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Active Participant

On Wednesday September 26th I had the pleasure of participating in a thought provoking dialogue with Chicago area independent school heads, university representatives and corporate leaders about the future of education. The meeting was convened by Adrianne Finley Odell, Head of School at Roycemore School in Evanston, Illinois. It was a fascinating and inspiring discussion around the evolution of education in anticipation of the future of work.

The first part of this evening was a book chat on the recent book by Ted Dintersmith, What Schools Could Be.  The book chat was co-sponsored by Roycemore School, Northwestern's School of Education and Social Policy and Northwestern's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI).  Attendees broke into three discussion groups to explore the questions below and report back the group on initial ideas.

What School Could Be Discussion Topics

Discussion Group A

  • What are the fundamental skills and content a person needs to be successful in life? In college? In the workplace?

  • What would need to change in our current schools and classrooms to reflect the world we are currently living in or the possible future?

Discussion Group B

  • One of the primary foci of high school students today is to prepare them for college, which is often translated into grades and test scores. What do you believe is the link between grades and the SAT/ACT and doing well in college?

  • Many universities are now dropping the requirement of submitting standardized test scores as part of the college admission application. How would you think school would change if there was no longer a need for standardized test scores for college admission?

Discussion Group C

  • Dintersmith neatly spelled out his vision for K-12 students becoming “life-ready” and “innovation ready.” Will comprehensive reform in one arena necessitate wholesale reform further up the ladder (community colleges, 4-year colleges & universities, graduate school, human resources & credentialing for job applicants?) What might this look like?

The second part of the evening was for a smaller group of independent school heads, university representatives and corporate leaders.  Intended to enhance the dialogue among these three groups, the focus was on how to better prepare our young people to lead extraordinary lives, by helping them to develop important skills they need to transition from K-12 education, to a successful college experience, and then onto a career that is both meaningful to them and contributes to the organizations where they are employed.  The deep dive was intended to open dialogue among participants on the topic of how we can do a better job preparing young people for the complexity of the world they are entering after they complete their "formal" education. Attendees contributions focused on the challenges for educators in preparing young people, and the evolving needs of employers in the digital economy. I was able to represent SAP’s point of view on skillsets and mindsets needed for the future of work as well as SAP ecosystem assets available to aid educators in their education programs.

The key focus was to consider is how might K-12, universities and corporations work more closely together to strengthen the skills that young people most need today. Key leaders and educators from the following schools and companies were present for the small group discussion:

  • Roycemore School

  • Northwestern University Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

  • Northwestern University School of Education and Social Policy

  • Latin School of Chicago

  • Francis Parker School

  • University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

  • North Shore Country Day

  • Near North Montessori School

  • Beacon Academy

  • Adobe Corporation

  • SAP Next-Gen for Universities

  • Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • ThinkingAhead- Emerging Tech & Digital Health Innovation

  • Rotary International


It was a very engaging discussion and quite inspirational to hear these outstanding educators plan for innovating the education system to capture the future and prepare young talent for what lies ahead.