Don’t Think Outside the Box—Make a New Box

Guest post by Janice Case, a consultant, certified trainer, and educator with more than 20 years’ experience in public and private school education.

For school leaders and counselors, implementing the Common Core State Standards is not about thinking outside the box. It is about transforming the box itself (NASSP, NAESP, College Summit, Achieve, 2013). Now, more than ever, we’re charged with ensuring that all students are college and career ready when they graduate from high school. So what does it take, exactly, to create a graduating class that is 100 percent college and career ready? The answer: implementing a college-going culture.

We’ve spent a lot of research dollars and time on academics that support preparing students to be college and career ready. There has been less focus on how school leaders go about creating and implementing a truly college-going culture.

My session at Ignite ’15, “Implementing a College-Going Culture: Readiness,” will ask you to roll up your sleeves and identify key, targeted actions to transform your school into a learning arena where every adult and every student is committed to a postsecondary path that includes extended learning opportunities. We will delve into specific messages including Creating Opportunities that Stick, a K–12 Approach to College, School Personalization, and the Principal as the Glue. Our learning will be aligned with the Accomplished Principal Standards. Specifically, we will target:

Standard III: Teaching and Learning

Accomplished principals ensure that teaching and learning are the primary focus of their organizations. As stewards of learning, these principals lead the implementation of a rigorous, relevant, and balanced curriculum. They work collaboratively to implement a common instructional framework that aligns curriculum with teaching, assessment, and learning while providing a common language for instructional quality that guides teacher conversation, practice, observation, evaluation, and feedback. They know a full range of pedagogy and make certain that all adults have the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary to support student success.

Standard IV: Knowledge of Students and Adults

Accomplished principals ensure that each student and adult in the learning community is known and valued. These principals develop systems so that individuals are supported socially, emotionally, and intellectually in their development, learning, and achievement.

Standard V: Culture

Accomplished principals inspire and nurture a culture of high expectations, where actions support the common values and beliefs of the organization. These principals build authentic, productive relationships that foster a collaborative spirit. They honor the culture of the students, adults, and larger community, demonstrating respect for diversity and ensuring equity. They create and maintain a trusting, safe environment that promotes effective adult practice and student learning.

In That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman articulates four specific skills that are required of college-ready students (noting that college-eligible is not necessarily the same thing as college-ready). He says that students must be able to:

  • Conduct research and apply that research to solve problems or address a particular issue
  • Identify areas for research, narrow those topics and adjust research methodology as necessary, and evaluate and synthesize primary and secondary resources as they develop and defend their own conclusions
  • Apply skills and knowledge across the content areas to solve real-world problems
  • Model real-world situations and persevere in solving complex and novel problems

With these skills in mind, school leaders are certain to understand the need for getting rid of the box all together. It is clear that the traditional signs of success—a 4.0 GPA, a 1300 SAT score, a full slate of activities, and a plethora of volunteer experiences—no longer guarantee that a student is college ready. Our work at Ignite will uncover the whys behind this and, together with Friedman’s identified skills, help us begin to see how we can—on behalf of students—transform our schools into college-ready environments.

Meet Janice Case at Ignite ‘15 where she will lead a session titled Implementing a College-Going Culture: Readiness.” Learn more and register for Ignite ’15 here.

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