I just spent the last hour writing up some ideas for a LCAP (fun budget stuff) meeting I have coming up this week. I am part of a team that is looking at student engagement, but not in the way that those words are usually used in a classroom. The LCAP meaning of student is engagement is looking at attendance, dropout, and graduation rates, and trying to come up with a plan to get students more engaged so they come to school and stay in school. After brain vomiting on a page for an hour, I was pretty proud of what I came up with. I also realized it had been way too long since I blogged, so I figured I would share my ramblings as a blog post.
I started off by looking at our districts Strategic Plan, which has some really cool goals that align with my personal goals for education. I have pasted a few below from the Visionary section and the College/Career Readiness section.
- Visionary Goal:
- Become an exemplary model of an educational organization in the state of California
- Utilize innovative strategies to encourage out-of-the-box thinking and risk-taking
- Explore options to re-define teaching and learning
- Identify and apply exemplary models from other schools, districts and businesses to drive improvement
- College and Career Readiness Goal:
- Develop rigorous applied experiences for students by leveraging local resources including college/universities, business, and agencies
- Students complete rigorous college-aligned course of study with seamless transition into a career pathway and/or post-secondary education towards a viable career.
I then wrote a statement that combines the visionary statements into one.
- If we want to be a model to other districts, we must take risks, be innovative, and think outside the box to re-define education.
This one statement is so powerful. There is so much involved. If we want to be a model school district that takes risks and thinks outside of the box, then we can’t do the things the way we have always done them. We need to get outside that box and start getting creative. That’s what we preach to our students, right?
So again, this post is designed to offer some food for thought when it comes to getting students who have poor attendance rates and who are at risk of dropping out to be more engaged, but I think what I offer will benefit the district as a whole and all of the students in it. Below are some options that I believe will help address student engagement as a larger problem. Some of the ideas may seem radical to those who rarely question the status quo. But if the district’s visionary goal is to be a model to other districts by utilizing outside of the box thinking, then I don’t feel these are radical or far-fetched at all. Do they fit in the new budget plan? Who knows. Luckily that’s not my job. But hopefully these ideas at least make it to the table.
Option: Early College High School – Can we take our alternative ed campus (which isn’t that alternative from what I understand), team up with a community college, and offer an Early College High School?
- Several serve students who previously dropped out or were unsuccessful in traditional high schools.
- Nearly 75 percent of students enrolled in early college high schools are African-American or Latino.
- The majority of students enrolled in early college high schools across the nation will be the first in their family to attend college.
- Nearly 60 percent of early college high school students are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
- They typically start at 9am or 10am (we should look into this for all schools)
- Early College High School in Costa Mesa -73% Hispanic and 76% Socioeconomically disadvantaged
Option: Later start times at all of our campuses
- Cons – Bus schedules, athletic schedules, parent schedules, teacher schedules (I get it, it’ll be a shock to the system)
- Pros – Abundance of research showing attendance rates, graduation rates, performance, and behavior all improve when school starts later
- 70% of all high school students do not get enough sleep, which leads to a host of physical and mental conditions
- It may not be popular among the adults involved (admin, teachers, parents), but the kids are who would benefit and that is all we should be concerned with
Option: Re-evaluate our electives and start to offer courses that are more relevant to a 21st century education that gets kids college and career ready
- Computer Science & Coding Courses NEED to be added as options – 70% of all jobs in CA will be computer based by 2020
- Classes on Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. Bosses surveyed always rank these as the top qualities they look for. Why don’t we have classes dedicated to them instead of trying to infuse them into content that is sometimes irrelevant
- Photography should be way more focused on digital photography and photo editing
- Industrial Arts – Wood, Metal, Auto, Power and Energy (with a focus on problem solving)
- This list could definitely be extended
Option: Common Core (the right way)
- Common Core standards can actually make attendance and dropout rates go in the wrong direction if the wrongs things are emphasized. However, if we focus on the good parts of the Common Core, I think it can help our attendance and graduation rates.
- Many teachers who are still confused about what the Common Core means for them in their classroom are under the impression that it all boils down to close reading and more writing. Yuck! If all teachers begin close reading and requiring irrelevant writing assignments across the curriculum, school will not be a desired place to be, especially for at-risk students.
- We can focus on the 4 C’s of Common Core; Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. Incorporating more Problem/Project Based Learning into our classes will incorporate the 4 C’s, skills that will help them in life, but it also provides opportunities for reading and writing in a way that is more relevant to the student.
- Teachers need some ongoing differentiated professional development to help them understand how they can create learning opportunities that incorporate the 4 C’s in a relevant and challenging way. I have been to multiple PD sessions based on Common Core and it has all been about reading and writing, which is an important component of where we are going, but it can’t be all we focus on with the shift to Common Core.
- We must always remember that our goal is to produce productive, creative, innovative, and intelligent students who can be successful in life, not to just produce students who can score well on the smarter balanced test. We have to make education about much more if we want the students to show up and be engaged.
Like I said earlier, I at least hope that my ideas are heard and considered. I believe they will help with attendance and graduation rates, but more importantly, I feel that all of these ideas, in general, are a step in the right direction when it comes to rethinking education for students today and in the near future. The education system is slow to change. My district is calling for innovation, risk-taking, and outside the box thinking, which to me, means they too desire a change. I love their vision, hopefully they like mine too.
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.)