Saturday, February 25, 2017

Planning for the Future of Isle of Wight County Schools

Our vision is to create a learning environment that enables every child to discover his or her unique talents and gifts. This is no easy task. We have stopped trying to make the current education system better and have started to reimagine education. We need to become the new Committee of Ten from 1893 and redesign the educational experience for all students that will help them thrive in a world that values them for what they can do, and not the facts they know. 
We could have waited for our education policy-makers to figure out the next steps; instead we have chosen to be proactive and take the steps necessary to change policy that affects the future of our students. We have had many discussions on what it means to be an educated adult in this new force environment. We have discussed the core competencies that matter most for work, learning, and citizenship today. These discussions were the starting point for us to reimagine education for our children.

Three key features keep coming to the forefront of our conversations: the skills needed, the will to learn, and the content knowledge. I believe that will or motivation is the most important and the one most damaged by our SOL test driven curriculum in schools today. I believe if students are motivated to learn then they will continue to develop new skills and thrive in the innovation era. We are not just talking about implementing changes that will make it fun. We want the proposed changes to increase student motivations that include perseverance and self-discipline. 

The skills needed by students is the next area of focus. Through many conversations with all stakeholders, there is a consensus about the importance of the five C’s: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity, and citizenship. We believe that these skills can be taught and assessed every day in every classroom. This does not suggest that we should teach these skills instead of our content knowledge. In fact, you cannot teach critical thinking without engaging students in rigorous academic content. The content knowledge is the third key feature and we must select content to create a desire for lifelong learning. We have to manage our desire for content coverage and not let it overwhelm the skills needed to be successful in the innovation age.

In summary, we are obligated to prepare our students for the 5 C’s and competence in dealing with any career pathway they may choose. Our strategic plan is on our website for you to review.  We will be holding two community meetings in which we will have an interactive activity for stakeholders.  On March 15, we will discuss together why we are making changes during a community meeting at Windsor Elementary School.  We will discuss together how we will make those changes, and how we’ve incorporated them into our strategic plan, during a community meeting on April 19 at Smithfield Middle School.  Both meetings will start at 6:00 pm.  This is a great opportunity to learn more about the future plan for Isle of Wight County Schools. I hope to see you there.