re tightly coupled. The level of innovation and creativity that’s needed to be able to support Generation Alpha, Generation Z with their development into the 22nd century. And Delta 2030. I like to contextualize needs this hybrid of loosely structured or loosely coupled, tightly coupled in certain areas. Right? But you understand that the disjunction because some of the construct from the traditional governance structures in bureaucracies is inhibited inhibiting innovation. Now, in this new paradigm of education, your from your perspective, how do we go beyond the median status quo for new school design, innovation or redesign and creating design features rooted in excellence and equity? I know there’s a lot in there, David, but please, part and parcel in accordance to the different components of the question.

David Adams

Well, I think it’s a really interesting question, right? And let me start again with like our first understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish, right? We are trying to produce young people who know and can know about themselves in the world. So have patterns of thought who can recognize error in themselves and others and reason an argument we want to refine the mind to understand that in that is the goal in that space, in the cognitive space right next we want to teach people about themselves and the context of how we want to. Right. And how they see their place in the world. So this is where we see the civic development, social emotional balance of these kind of pieces. I mean, the last that we talk about before, we want people to have skills that allow them to learn that post-secondary readiness piece. Right. Is I don’t need to actually give you a job per se, but I need you to be able to take another credential after you leave. And so when we think about design, right, one of the things I’d say is we need to be okay with incorporating these three outcomes into a single institution. And that’s what is so in the past we have we have done it by saying, okay, one, one purpose of public education will be reflected in one track. You will go to the cognitive track, you will you will be focused on the abstract reasoning and understanding the other is skill development. Then the last kind of mix in there has just almost completely fallen away, which is civic development and preparing young people to participate in community. We see the impact of the lack of understanding of our structures of democracy, how we navigate democracy. When we decide that it’s more important to be a mechanical engineer than to be a social engineer. Right? Building bridges across rivers versus building bridges across communities. And and when we do that, we have some of the outcomes that we see today. So, I mean, I would answer this question only to say that we need to understand we are solving for and then we need to solve for it. And it may be a new structure that I don’t know. It may be a structure that has 100% of students doing internships, 100% of students creating social contracts every day. It may be that only 10% of students need to take a B calculus, And the other said students take algebra statistics so they can understand things about the world. Right. I don’t know exactly what the answer is, but I do know what we need to solve for. And I do know that they’re out there right now. People were developing solutions for that work.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And that’s the great thing about innovation. Right. And innovation by design is that we don’t know where it’s going to take us because we need to have and I just want to quote you a deep understanding of what we’re trying to solve for. And I know that there’s this level of plurality and duplicity with the problems that we’re trying to solve in education. So it takes a married of different micro innovations and incremental changes to be able to address that. All apps attract the education problem, which I think is innovation, excellence and equity. Well-stated. Well-stated. David. Now, if you agree, I think one way, okay, Only one, only one only way. You got to be a rule follower tightly coupled here. And what if you were going to one, wish to change any relevant dimension in education? What would be transform to accelerate what you have just stated? Cognitive development, skill development and the missing entity of civic development and the state of education.

David Adams

I say using Michael, I would change the way that students are assessed. At the end of the year, I would focus on formative assessment that allow students to learn, relearn key concepts that they need to be successful. And I’m not happy if a student can learn how to resolve conflict. I don’t I don’t want to hear that. They graduated ninth grade, 10th grade. They’ve gone into the world and cannot resolve conflict. Right? It’s not a yes no question that student will have to go into the world. I don’t want to hear that a student can’t master simple equations. That’s all for act like they need to identify how to solve problems and how to isolate those problems and move that mathematical reasoning into the world. And so I am not happy with this notion of Yes, no, you got it. You don’t. I’m not happy with the role that testing plays in pushing folks to the type of instruction that is organized around recall and fluency, rather than the kind of instruction that we do in the real world. And I’ll say one last thing about this, Michael, briefly. Typically speaking in the real world, if you put in something that’s crazy, are you going to get feedback on it? You’re going to have a chance to revise it and then you get to resubmit. And if you resubmit poorly, then you’ll have a different conversation. And so we need our education system to recognize that we want our kids to learn about sorting, right? Every young person needs to graduate, ready to contribute to society. So this sense that we are just sitting around figure out top, middle to bottom, outdated public education, public public good is a common good because it supports the entire society when we’re successful.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. David, I really love that you focused on assessment right. And to my audience and I really want to underscore David’s response when we look at some of assessments. Right. Summative assessments only measure 50% of the brain. When we think about outcomes from that summative assessment, students are only utilizing 15%, 50% of the skills in the real world that they’re that they’re using in the real world in their real world context from that assessment. And it is exactly what David stated. The 15% consist of the rudimentary skills that are developed from a summative assessment, basic recall and fluency skills. So when we think about, you know, it just posed a question of if we’re putting a heavy emphasis, right, this heavy IT approach around assessments, we really have to think about looking at it differently because if it’s only assessed at 50% of the brain, 15% of it is being utilized and the underpinning skills are rudimentary. I e fluency and recall, then are we truly developing our students for the real world? Which one aligns of around competencies? So when you talk about assessments, yeah, and I click on with a recall on that recall…

