We will create a public/private partnership and a national movement in collaboration with teachers’ unions to unleash America’s largest, unlimited, and virtually untapped source of renewable energy: the minds of all of our children!!!! Customizing education for every child will ensure that never again will our children’s hopes, futures, and dreams be determined by the color of their skin, their gender, the quality of their healthcare, the poverty in their home and/or community and – last but far from least – the teachers’ and students’ ability to withstand the frustration and boredom inherent in today’s public education systems. The needless NCLB ‘teaching to the test’ which dominates our schools is really the result of public policy made by legislators, business leaders, and policy makers often against the wishes of teachers and others involved in education.
-Jack Taub 2008
Jack is a boy from Brooklyn who dropped out of high school to avoid terminal boredom. One of his friends from the old neighborhood was Al Shanker who grew up to lead the American Federation of Teachers for many years. In the late 1970s he was the one who first turned Jack on to the issue that less than 5% of high school graduates had reading proficiency. This did not include science and math and it was before the Flat World that Thomas Friedman describes allowed China and India to compete for low-skilled jobs. When Jack dropped out, he began pursuing his passion, stamp collecting. He did it very well. So well, in fact, that at one point he owned a significant share of Scotts Publishing (He was Chairman of the Board) and the publisher of the Scott’s Catalog – the “bible” for stamp collectors. He had a store located across the street from Tiffany’s at 57th street and Fifth Avenue. Not just the store; with his brother and friend, they owned the whole ten-story building. He then convinced the US Postal Service that they could make a profit selling stamp collecting materials. He ended up with an exclusive contract to sell his products in 35,000 post offices, and the USPS has earned over $10B by retailing philatelic paraphernalia and other non-stamp items.
In 1977, he got restless and he took some of the money from that success and invested it in a new concept that allowed people to use computers and modems to exchange ideas using email and bulletin boards. The business was called ‘The Source’ (See the article below) and it was the first consumer online business. It became the model for the consumerization of the Internet and all that followed. In 1980, he sold that business to Readers’ Digest for a significant amount of money.
At that point, he began focusing on the educational needs of his physically challenged child. He was trying to get his child a good education in public schools. His experience led him to realize that even with the then existing Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), schools were not only not meeting the needs of challenged children; they were not serving any children well, while boring most. He was reminded of the earlier comments from Al Shanker and decided to dedicate his life and the resources he had to customizing education for every child in the country. That was in 1980, three years before the seminal report, ‘A Nation At Risk’ that concluded, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have even squandered the gains in student achievement made in the wake of the Sputnik challenge. Moreover, we have dismantled essential support systems which helped make those gains possible. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.” Jack has been pursuing his vision for customizing education ever since. He has built a team of people who share his dream and dedication and together they have designed and implemented the model at three schools that prove it can be done. Along the way, he passed on many opportunities to make significant profits from some of the elements of the solution because he didn’t want to be distracted from the need to transform the whole system. He determined that if he was successful in transforming K-12 education it would be America’s greatest social and economic engine as well as an historic legacy and a great business. Jack never thought that transforming K-12 education would be one of the most complex journeys in history and that it would take 30 years and most of his resources to solve.
Jack believes that every child is precious and at risk, some at greater risk than others. The great tragedy and human rights issue is that virtually every child first shows up in kindergarten with unlimited curiosity and a genetic need to learn. Then we start ‘helping’ them learn to pass tests.
America has about 100,000 public schools, nearly 4,000,000 teachers and 55,000,000 students. All of this is organized into about 15,000 locally autonomous school districts – each making their own decisions. Neither the president nor the governor has control over the local district decisions. Consequently, the solution must be from the communities up, not the top down. The program must benefit all the children and all the teachers. It is both impractical and unnecessary to replace the existing schools and teachers. We need to transform them. To be a scalable solution, it must eliminate student boredom, be supported by the teachers and their unions, and affordable to all schools within existing budgets. If you do the math, transforming 10,000 classrooms a year (which in itself would be Herculean) would take 400 years to get done once. His goal, to complete transformation of public education in 15 years will start after the receipt of the funding for the first 1,350 discovery and innovation schools. That led Jack to realize that we would need a national grass-roots movement consisting of over a million parents, students, teachers, administrators, business leaders, academics, and politicians to support the transformation. The Power of US Foundation (www.thepowerofus.org) has been established to recruit and coordinate members in support of the transformation. At their website, you can read their “Call to Arms” and “Implementation Plan”.
