Across the Street with Joyce Rankin: Preparing students for an unforeseen future

Joyce Rankin
Courtesy Photo

Road trip: I attended the Summit on Education Reform in Nashville, Tennessee. Jeb Bush opened the conference and repeated a quote from the first conference in 2008: “The country’s school system is an 8-track in an iPod world. The irony is that we’re still an 8-track, but the iPod is gone.”

Speakers and panelists from across the nation discussed directions education is taking and how schools can prepare students for an ever-changing future.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about school choice and the role of parents in selecting the best school for their children. She continues to be an advocate for school choice to advance opportunities for all children. Several sessions highlighted success stories from students and parents who had taken advantage of school choice in their communities. At the conclusion DeVos said “The rising generation represents 100 percent of our future; let’s give them nothing less than 100 percent of our effort.”

In a general session, we heard about the importance of technology courses at all grade levels to prepare for future jobs that we can’t currently define. Bush described it in terms of a quarterback throwing to a receiver.

“You don’t throw directly at the receiver, but where he will be when the ball is caught,” Bush said.

We must teach all students the basics of technology so that they can meet the changing needs of an unforeseen skillset of the future.

One speaker said there were more than 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. What will happen when we embrace driverless cars and trucks? This was only one example of how jobs will experience change in the future. It’s important to prepare students to adapt to changes, so the economy thrives and our citizens lead satisfying lives.

Colorado currently uses blended learning and online courses, enabling students to learn skills that would otherwise be unavailable at their schools. An example is a middle school student who is currently enrolled in an advanced calculus course online. He is joined by three other students, in various grade levels, from other school districts across the state.

Technology is opening up many opportunities that weren’t available even two years ago. It is also moving so rapidly we need to teach the basics of computer science beginning in kindergarten. And yes, there are fun applications currently available online for kindergarten students. Future careers will depend on this knowledge, combined with creativity and flexibility to adapt.

The Colorado Department of Education, with community participation, is reviewing the Colorado State Standards and adding new standards for computer science. We need to prepare future teachers by including computer science in all teacher preparation programs.

Moving from an “eight track system” will not be easy, however with “100 percent of our effort,” we can give our students a chance for a successful future.

Joyce Rankin sits on the State Board of Education, representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. She writes the monthly column “Across the Street” to share with constituents in her district. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. Rankin is also a legislative assistant for state Rep. Bob Rankin. Email her at

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