In 2004, McREL embarked on a new project by creating its first scenarios; that is, possible futures in which we consider what our organization’s role would play given certain political, economic, technological, and social parameters. Those scenarios became The Future of Schooling: Educating American in 2014. Since then, McREL has worked with other districts and organizations as a thinking partner as they explore their own possible scenarios. McREL’s work with the Ohio 8 Coalition, an alliance of superintendents and teacher union presidents from Ohio’s eight largest metropolitan school districts (Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown) resulted in the creation of a thirty-three minute video describing four possible futures for Ohio’s urban areas.

In the scenario planning process, members of an organization identify two critical uncertainties that they feel will most impact their work. One of the Ohio 8’s critical uncertainties centered on whether urban areas would thrive and populate in 2020 or whether they would be areas in decline as more people moved to the suburbs. The other critical uncertainty focused on whether the policy environment was prescriptive to students or whether it allowed flexibility in education. When two critical uncertainties are crossed, a Cartesian plane is created with four possible scenarios.


All four of these scenarios are fascinating, but I was most energized by the “Me as We” Scenario, in which urban centers are thriving, 21st century communities that have self-organized in order to help students discover and focus their education on their primary strengths and interests. In this scenario, federally-funded universal wifi access and the replacement of NCLB by individual, digital, community-involved learning plans have completely revamped education. Teachers are now seen as learning agents and innovators. High school diplomas have been replaced by a skills-based credentialing system, assessed in part by active and interested community members.

Take a look at the either the whole video or just the 5-minute “Me as We” scenario. Could your organization survive in this scenario? How would we need to rethink education? Professional development? Pre-service teacher education?

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