The success of our students is a combined effort of the home, community and school. Research shows that students of diversity, especially economic diversity, thrive when learning together so that achievement gaps are minimalized. Integration of children from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds improves outcomes for children living in poverty, and family and community are important factors in a child’s success. Strong academic programs that challenge our students in all academic concentrations will lead them to be Career and College ready.
The Thurgood Marshal Alliance suggests the following that can be done from a school system perspective:
- Setting an enrollment goal that is majority middle income, between 25% and 40% low income(FARMS), and with no single race/ethnicity comprising more than 60% of the enrollment.
- We would need to look at our own goals in these areas based on our current school populations. Also we need the County Government involvement to develop fair housing and developers to commit a portion for low income residents.
- Prioritizing inclusive educational programming, so that the school’s enrollment diversity infuses each child’s daily experiences. Have a curriculum that reflects our students’ diversity and that spills over into their home and community lives.
- Providing holistic student supports, including health and mental health services, and both after-school and summer learning opportunities.
- Committing to serve all children, including those with special needs and those for whom English is a second language
Elementary School Model
The ESM is a four-year pilot that is in its second year. Preliminary feedback has been positive and as data reveals progress, I would like to see expansion in all the elementary schools. One of the strongest components of the model is full day Pre-K for all students in the community. Research shows that early intervention as well as a student’s social-behavioral readiness for Kindergarten can improve academic outcomes for students. Other components of the model include daily world language. There is a critical time period for second language acquisition for children, and children that acquire a second language have better overall academic outcomes. Pre K and world language are research proven methods for eliminating achievement gaps. Strengths development for students as well as teachers and parent engagement is another component. Departmentalization allows for strong content teaching for students. Current review includes observations and surveys. Soon we will have more objective assessment data to review outcomes.
The ESM pilot encompasses the whole child and prepares students for the future. Here is an overview of the components:
- World language every day: One of the critical need areas for our students of the future is to be bi-lingual for the next generation jobs and careers. Research shows that there is a critical age, about age 7, when language needs to be acquired to be fluent as an adult.
- Departmentalization Learning and Teaching: Teachers can focus on the subject area they teach best, and their strength, expertise and talent enhances the teaching and learning experience for the children.
Having the ability for a child to see their strengths for themselves and in working with others will guide them along their education journey and keep them focused when they need to make critical decisions regarding course work and careers in the future. It will guide them in critical thinking and team building skills.
All Day Pre-K
Early intervention is critical. Academic success is predictive based on looking at the academic interventions from 3-years-old to 3rd grade. Early identification and intervention are required for our most vulnerable student groups.
Telehealth keeps students healthy and in the classroom. It’s an opportunity for preventative and immediate care in the school to keep kids healthy and ready to learn.
We also need to recognize achievement gaps at the other end of the spectrum. We need to continue to provide a rigorous curriculum to those students that have talents that challenge and exceed our curriculum in our GT programs.
Bridge Academic Excellence
Equity and achievement for every student in every school in Howard County. Striving for excellence among all students, making sure no child gets forgotten during the middle school transition years, and seeing that all students have opportunities to succeed. The Elementary School Model includes full day pre-k and World Language daily for all students, and the method of teaching involved gives student the engagement and tools they need for success. Look at new opportunities for IB programs as well as programs for music and arts.
Common Core Standards
Maryland and Howard County have adopted the common core standards as a minimum level for our students. HCPSS continues to develop their own curriculum to not only meet those standards but go above and beyond for a world class education.
Teachers and Staff
Teachers and professionals, and all staff can only be successful if they have the training and professional development and technology tools to perform their job. Give them the resources and fair compensation to be successful since they are the backbone of the school system.
Assessments should be designed to assist with development of a students needs and not just a test. For the rest of our lives in whatever career path we chose there on continuous assessments to meet the standards of any one industry. Use assessments in education as a teaching tool, but not as a judgment of ones learning. Look at multiple methods of assessment. Make sure that our teachers have the training they need for administration of the PARCC assessments.