Did you read Education Week‘s segment titled “NEW FACES, NEW CHALLENGES: The Challenging Demographics of America’s Schools” featured in the August 20, 2014 edition? In the continuation of the cover article, a “host of challenges” from the enrollment changes (e.g., more students living in poverty, more English-language learners) means increased enrollment, according to the President of the Southern Education Foundation, of “… the kids that we [i.e., public education] historically have served least well” (p. 12). A couple paragraphs later readers are reminded that this changing demographic “is by no means an exclusively big-city or big-state trend” (p. 12).
A reminder to let go of NIMBY or “not in my backyard” mentality and look for a solution. And, the solution is there, in the segment’s Q&A piece with superintendent Jim D. Rollins of the Springdale School District (AR). His district’s solution? “Teach them all” via (p. 12)
Change the way we teach.
In reading the Q&A between Superintendent Rollins and Education Week Staff Writer Denisa R. Superville, ten areas were described of how Springdale district leaders and teachers changed the way they teach (p. 12, paraphrased/summarized below):
Teacher Professional Development focused on Diversity (e.g., 40% of certified teachers earned ESL endorsements)
Created programs for new students’ language needs
Adjusted delivery of instruction
Organized instructional time differently
Engaged in more cooperative learning
Engage in studies of generational poverty and interfaced findings / needs at the school level
Adjust classes, create new (e.g., shelter) classes
Make decisions using ongoing assessment data
Reorganize enrollment process
Create family literacy model where families were brought to school to learn alongside their children
An enrollment challenge met by keeping the focus, “teach them all.” Near the end of the published interview, the superintendent adds, “These are just children. They deserve our best effort. We may well have to redefine ourselves in order to serve those needs” (p. 12).
At Studer Education and Studer Group we always include a “Connect to Purpose” during employee engagement and professional development events. Recently, my colleague shared that “Connect to Purpose” serves as a reminder to us about “why we are here,” and that it connects to the reason we work hard, every day, to make education a better place for students, families, employees, educators, and leaders. Today, we are reminded no matter what the challenges we face as educators and educational leaders, “These are just children. They deserve our best effort.” Thank you, Superintendent Rollins and employees in Springdale School District, for being our connect to purpose.
Maxwell, Lesli A. (August 20, 2014). U.S. School enrollment Hits Majority-Minority Milestone. Education Week. Accessed online here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/20/01demographics.h34.html.
Superville, Denisa R. (August 20, 2014). Q&A: An Arkansas School District’s Response to Population Change: Arkansas district chief shares lessons. Education Week. Accessed online here: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/20/01demographics.h34.html.
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