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In October, we released a proposed vision statement for Jeffco Public Schools called Generations: A Learning-Centered Vision for our Community’s Schools. Since that time, we’ve had deep and engaging conversations across Jeffco about the ideas in that report to determine if they are the right “fit” for Jeffco going forward.
Generations focuses on three main areas. First (and rightly), “Learning!” More specifically, it asks us to consider how we can profoundly change the student learning experience to be authentic, meaningful, and connected to the world outside of school. Second, the Generations report discusses the “Conditions for Learning,” and that learning happens best with the facilitation of a professional educator and in an environment of high expectations. Finally, Generations discusses “Readiness for Learning,” and that our schools and community must work to get our children to school ready to learn and to remove barriers to learning that stand in their way.
As this work moves from the vetting of ideas and into implementation, we must also consider how to measure our current state, and how we will know if we are making progress in achieving our short, intermediate, and long-range goals.
Identifying the best educational measures is somewhat an exercise in convenience and comparability. That is, we frequently choose measures that are readily available (such as state test scores) and those that provide us a comparison by which to benchmark ourselves (such as four-year graduation rates, which are a common measure across systems).
But these are not the only considerations. More importantly, our measures should be based on our values, and what we want our schools to accomplish – and these concepts are sometimes more difficult to quantify.
For example, we want our students to achieve well academically (which we can use standardized tests to measures) and to successfully graduate (which we can measure with graduation rates), but we also want our students to be engaged and excited about learning. We want our parents and community engaged, as well. And, we want our schools to be safe and operationally well-managed. Few would argue these other concepts are unimportant, but their measurement becomes less obvious and we must get more creative in how we evaluate them.
This might all come down to how we, as a community, answer the question, “what makes a great school?” With this as the leading question, we can let our aspirations begin to define our measures, rather than letting our measures define our aspiration.
Looking ahead, Jeffco Public Schools will be publishing a strategic plan in the spring based on the Generations report and the conversations happening in our community right now. That plan will include a series of system-level measures designed to evaluate the current state of our schools, as well as more internal system measures designed to evaluate our progress on implementing our vision.
I encourage you to get involved in this conversation. One way is to visit with your local school principal and find out how they are hosting conversations on the Generations report in your neighborhood or area. Another is to join-in on the Jeffco Generations Conversation group on Facebook. Just search for “Jeffco Generations Conversation” and request to join.
I look forward to continuing these conversations, and hearing from Jeffco about “what makes a great school” for our kids and our community.
Jason Glass is the superintendent for Jefferson County Public Schools. His OpEds will run on the second Thursday of each month.
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