Remodeling Education for Today's Students
October 24, 2011
For anyone who has ever bought a home, this is a familiar scenario. The house you bought 10 years ago seemed ideal at the time – plenty of space, great layout, and beautiful paint job. But a few years go by, wear and tear happens, your needs change, and suddenly, that house that seemed so perfect needs an update.
I look around my town home where I have lived for ten years and it needs plenty of changes – bookcases in the second bedroom, more cabinets in the laundry room, some touch-ups here and there. The list goes on. My house has a solid foundation, but it needs something to fit the way I live today. I don't need to demolish my house; I need to remodel.
Likewise, I have lived in the public education house for many years. That house also has a solid foundation, but it is time to remodel so we can serve every student's needs, foster higher student achievement and growth, and ultimately, graduate more students. Some of our educational rooms, especially high school, need updating.
All high school students need multiple options to prepare them to be career and college ready. All students need to master fundamental objectives, but they also need to have opportunities that are personalized at the school and district level.
We need more options that are developed school-by-school and district-by-district to attract students to the learning room. Our options have grown – early colleges, arts, career and technical centers, magnet schools, career academies, and virtual learning; however, the remodeling must continue so that every high school student finds a "room" that makes a positive difference for college, career and citizenship preparation.
Public education must examine and take advantage of the following practices:
- Combining academic work with business/industry experiences.
- Blending virtual learning and face-to-face within the same classroom.
- Differentiating staffing and teaming with career technical, arts, and academic teachers working with groups of students.
- Integrating curriculum that connects and blurs arbitrary divisions between and among different subjects and provides more opportunities for problem- and project-based learning.
All of these ideas are remodeling projects akin to ideas that a homeowner undertakes to improve their homes. They aren't projects that tear down the entire house and start over. That's where we are with public schools today. We don't need to dismantle our entire school system, but we do need to remodel to meet today's students' needs.
June St. Clair Atkinson