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Keeping up with times a goal for many schools

Jan 07, 2011 10:15 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="216" caption="New facade plans for the Coxsackie-Athens Middle School are but one of a host of new ideas flooding local school districts, along with doom and gloom budget talks."][/caption]Not all educational talk is about budget cuts and consolidation these days. Thank heaven. The Daily Mail reports today that "to keep up with the demand of employers and the mores of higher education, the Coxsackie-Athens Central School District last week opened a new discussion about how the district can keep up with the changing times."
Board of Education member Beth Tailleur was one of several district officials who recently attended a workshop with Dr. John King, a deputy commissioner with the State Education Department, who explored how education should evolve and change over the next three to five years. At the December meeting of the Board of Ed, Tailleur shared some of those insights with the board and the community. “I was very taken with Dr. King at the meeting,” Tailleur said. “I have read a lot about educational policy – I like it when people research things and think about how to do things differently.”
Changing educational philosophy and state mandates are one way reporter Melanie Lekocevic says the State Education Department,is looking to increase the competitiveness of American students compared to their peers around the globe.

District officials Leslie Copleston, chief financial officer, and Kerry Houlihan, chief of curriculum, instruction and assessment, have also been involved in discussions over improving the future of education.

“We are not producing students who are college- or career-ready, and this is a nationwide issue,” Tailleur said. “That should be our goal. Every kid who leaves our building should have the skills they need to get through their first year of college or get a job with health care.”

Statewide, only 71% of students graduate high school.

“We at C-A are doing a better job than the statewide average, but the state is saying we need to make some changes,” Tailleur said.

SED worked with employers to identify some of the skills they will need in future employees, and ways the educational system can meet those needs.

Some ideas include improving teacher preparation, putting teachers in the classroom more during their own education; replacing failing schools, which is not an issue locally but is in other areas of the state; raising graduation rates for at-risk students; transforming the New York State Education Department; curriculum and professional development to give students a world-class curriculum; and expanding and improving access to early childhood education to give our youngest students a leg up.

Some ideas could include offering more programs that enable kids to graduate who are not looking to attend college afterward, but rather want to focus on vocational training so they are ready for the workplace.

For students who are looking at college, requirements may be upped to include a four year curriculum in both math and science to ensure they are prepared for secondary education.

For some, there may be flexibility in taking courses in middle school – such as the possibility of earning high school credits early. And there may be innovative ways to earn some credits, as well.

“Distance learning could provide more flexibility, where kids who take the time can learn the work without taking an entire class,” Houlihan said.

For all students, longer school days and an extended school year may also be in the future.

Students who can demonstrate they have mastered specific classes may be able to take competency tests to earn the credit and then use that time to take another class instead.

With a sluggish economy, addressing some of these issues could be more challenging than usual because districts will be forced to do more with less, and improve efficiencies to cut down on costs, Tailleur added. (See accompanying article.)

The workshop was only the start of the discussions – State Education officials are expected to attend the Greene County School Board meeting in January to discuss issues more in-depth.

“This is the time for change,” Tailleur said. “It is happening on the national level, and it is happening on the state level. We have to look at ways we can do things better.”
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