Wind: 16 mph
Another exciting school year is well underway as this glorious foliage season takes hold. Irene certainly created a challenging start to our school year. Our hearts do fill with kindness and pride as we reflect upon the generous outpouring of support in all of our local communities during these trying times.
I would like to share some information on where we are headed in the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) this school year. First, I remain extremely proud of our schools. Healthy, caring environments, strong dedicated staff and academically successful students make our seven schools some of the very best Vermont has to offer. Please take some time to review the WWSU Performance Data Workbook and WWSU Climate Survey Data on our website www.wwsu.org. Collective hard work and dedication along with strong community support make these continuing excellent results possible.
We will begin our work this year familiarizing ourselves with the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which will replace the current NECAP testing. All schools within Vermont will be expected to fully implement these changes by 2014. Change can be a difficult and occasionally a painful process. Even in a perfect world, it moves forward in fits and starts. The journey towards change brings various levels of interest among those being encouraged to travel the path. I doubt if these initiatives will be any different. Each of us can think of many innovations in education that were touted as the solution to all of the problems believed to exist within the system.
Of course this begs the question, if we are doing so well, why change? The most compelling answer I can give is that we are not succeeding with many of our students. Regardless of what the state test scores say, are we satisfied with 20 to 30 percent of our students not achieving proficiency in any area? Even with our successes in the WWSU, we cannot be satisfied until all students are meeting with success. How can we achieve this? I believe that programs are never the solution, and they are never the problem. It is people, not programs, that determine the quality of the school. Ted Sizer once said, "We are so good, we know we can get better." I am suggesting that we should adopt this statement as our mantra largely because it doesn't build from a position of deficit. Well, there's a new concept for public education!
Great schools begin with great educators. Being an educator is an amazing profession. It is challenging, dynamic, energizing and draining, but most of all, it is rewarding. The impact of a teacher on the life of a student extends far beyond anything they will ever know. The very best teachers make every student feel valued. They know who may struggle or who may be reluctant to speak up. They set students up for success, reinforce their attempts, build on those attempts and then provide future opportunities and experiences even more challenging and involving more risk taking.
Great teachers want their students to be more excited about learning tomorrow than they were today.
School starts fresh every year, and we need to take advantage of this new beginning. I need every staff member to join on the path of success for all students as we embrace the Common Core Standards, which focus more on career readiness and demonstrations of learning.
There will be increased focus on teacher effectiveness and learning outcomes as we transform to a more global 21st-century model for learning and schooling. Transformation is a systems success or failure. We will be asked to deliver far more than an excellent, traditional, preparatory education.
Every student will need to be prepared to take his/her place on the "world stage" by demonstrating academic competence, disposition for learning, civic responsibility, and personal development.
Transformation will require us to further provide multiple pathways, personalized learning, distance learning, state-of-the-art technology, strong student voice, service learning, internships, dual credit, dual enrollment, and schooling far beyond the walls of our buildings. In order for our students to be well prepared for their future path, a quality education will ensure that they participate in Pre-K to 16 experiences that deliver civic literacy, environmental literacy, health literacy, global awareness literacy, economic/business literacy, financial literacy, and information/media literacy.
Personalized learning will be center stage in 21st-century schooling. Over the last two years, we have made many improvements in the WWSU, most of which are procedural or structural in nature. This year we will be more focused on our individual students than ever before. We need to celebrate and provide for each student's uniqueness. Katy Perry sings a song called "Fireworks" with lyrics that portray the idea that just as no two fireworks are alike, neither are our students; each different, each original, each spectacular. Teachers ignite the "fireworks" making them shine bright, with the power to own the night. By helping each one shine through, the majestic beauty of them all becomes possible. These lyrics are very inspiring, encouraging perseverance and acceptance of differences. All classrooms within the WWSU should also be.
The schools in the WWSU will continue to set high expectations, embrace continuous improvement, practice data-driven decision making, provide a professional teaching culture, support strong leadership, maintain school climates where all adults and students feel valued and safe, and strive to regularly increase student supports and family engagement. Together we will develop a well-planned model for growth and determine how we are going to get there.
I pledge to do what I can to keep our organization and its people moving forward on the path of growth to achieve success for each and every student who walks through our doors. After a summer of rejuvenation and reflection, we all can regroup and get on this very important path together. I wish each student the best school year ever! Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time about anything you may have on your mind. I always leave conversations with parents and other community members more enlightened, and I appreciate your time.
Scheffert is the superintendent of the Washington West Supervisory Union.