Friday, October 28, 2011

A New Standard of Education

It was good to return to school on Thursday morning after spending several days at another high school in Massachusetts as the chairperson of a school accreditation team. As a member of the commission for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), I have the opportunity each year to lead of team of teachers and administrators in the process of evaluating the educational practices, leadership, and funding at another accredited high school. Each visit provides a great opportunity not only to provide professional service to another community, but also to work with educators from other school districts and to gain a deeper understanding of the standards by which NEASC accredits its member schools.

The accreditation process helps schools toward the achievement of high standards through a process of self-reflection, goal-setting, and peer review. NEASC has established seven standards by which they guide all aspects of school effectiveness, from teaching and learning to resources and funding. We are fortunate in that these standards are rigorous and require that schools are responsive to students' needs.

In 2011 the association updated its standards to address the obvious ways the world has changed and to meet the needs of 21st century learning. There are so many ways that the world has changed for our students' generation. The video below, put together by educational thinker Scott McLeod, shows the many ways technology has altered our global society.

In Thomas Friedman's book The World Is Flat he documented the way technology and social change have created a true global marketplace in which our students must compete. Likewise, in Tony Wagner's book The Global Achievement Gap he talked about the importance of teaching "survival skills" that can help our students adapt to the ever-changing workplace.

We are fortunate that NEASC has considered these changes in the most recent update of the standards for accreditation. The standards have placed an emphasis on 21st century learning, requiring schools to consider how to change their practices in order stay responsive to students' needs. Today's learners not only need the content knowledge to become socially literate, but also the skills that will allow them to use technology effectively, collaborate across networks, think creatively, and communicate with clarity and focus. As Karl Fisch, one of the co-creators of the "Did You Know" videos stated, "We are currently preparing students for jobs that don't exist, using technologies that haven't been invented, in order to solve problems we don't even know are problems yet."

When you think about schools in those terms, it can make the job of teaching and learning seem unattainable. Fortunately, the NEASC standards provide a framework by which schools can approach these challenges and set a new standard for public education.

At Nipmuc, we have begun the process of identifying our core values and beliefs as we prepare to determine our 21st century learning expectations. I look forward to gaining feedback from our entire school community as we hold true to the strengths that define our school while complementing our curriculum with the skills that will guide our students toward success.

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