Focus on college and career ready students

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z 2013-02-17T00:13:04Z Focus on college and career ready studentsBy Peggy Buffington
February 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Educators in Northwest Indiana entered 2012 with their eyes sharply focused on helping their students grow and learn. Educator roles included “embracing” 21st century learning skills which included the following:

  • Embracing the latest research-based instruction for literacy. Teaching students how to communicate through reading, writing and speaking skills paves the way to success.
  • Embracing problem-solving skills. Rigor and relevancy through problem-based learning provides students with opportunities to solve “real” issues in society that are critical for competing in the global economy.
  • Embracing technology tools that students and the world use in their everyday lives is essential.
  • Embracing the uniqueness of learning by Responding to Instruction  when kids need different strategies to learn and grow.
  • Embracing assessment tools that can give results which measure college and career readiness standards. These types of assessments are necessary to provide information on how to help students improve academically to be ready for higher education and careers.
  • Embracing opportunities for concurrent college credit classes while in high school.

Instruction has never been more personal and individualized, thanks to teachers using the latest research, assessments and technology made available to help pinpoint targeted needs for their students. The results are yielding learners who are achieving higher and ready for college and careers.

One of the highlights of 2012 was the number of students in Northwest Indiana receiving college credit while attending high school through courses that are college credit bearing and delivered by high school teachers with the same robust expectations as college professors.

In Northwest Indiana, there were 453 dual credit courses being taught in 41 schools across the region. These classes were accredited by 10 postsecondary schools for a total of 9,200 dual credits being earned (data provided by the Center of Workforce Innovations).

Many students graduated high school with at least one college class on their transcript, while others graduated with a full semester or an entire year completed. This is worth celebrating! Why? Students are graduating without the need for remediation as well as an early start to college, which increases the likelihood of completing a college degree or certification.

The focus on being ready for college and careers has never been more significant for the future of our students and country. According to research from the Lumina Foundation, the knowledge economy requires Americans to develop the skills that are demanded in a globally competitive environment. As a result, increasing higher education attainment is critical to the U.S. economy. The implications of this shift toward a more highly skilled workforce cannot be overstated.

For generations, the American economy created large numbers of middle class jobs that did not require high levels of skill or knowledge. Because of global competition, these jobs are rapidly disappearing.

It is not that low-skill jobs do not exist in the U.S.; it is that the Americans who hold them are not likely to enter or remain in the middle class. They are not likely to have access to quality health care, save for retirement or assure their children access to higher education. Completing some form of higher education is now critical for reaching the middle class.

The eye on education and focus should be clear for 2013: Students are ready for college and careers through K-12 education that paves the way for postsecondary success. This work is difficult and needs proper support from the Legislature, including the following:

* Funding — The Indiana school foundation funding formula is set at the lowest level in a 10-year period. If it is increased, all schools and their students benefit. Responding to the needs of all learners has to have proper funding.

* Early education – Kindergarten should be mandatory and fully funded. Birth to preschool for early intervention and learning is the cornerstone to a successful future.

* Technology – Schools must have robust networks and technology tools to simulate real world applications.

* Assessments – College and career ready assessments need funding. The Educational Planning and Assessment System identifies strengths and weaknesses of learners in response to the need for all students to be prepared for college and careers. EPAS provides a longitudinal, systematic approach to educational and career planning, assessment, instructional support and evaluation. READY NWI (Regional Education/Employer Alliance for Developing Youth), the Center of Workforce Innovations, Northwest Indiana higher education institutions and the Northwest Indiana Educational Service Center stand in partnership to help assure more students are college and career ready.  There are many schools in our area piloting EPAS in conjunction with the READY NWI partnership, which is supported by CWI as well as area industry and businesses.

* Higher education – Concurrent dual-credit college courses in high school are important for increased opportunities for postsecondary degree completion.

* A-F school grading model and accountability – What is the best way to measure growth (mathematically) in all Indiana K-12 schools? Experts in measurement and statisticians should be consulted to make the school grading model fair and accurate for all. Accurate measurement of school achievement and student success is critical for Indiana’s competitiveness.

Now is the time to ensure our students have every opportunity in K-12 education that will provide them with the requirements to go to college or apprenticeship/certification programs. Focus and keep your eye on education.

Peggy Buffington is superintendent of School City of Hobart. The opinion is the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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