Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Every Door Open for Everyone Who Graduates

On Sunday, 63 students will graduate from Hudson High School. It is a momentous occasion for these young people and their families, and most certainly a cause for celebration. We are proud of all they have accomplished not only this year, but during their entire career as students in our school. Sunday has been a date circled on the calendar a long time for these students and their families. What happens next for these graduates? If we have done what we set out to do then they have the skills and knowledge to do whatever they want.

In his May message to the field, the Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck shares that our goal as a statewide educational system should be to ensure that every door is open for everyone who graduates. Simply put, our new alumni should be able to decide for themselves what they want to do. Regardless if they want to go to a four year college, technical school, the military, or enter the world of work; we need to ensure that they have the skill set to do just that. 

To achieve that goal is no small feat and it means a different set of skills for a diverse population of learners. It means asking critical questions about whether or not it is necessary for every student to take chemistry or industrial technology in high school. The answer to that question is that it is not necessary for each student to take the same courses as everyone else. After all, we are not a widget factory. For the record I did not take chemistry in high school but did take every woodworking class and industrial technology class that was offered. (Some of you probably think that is a bit humorous considering my lack of expertise in the shop!)

It doesn't stop with determining for each student whether or not they should take calculus. After all, we have acknowledged that not all learning takes place in within the walls of the regular classroom setting. It is in preparing our students for a world that is much different from the one that you and I grew up in. It is ensuring that our students have access to a global network, understand the power of collaborative work, and know what it means to work and live in a Flat World. This sometimes takes new, innovative approaches; many of which we have embraced here at Hudson.

I had the opportunity to join my colleagues from educational systems around the Cedar Valley in a round table discussion about this very topic. Our consensus is that while technical skills are crucial to ensuring success in the world of work, we also need to ensure that our students have well developed skills in communication and critical thinking. Schools need to ensure that our students are engaged in what is going on in and out of the classroom by making learning more applicable and hands on, addressing real world problems.

The question then becomes, what are we doing to ensure those very things are woven into the fabric and culture of what we do at Hudson. The good news is that they are alive and well in our learner performance goals. Students must demonstrate that they have met the learner performance goals with examples as a requirement for graduation. We are also in the second year implementing our Pirate Term, which is an opportunity for students to more fully develop communication and critical thinking skills by participating in real life experiential learning. Then there is the connected learning initiative, which studies have shown has significant correlation to student engagement-which does have a positive impact on student achievement.

As these students graduate on Sunday, you can be assured that every door is open for every student that graduates.

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