District looks for new perspective on education

      The Delavan-Darien School Board heard a presentation on April 10 about how it could look at how it educates its students in a new way that might better serve them. The presentation was made by Scott Carr of CESA 7.

      DD Tech Administrator Mike Rick said the district should consider reshaping education to fit the needs of its students. Carr said the district had already made a great step in creating the DD Tech charter school, but he argued that the style of education done there should be the rule across the board.

      “We need to redefine what we think of as student success,” Carr said.

      Carr said the Delavan-Darien district and even this entire region is a sleeping giant for the type of education he was talking about. The main focus he promoted was career readiness, not achievement. The traditional form of education focuses on achievement and that is reflected by the great emphasis the state report card places on the ACT test, a test many students see no relevance in. That, he and D-DHS Principal Jim Karedes said, makes the scores inaccurate measures of student success.

      Carr said the focus of education should be on making students life and career ready. He said about 20 school districts in the region, including this one, are already working on considering or adopting this philosophy. He said there have already been three or four meetings with district staff about it.

      Interim Administrator Anthony Klein said he was not looking for formal board approval of a shift to the new philosophy at this meeting. He just wanted to gauge the board’s interest in moving forward with exploring it and paying money to Carr to help with that. The board voted unanimously to continue to explore it despite there being some questions about it.

      Carr explained the philosophy as looking at education like an educational ecosystem that creates a relationship between the class room, the school system, and the community. He said focusing solely on achievement does not prepare all students for the economy that waits them after high school. He said that while 60 to 70 percent of students go on to college, only 25 percent graduate with a four-year degree and many leave college with over $50,000 in debt.

      Carr said the traditional way to look at school is to place the school at the center. Instead, he said, the student should be at the center. He also said the school should create opportunities for students, not responsibilities. In other words, the activities students do in class should be things the students want to do, not things they are only doing because they have to. School lessons should be, according to Carr, relevant to the students so they can be self-guided learners.

      The skills students acquire by doing this include creative thinking, problem seeking and solving, empathy, collaboration, perseverance, curiosity, and risk taking. Carr said 100 percent of students with those skills and different graduation pathways can graduate from high school. They can also be career ready.

      Carr said Delavan-Darien High School is already further down this path than most in DD Tech, but it should not be segregated. The DD Tech concept should be expanded into all class rooms and could be expanded to the middle and elementary schools with two to three years of work. It could lead to the district being a destination district for teachers and students who are not already in it.

      When later asked what DD Tech is doing that D-DHS is not, Klein said DD Tech was created to better meet the needs of students going down the Career and Technical Education pathways. He said Carr’s ideas involve creating more opportunities and pathways for students regardless of which pathway they go down. Students, he said, need pathways that can help them pursue careers in economics, finance, publishing, political science, and other core areas.

      “Essentially, Mr. Carr is saying the career and readiness focus of DD Tech is what we should be looking to accomplish across the district instead of in ‘isolation’ as a charter school,” Klein said.

      Klein said the district appreciates the value of that approach but is also aware the district is currently judged by achievement standards, not readiness. He said a student could do well on standardized tests, graduate from college, and end up in a low-paying job paying off college debt. The high school in that scenario would be considered good. Another student could do poorly on standardized tests because they don’t see the relevance of them and not go to college. The school then would be considered bad even if the student ends up career ready and successful.

      “The fact that these two scenarios can be true in our grading system suggests we may be measuring the wrong thing,” Klein said. “DD Tech was developed to show the opportunities that focusing on readiness over strictly ‘achievement’ can provide to our students and community.”

For the full story, please see the print edition of the Delavan Enterprise.

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