A message from Gladys Cruz

Redefining Readiness

February 24. 2017 

Superintendents in our BOCES region continue to engage in conversations that focus on better preparing students for college, the workforce and active citizenship.

In mid-January, Questar III BOCES organized a roundtable to provide business, higher education and school leaders with the opportunity to both share and listen to different perspectives – and to provide the BOCES with feedback to create a white paper on readiness.

We opened our meeting with a panel discussion featuring Chatham Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo; Jhone Ebert, Senior Deputy Commissioner for Education Policy for the State Education Department (SED); Jim Baldwin, President of Excelsior College; and F. Michael Tucker, President of Tucker Strategies, Inc. Each leader provided wonderful insight into how readiness impacts our region and discussed possible strategies for improving outcomes and opportunities for collaboration.

Following our panel, we broke into small table discussions. More than 40 individuals provided feedback, which was later shared with SED, school personnel from our 23 districts and BOCES, and all participants. I was impressed by the level of dialogue and the group’s commitment to this topic. This is important. After all, it is something that impacts us all.

Participants identified some areas that need to be addressed to improve readiness:

How should we redefine readiness?

A larger group (not just the Board of Regents) should define readiness given that it affects many systems.

Customers or consumers evaluate businesses on what they produce thus schools must focus more on producing things rather than accumulating or reciting facts. Knowing facts may help students on exams, but it does not address readiness or help them in the workplace.

What skills/experiences should our students have upon leaving the P-12 system?

Students should complete a variety of experiences while in school. These experiences should include authentic work-based experiences to learn first-hand about careers and workplace expectations. Experiences of this nature can also help students figure out what interests them (or not).

Students need to learn to work in hands-on collaborative-gaining environments – similar to what we provide in career and technical education (CTE) and Tech Valley High School.

Students need to be able to fail – that it is a way for them to learn from their experience. The learning process is as important as the end results.

The skills sought by business, higher education and others included: communications; teamwork; resilience; social and emotional control; ability to accept directions; self-direction; advocacy and knowing where to go for help; lifelong learning; conflict resolution; work ethic; honesty; integrity; discipline; self-awareness; self-evaluation; open-mindedness; self-responsibility; data analysis; assessing the validity of information; collaboration and the ability to work with different groups; and problem-solving.

What systems must change to prepare our students for the future?

To me, this was the most important question we posed to the group. Participants indicated that there are significant statutory and regulatory limitations that prevent the public education system from improving its practices, processes and outcomes. Looking ahead, we need the State Board of Regents and SED to provide bold leadership to break down the barriers of long-standing policies and expectations, from graduation requirements to connections with outside groups. Listed below are some key areas that surfaced during the conversations.

Connections between systems

  • There is a need for better alignment and collaboration among the P-12, higher education, business and state systems. Collaborations exist in pockets across the region and state.
  • Learning is a continuum within the P-20 larger system and not all students need to experience the same road map.
  • Skills such as communication, collaboration, teamwork, etc. need to be part of the everyday experience of students in the P-20 environment as these are essential skills needed for success.
  • The P-20 system needs to address the growing needs in our communities. Programs and supports for students on coping and dealing with anxiety, mental health, suicide or other issues must be available to those who need them.
  • Partnerships between the P-12 system, higher education, and business partners should be expanded across the state (such as the P-TECH model).
  • We need to look at extending the BOCES CTE model, particularly the use of consultant committees that provide guidance on industry trends, required skills and curriculum.

Graduation requirements

  • The state must review and align its high school graduation requirements to the current reality of our times. The Regents diploma does not have the currency it should because it does not represent the skills students now need to be successful.
  • A mandatory internship or senior project experience in high school should be part of high school graduation requirements.

Teaching

  • Instruction in the classroom must change. The P-20 system is focused on acquiring facts instead of the importance of skills (such as communications, problem-solving and teamwork).
  • Teachers need opportunities to collaborate within and across departments and grade levels in order to understand the need to change instruction.
  • Teachers will benefit from work outside of the education field such as paid summer internships to better understand the workforce needs – this can lead to changes in pedagogy.

Parents

  • Parent/guardian and community engagement is necessary to ensure student success. This engagement will empower more parents/guardians and communities to help their young people to improve their readiness, educating them on expectations. Businesses and higher education must also engage parents/guardians and their communities.
  • Teachers need professional development on working with parents/guardians and the community.

Want to learn more about readiness? AASA has launched a national initiative that is focused on redefining readiness. The website http://www.redefiningready.org/ has great resources that can be used to have conversations in our districts and BOCES.

Dr. Gladys I. Cruz
District Superintendent
Questar III BOCES
518-479-6882
gcruz@questar.org

cruz