In the ensuing 30-plus years, more than $100,000,000 dollars (not all of it Jack’s money) have been spent building implementing, testing and improving the model. The solution he and his team built integrates virtually every known research-based organizational and student-centered-learning best practice into a smoothly operating system. As a result, all of the elements have already been thoroughly researched and proven in multiple locations. The integrated system his team developed, that includes a multidisciplinary project-based, small-group learning environment, has been in operation as the Discovery Learning Systems (DLS) model at the three schools (elementary, middle and high school) at the Tracy Learning Center (TLC) for over eight years, representing over 8,500,000 hours of student and teacher experience, with outstanding results. In the DLS model, the teachers are able to observe and assess individual student behaviors and learning and customize the learning for all 54,000,000 students. This ongoing assessment means there is no need to teach to the test. In addition, the ongoing data-gathering and analysis allows the model to continuously improve programmatically while scaling exponentially.
The DLS model was originally implemented as a charter school in order to allow the designers to start with a clean slate. However, from the beginning, Jack and his partner, Dr. Keith Larick, were determined to create a model that could be scalable and replicable in any public school in the nation. The needless NCLB ‘teaching to the test’ which dominates our schools is really the result of public policy made by legislators, business leaders, and policy makers often against the wishes of teachers and others involved in education. The DLS model totally avoids teaching to the test and the resulting student boredom and teacher burnout.
The DLS model is a comprehensive change from the current teacher-centered learning environment. So to be scalable, we provide an equally comprehensive program of professional development and change management. The staff and teachers have 24/7 access to a broad range of support services at no cost to the teachers.
To be successful, children need a quality education and good health. DLS addresses the health issue in two ways. The curriculum includes a number of grade-level-appropriate health and wellness projects on topics like obesity and substance abuse. We also provide free access to primary healthcare services via a telemedicine network.
The DLS solution is not an education management system that takes over and operates the schools. DLS is a subscription-based education transformation service that includes unlimited usage of all of the best practices listed below. Beyond that, the fixed subscription cost includes all of the upgrades that result from the DLS continuous improvement program. Budgeting and procurement for many of the services included in the DLS subscription package are frequently problematic for school districts. Many of the critical services often end up on the chopping block during difficult financial times. Which should we cut, the volleyball team or the drama program? Should we replace the computers or retain a teacher? It is not that the school board feels any of these options are unimportant. It is that they have to make difficult choices and local pressures frequently overwhelm good educational practices in a political climate. Because all of the elements of the solution are research-based best practices and are an integral part of the comprehensive DLS model, they are bundled into a subscription that cannot be purchased a-la-carte. This simplifies the budgeting for the school board. They know what they need and they have a guaranteed fixed cost for the package that they can budget. It includes providing and refreshing (every three years) all of the district technology. AT&T is assisting the DLS team in designing, implementing, managing, and refreshing the participating schools’ technology infrastructure. AT&T is looking forward to rolling out the model as a national program.
Jack’s present activities include two related programs. The first is to raise funding to transform 1,350 schools to schools of discovery and innovation in the next five years. The plan then is to transform the rest of the schools across the country within the following ten years. His goal is to demonstrate that the transformation can occur and to build the momentum for getting it to happen. At that point he expects other organizations to join in the effort and help in transforming the remaining 100,000 schools. The other activity is continuing to build relationships with other organizations that share our vision and explore means for supporting each other’s efforts. He believes that schools should regain their status as community centers – but not just for education. The school should also be a center for primary healthcare, innovation, culture, entertainment and community/economic development. For more information about the DLS program for creating schools of discovery and innovation visit http://www.emaginos.com/. Jack’s goal is to make schools places where children want to attend, not have to attend. For anyone who doesn’t believe Jack’s vision is attainable, he challenges them to read the history of the Manhattan Project and see what the nation did in three years.
Jack identifies personally with the Peter Finch character, Howard Beale, in the movie Network (1976), when Beale expresses his despair over the continual political bickering while the citizens are faced with unemployment other societal ills. Beale says, “We’re as mad as hell, and we’re not going to take this anymore.”
Approximately 10,000 children a day are dropping out of school or graduating but incapable of earning a living. These 10,000 kids all showed up for kindergarten with unlimited curiosity and a genetic need to learn. Through the Power of US he hopes to get millions of volunteers (parents, teachers, students, and community members) as mad as hell like he is. They must all join him and come together to stop destroying the futures of virtually all of our children and our nation.
Jack Taub’s Theory for Educational Transformation 2000
* The CHild equals CUriosity minus Boring Education = Infinite Intellectual and Creative Energy.
1978 Washington Post article about the Source
The following article from the Washington Post was the first mention anyplace in the world of the concept that came to be known as the ‘consumer online industry’. Jack Taub pioneered and funded digital broadcasting which gave birth to The Source. People from the Source led to the creation of America Online. The Source ultimately became the model for the consumerization of the Internet. In today’s terminology Jack’s 1977 vision is now known as ‘cloud computing’.
If you look towards the end of the article, you will see Jack quoted as saying that the demonstrated capabilities will become as famous as McDonald’s hamburgers. At the time this article was being written, there were only three people on his online system.
Jack believes that the greatest days in using these technologies still lie ahead of us through the development of DLS Discovery and Innovation schools and empowering all children – no matter how poor or remote.