David Adams

We don’t, we don’t need that skill. We, we have a, we have Google who is all in for it with a lot more, with a lot more accuracy than we would do test scores on this because I think, you know, you look at ancient Egypt, you look at folks, they used Abacus, right? They didn’t sit around and do math and they use tools to support down to reduce the amount of error. And I just want to say this one more time. Tools are our friend. Yeah, they help us to be successful also that we can do other things. So we’re training folks for recall. We’re training of course for fluency. And a very small percentage of, as you said, is what we actually use in the real world to be successful.

Dr. Michael Conner

And I want to reiterate what David said. Tools are our friend, right? Tools are our friend because when we expand on that and as we move through this continuous pathology of the AC stage of education, one of the major tools that is going to be very helpful to us as stakeholders, leaders, even with in the broader education ecosystem, air tools and new emerging technological tools that are being developed right now, AGI, everybody generative when we talk about that. Yes, that’s going to be a major, major, major tool that’s going to be able to leverage equity and excellence with in the field. So, David, last question, my brother. Last question. All right. So everybody takes this question and they pretty much do what they want. There’s not a lot of followers. Sometimes they’re rule followers. People who you think are going to be rule followers, they’re not. People who you think are not, they actually stay to it. So as I tell every guest on VFE, David, take it as it is. Okay. So what three words, only three words. Again, you know, the rules get broken down, right? But what three words do you want today’s audience to leave our podcast with regarding leadership that is grounded and moving an ecosystem focused on preparing for this uncertain future demand. What three words should all leaders keep in mind as they lead their respective organizations, districts or schools to elevate in the AC stage of education?

David Adams

All right. So three words that people should keep in mind are people not tests. People not tests. That’s that’s what I want folks to to to walk away with. Our goal is to about people, to develop people who are ready to contribute to our society. This investment is worth it. Investment in public education is worth it. Our communities, our societies, our relationships, we benefit when educators are successful. So it’s worth the effort, it’s worth the energy, and people not tests are the outcomes of what we’re trying to do here.

Dr. Michael Conner

Amazingly stated right people not tests. And when I think about that, you said something that I think that really should be taken seriously in education, specifically around public education, because we’re seeing this demographic and socio graphic change, specifically around demographics, where 54% of our students in public education are black and brown. So we have to be intentional with the investments that we have. But that one underpinning word that you state that will make education move forward in an accelerated manner, relationships. Absolutely. David, you lasted through VFE, brother. Congratulations.

David Adams

It’s been a pleasure, man. This isn’t lasting, this isn’t lasting. This has been the best thing I’ve done all week. So I really appreciate your your thinking. I appreciate the questions. I appreciate the conversation we’ve had. I hope your audience appreciates it, too. It’s been a blast, Michael.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And David, a lot of my audience domestically and internationally, the way they reach out to our participants, our guests from VFE. So anybody that wants to reach out to you and really pick your brain, there are a lot of great nuggets that you delivered in this episode. If they want to continue the conversation, really go deeper on a specific practice or even, you know, a sentiment that you said in one of your answers, how would they be able to get in touch with you?

David Adams

They can reach out to me directly at DAdams@UrbanAssembly.org. You can find me on LinkedIn, David Adams Urban Assembly, you can find me and Twitter, DAdams_SEL and you can always find me at 90 broad if I’m not in one of our schools or different places in the country, making sure that improving public education. So those are ways you can get to me if your audience wants to talk to me some more.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely, David, and thank you. And again, congratulations on being chosen for the collaborative.

David Adams

Likewise, I didn’t get to say congratulations to you on this podcast. I’m really excited to be hanging out with you and and make great things happen, man.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely, we got a lot of work to do together in public education and make sure we’re reaching the totality of all and looking forward to being a part of the collaborative from leverage Ed and doing great things. I get to work with minds like you, David. That is I’ll put it like this. It’s like the John is Daniel Willard now connecting you to him. Well, logo of it. Yeah. We’re going to see how this goes right. That’s a big I want to Miami and so you know we’re going to see it’s like the New York Yankees are still somebody that the Red Sox won it. Right. So you got you know, we blessed we got a whole year together in the collaborative to be able to talk about this and expand on it. But David, thank you for coming on. Truly, it means so much. I can’t wait to see you talk to you more in the future. To my audience, on that note, onward and upward, everybody. Have a great evening.