The Schools We Need that People Want

We expect our schools to do something that has never been done in history by any school system foreign or domestic, public or private.  We expect our schools to prepare every student for school beyond high school.  And, we expect our schools to be both more rigorous than ever before and ignite students’ passions for learning.

But, we are not matching our stated aspirations with a commitment to change.  In essence, we are asking our schools to increase productivity by 70%.  Yet, we have made few meaningful changes to the agricultural-industrial systems of education.  We cannot meet our lofty education goals without making adjustments to our school system.

What types of changes do we need?

In my many hours of conversations with community members, educators, parents and students, a clear picture of the kinds of schools we need and that people want is emerging.  For those of you who are regular visitors to this site or who have heard me speak, these are familiar ideas.

The schools people seek will (and in some cases already do)…

·         Tailor curriculum to EACH student’s unique needs, interests and passions so that students are eager to learn.  As we all know, love of learning is an essential attitude and an essential skill in our era.

·         Cultivate creative skills, risk taking, as well as working collaboratively with diverse groups.  Narrowing the curriculum to focus on a small set of core subjects is not sufficient.

·         Enable teachers to focus their energies on high-value instruction; integrate technology into all areas of learning; and provide learning experiences in and outside the classroom.

·         Base student promotion more on knowledge and less on classroom time.  We all know that every student learns at their own pace.  We need our schools to better reflect that reality.

·         Adopt early and aggressive intervention strategies for students who fall behind.  And, thoughtful strategies for students who are accelerating beyond grade level.

·         Enable students (and their families) to take more responsibility for their own learning.   Today, accountability rests disproportionately on the shoulders of schools and teachers.  That doesn’t make sense.  We must develop systems that support every student’s RIGHT to be responsible for themselves.

·         Are operated at a “human scale” and allow ample time for personal relationships between adults and students – as well as between peers.  We know healthy relationships are essential to a quality learning environment.  We must be intentional about creating time and space for relationships.

·         Make it a priority to build community and teach civility.  History teaches us we are at our best when we find ways to bridge our differences.  Public Schools are one of the places in which we can cross divides and learn from, with and about one another.

We are learning how to create these types of schools across the country and right here in the St. Vrain Valley.  What we need is a greater sense of urgency to build schools that embody these characteristics.  We can create these types of schools.  It is a matter of political will, community support and focused leadership.  It will be my priority to help the St. Vrain Valley move in these directions.


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