Wordsmithing for an enlightened communications curriculum is now more possible for the district. The teachers and other educators on the council and subject area committee look differently at the challenges ahead.
The curriculum council, board of education and district administrative leaders have accepted changes proposed by the newly named communications subject area committee. The long-range plan has been modified accordingly.
While externally imposed regulatory practices are either acknowledged or followed procedurally, the district has decided to pursue a different narrative. A different school improvement framework than the one set in motion by the No Child Left Behind initiative of 2002.
NCLB and federally initiated acts are not requirements because they are based on ESEA. Rejecting those stipulations merely means related funds will not be made available.
State standards and tests are different because they involve accreditation and state financial support. Some states do not have standards or tests. Or they extensively modified them.
In the state in which our district operates both standards and tests have been diminished in importance. Possibly due to the impact of the pandemic.
Discord about the importance of standards and high stakes summative assessments is everywhere. Journalists and members of the public convince themselves that micromanagement and stringent accountability policies do more harm than good.
Political discussion arises about critical race theory, LGBTQ, and curricular transparency for parents and patrons. Teacher recruitment and certification, and changes needed because of the pandemic’s aftermath.
In this era, for a district to move forward on its own is unusual. Politics continues to be a strange phenomenon.
NCLB was originated by a party that called for freedom of choice and the importance of local decision-making.
Yet it became the epitome of governmental micromanagement.
Within that party, decision-making authority about education is now seen as the right of legislatures and governors.
Because they hold the purse strings and create regulations.
And education at all levels is by far the most expensive of state functions. The party that micromanages can issue declarations that are fiscally frugal — meant to cut back on waste.
The biggest target for assumed waste is compensation given to salaried workers, the teachers and others in the business of education.
The other major American political party tends to accept the status quo with periodic exceptions. It fears that equality, inclusion, sufficient local funding, and acceptance of innovative teaching will be hindered without the oversight of the federal government.
The oddity is that the federal government, the originator of NCLB-driven techniques to micromanage, has been moved to the backburner by the states.
Similar to what happened with the Common Core, which later morphed into the “Every Student Succeeds Act.”. Not all states accepted those standards.
Since then, a hodge-podge of other standards has emerged. Making the situation today confusing. Standards are invariably focused on specific disciplines. Written by assumed experts in their fields. Emanating from various entities.
Those conditions place the characters in our example district in a quandary. However, they have the courage to move forward on their own. Using principles and actions believed to be best for their students, parents, and patrons.
With Barbara’s help, Rebecca now works with the curriculum council to move the communications SAC forward. And to promote the proposal written by Jackie to start a retreat program.
Rebecca Implements the New Learning Infrastructure
Jackie created a proposal to start a retreat program for those who volunteer to participate. Ken and the Board liked it and were willing to fund it for one school year.
The purpose of the retreat was to help teachers accustomed to excelling as individuals gain skills as team members: in curriculum development, instructional design, and the creation of assessments.
During the curriculum council meeting I decided to again revisit the tentative district mastery statement. I designed a poster of its contents and tacked it to the wall.
We had seen it before. Discussed its content and meaning. Now it was our task to use it in nurturing students toward more meaningful tasks. More valuable than simply passing high stakes tests that concentrated on minutiae. Sometimes known as minimum competencies.
In this district there are no minimum competencies. This district produces leaders, doers, thinkers, and creative members of society. Adults who are self-sufficient enough to contribute to the welfare of others.
This district’s teachers model those characteristics and behaviors. They create dynamic classroom activities in which students sense the value of their own talents — as extensions of the society in which they are a significant part.
DISTRICT MASTERY STATEMENT
Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will have skills that expand their understanding of reality. A deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.
They can solve complex problems, think and act creatively, and manage their own needs responsibly.
Graduates understand and can act on principles associated with entrepreneurship. The ability to become lifelong learners through knowing how to learn and being motivated to do so.
They are curious about ways they can stretch boundaries into new and different realms. An inherent drive to learn continuously, to ask good questions and become part of diverse communities in which feedback is vigorous and stimulating.
They will understand the importance of self-confidence, gained through experience with widening groups, taking meaningful initiatives (reaching out), receiving consistent encouragement from respected associates.
Each day graduates will practice mindfulness in terms of clarifying priorities and actions.
They are open to others from different backgrounds. They understand and work to achieve self-discipline and personal values. Create and maintain the convictions to pursue these values.
Students completing the full program of studies at XYZ School District will speak and write effectively. Know how to make people feel at ease, those from every walk of life. Graduates will enter conversations with others and show genuine interest in their ideas and activities.
While each academic discipline is important, graduates will grasp the idea that problem solving is usually associated with a complex and interactive system. Solving problems requires collaborative skills that allow all disciplines to work in concert.
Graduates will understand the meaning of intellectual passion. Not simply a passion for attaining more knowledge, but comprehending its significance and value.
The ability to communicate expressively both orally and in writing. Life is more than a single dimension. It is an assortment of experiences that make it worth living.
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