Take a few moments to read this commentary in Education Week titled “The Unmet Need for Interdisciplinary Education.” (link below) When I have spoken to teachers in our District, many have passionately echoed the same sentiment, but have been frustrated when they have tried to make it happen because the incremental costs associated with interdisciplinary studies presents challenges, unless the class size is large enough (but not too large) to justify the expense.
I firmly agree with the author. In my view, interdisciplinary studies is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity for a 21st century high school education. I cannot say it enough–we need more collaboration, both with our teachers and between our teachers. And if this is what ignites the passions of our teachers, then we must find ways to say “yes” to more and more interdisciplinary studies (and I have ideas about how we can do so within our budget). Simply stated, passionate teachers are critical to promoting student engagement, achievement and personal growth. This should be the foundation of our District’s education mission.
In case you missed it, check out the article in the Daily North Shore (see link below) about the renovations at HPHS. In addition to pragmatic infrastructure improvements that were absolutely necessary (“We took a 1914 footprint and traded it for a 2017 footprint”), there are “new spaces to emphasize 21st century learning with collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.” The FUSE Lab, pictured above, represents the future of learning and will engage and inspire District 113 students to rethink STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts Mathematics) education options and careers.
If you have not taken a tour of the new facilities at HPHS and/or DHS, I urge you to do so.
Come next fall, we will have an entirely new leadership team at the District Administration level, and new (or newish) principals at both DHS and HPHS. With that wholesale change at the top comes a real and unique opportunity to challenge the status quo on many levels. We need to ensure that we have elected a School Board that will guide and empower our District’s new leaders to think boldly and creatively about the future of our District and our schools, rather than tether them to stale conventions, and stagnant philosophies of yesterday.
District 113 must learn from the past, not live in the past.
Make no mistake about it–changing any organization’s culture and engrained behaviors is not easy. It takes committed leadership to reject conventions and norms, to look past “the way we’ve always done it” and identify a better way towards being the organization that we want to become.
I am committed to innovation and a leadership style that will find ways to say “YES” to the best and brightest ideas and ideals.
The link below is to an article in Education Week about the rising number of AP test takers, fueled in part by the surge in low income students taking AP exams.
What is especially encouraging is the fact that the average scores on all AP exams has held steady or improved even as more students have taken the tests.
But the article cautions that those numbers could drop among low income students based upon uncertainty in federal funding. The dedicated federal grant program that had been developed specifically to subsidize AP tests for low-income students was replaced in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by a block-grant program that allows but does not require that those funds be used to subsidize tests.
As a District, I believe that we owe ALL of our students the opportunity to achieve, and will fight to make sure that we continue to subsidize AP tests among other programs for our students.
“Past research has found that teachers tend to have higher job satisfaction when there is a strong, collaborative school culture.”
This article illustrates the link between teacher satisfaction and student achievement, and is why I have been such a vocal proponent of establishing a culture of collaboration for and throughout our District.
While we strive to achieve and maintain excellence in our schools, we must look beyond the conventional matrices—like median ACT scores—to measure our progress. While standardized testing has some place in evaluating the growth and development of our students in core subjects, the level and quality of student engagement is an equally important measure of excellence (and statistics would suggest a greater predictor of happiness and success in the future). Students with passions rooted in the performing arts, fine arts, applied arts, athletics, student government and technical vocations have gifts and talents that are not measured or identified by standardized testing. Our goal as a District should be to develop well rounded students, who are empowered to explore and/or discover what they enjoy most and what they do best.
As we collaborate and develop our vision and strategic plan for the schools and the District that we want to become, the conversation should begin with the aim of a high school education. We must remain cognizant that when it comes to education, one size most certainly does not fit all. We must honor student individuality, celebrate what makes them different, and foster their diverse needs to the greatest extent possible. Our ultimate goal should be to engage, encourage and support all of our students to fulfill their full potential, and be the best that they can be, regardless of the path they choose.
I am a HUGE proponent of the Arts, and believe that our schools’ commitment to the Fine and Performing Arts is a large part of what makes them great. Our District’s core mission must include maximizing student engagement, and supporting every student’s passion—the Fine Arts, Performing Arts, athletics and student government all fit within our core mission and are critical to our students’ personal growth. Each year it seems that there are dozens of kids from HP and DHS that are accepted into some of the premier film, dance, theater, choral, and music programs at among the most prestigious universities and academies throughout the country. I believe that we have evolved well beyond the notion that the Arts are not an essential aspect of the high school experience for a significant segment of our students, and a very real career path for many of our kids. I will tirelessly support the Arts in District 113.
Just as we seek to attract the best teachers and Department Heads for other subjects, we must find a way to serve our students who are committed to the Arts with the best band, orchestra, chorus and theater leaders. And our goals with respect to class sizes should be the same for classes in the Arts as they are for most any subject. Staffing and class size issues and solutions not always be easy (or optimal), but in this age of technology, we should be able to cooperate to find creative workable solutions to meet the needs of our students and still maintain our obligations to our tax payers to be fiscally responsible.
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” — Benjamin Franklin
One of the most important tenets of the my platform is ACCESSIBILITY. I pledge to make myself available to all of our District’s stakeholders, but most importantly, to our TEACHERS at DHS and HPHS. Our teachers are the District’s most important asset and also its greatest resource. We need a School Board that is truly committed to engaging and collaborating with our teachers, who are the ones who best understand how to meet the diverse needs of our students, who hold the key to maximizing student engagement, and who are uniquely positioned to suggest ways that our schools can innovate and improve to achieve excellence in education. Our District leadership needs to spend less time dictating, and more time asking and listening to our teachers. Imagine that….learning from our teachers….
This is a an enlightening and thought provoking presentation from the Executive Director of Gallup Research – Education. I know a principal who makes his school’s entire faculty watch this at the start of every school year. It may be long, but it is well worth your time. Let me know what you think.