The work of transforming our educational systems is certainly not easy.
Our teachers, support staff members and administrators are working hard to adjust our practices and embrace new expectations that will prepare students for success regardless of where they choose to go to school. These changes will ensure that we better prepare students and achieve greater outcomes in student performance.
In the Durango School District, we recognize that the importance of student proficiency in reading, writing and math is of utmost importance, but we also recognize that students need a solid foundation in science, social studies, health, music, art and physical education. We continue to offer opportunities for students to build skills in technical areas including woods, metals, agriculture and culinary arts – just to name a few. We also recognize that work ethic, character and collaboration are critical to their success.
In 2009, Colorado released a new set of academic standards that clearly define what students need to know and be able to do in all content areas and at all grade levels. These stretch beyond the basics and include clear expectations in science, social studies, art, music, physical education, dance and more.
In 2010, the state compared them to the new national standards – often referred to as the Common Core Standards. Without much work, the Colorado Academic Standards were aligned to make sure that students in Colorado master the same set of expectations as students across our nation.
This has become quite the political conversation as the standards have begun to transform our schools. These standards were developed not by the federal government, but by a team formed by the National Governor’s Association to address the lack of consistency in student expectations.
Many who criticize the standards have never read them, can’t site a specific concern and simply seem to jump on the bandwagon. In Durango, we find these standards to be critical to better preparing students for life – both college and workforce. They shift us from regurgitation to mastery of skill through application and raise the bar for success.
Critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving skills are embedded in all content and grade levels throughout these standards and truly will prepare students beyond simply memorizing information for tests.
I encourage you to review the standards before passing judgment. Our work in Durango is to ensure that we support our great teachers by identifying needed resources and to provide training and support to take our students to new levels in their learning.
Next year, the state of Colorado will begin assessing these standards, which will result in a very different view of student proficiency in our public schools. In an effort to support this change, our district is working hard to transform our own assessment system, transitioning from the old way of “testing” to assessing students throughout the year in a more embedded fashion.
To learn more, contact me. Schools are holding sessions to inform parents of these changes. Ask your principal when he or she might hold such a meeting. Visit the Colorado Department of Education website, www.cde.state.co.us, to look at the standards. I am open to your feedback and happy to share more.
Daniel Snowberger is the superintendent of the Durango School District. Reach him at DSnowberger@durango.k12.co.us.