Education as an industry can be compared to a lumbering giant. Since it is highly institutionalized, even minor changes can take inordinate amounts of time. After all the system is supposed to provide high quality education to all students regardless of race, socioeconomic status or where they live right? Well, despite recent gains in overall high school graduation rates, there is still much work to be done. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) last December marked a positive turning point, in my opinion. Where improvements to assessments and standards will take time, immediate implementations can be made. Often these are difficult topics and aren’t shiny and exciting to talk about. In this post, I will offer three areas that require introspection before the school year starts next September:
Probably the least exciting area for improvement, but arguably the most important. Simply making sure that students are in school, positioned to learn is imperative. In her recent District Administrator piece titled: “6 million Students Miss Too Much School.” Alison DeNisco disaggregates data which confirms large number of students in America are missing school regularly. These students are from the entire range of racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
More than 6 million students—representing 13 percent of the K12 population—missed at least 15 days of school in 2013-14, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis from the U.S. Department of Education.
In her explanation of recent legislation aimed to improve attendance rates, DeNisco outlines the components of the slated essentials. I found the inclusion of community support and attention to whole child issues made me especially hopeful that this program will meet with success.
Of equal importance is that we make time spent in school intertwine, challenging and teaching critical thinking. A successful learning environment will benefit from a student population that is stable and have low absence rates. Interestingly enough, texting services that have been studied in big cities form a stronger home to school connection and help keep kids in school.
Having much more local control over large assessments allows school districts to create more engaging curriculum. The ESSA is a nod towards more state, and ultimately local, control. This is a great thing! Implementation takes time, but the fundamental changes that could occur if we shift the focus of curriculum away from an over abundance of assessment are very powerful.
— A Wallach (@AdamWallach) July 1, 2016
RTI (Response to Intervention) is an increasingly popular method to provide assistance to students during their learning experience. In the past this tool was used primarily to identify students in need of special education services. Within the past decade, RTI and Multi Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) have transitioned into the general setting. While highly successful, questions arise as to where funding for these programs come from. Some shared decision making still needs to occur to settle this situation, but many agree that by opening up funding for MTSS in schools will clearly benefits many students.
Change is inevitable in education. To respond to changing times and student needs policy needs to morph as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, too many in the field would agree that policy swings like a pendulum. In this case, I am optimistic that we are moving in the right direction. One that is putting the needs of our nations millions of school aged children as the ultimate priority.
Reference: “6 Million Students Miss Too Much School” By: Alison DeNisco http://www.districtadministration.com/article/report-6-million-students-miss-too-much-school Retrieved: 7/20/16