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EVSC State of Our Schools: Smith Wants Schools to ‘Transform’ not ‘Reform’

April 19 Rotary meeting used to highlight practical use of neural education research in schools

Guests to the 2022 State of Our Schools address left with more questions than answers concerning the future of Indiana classrooms.

They also might not have expected a healthy dose of neural science education theory in something like a TED Talk format.

But this was the plan of Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC) Superintendent David Smith. He used the annual address hosted by the Evansville Rotary Club Tuesday, April 19, to highlight what he feels is the need for transformational change in schools locally and even nationally, to reduce achievement gaps in learning.

And he wants to do it using the study of how the human brain actually builds neural pathways, and partially discard how children are taught today.

“Education really hasn't transformed a great deal,” Smith said. “…there is now an understanding of how the brain develops and how we can apply that understanding to education, that we are passionate about making certain everyone understands, because those are the kinds of things that will help us transform education.”

His co-presenter was Susan Phelps, EVSC director of neuroeducation.

They drew the connection between active unstructured play and improved student learning. They used graphics to illustrate the emerging science on how the brain works, and how they can use the knowledge to improve education.

This isn’t a totally new theory — EVSC already integrates neural education research into their classrooms. At EVSC it’s called GAIN (Growth in Academics through Innovation and Neuroeducation). Smith is hoping for sweeping change across his district, and hinted at statewide interest in this GAIN system.

Smith and Phelps didn’t offer concrete plans or changes ahead for EVSC classrooms, but Smith said the goal was to pique the public’s interest in GAIN, and share the discussion they’re having about education.

“We need to transform education because it's not working for everybody,” Smith said. “Current educational practices are devoid of the science of how the brain develops, and how we can use that understanding to improve learning.”

The meeting on April 19 was the first of three presentations on the topic of neuroeducation transform. The next one is August 16.