Simon Sinek, whose Youtube video serves to motivate those driving and experiencing change, accentuates the most important element in the change process--Why. His model, the Golden Circle, explains that change can be organized into three areas: what, how, and why. Too often, leaders emphasize the “what” and “how” but fail to communicate the “why.” This is a most appropriate question to ask ourselves at Avonworth: why change?
To be honest, we are doing pretty well. Our students are graduating from high school at a high rate. SAT and ACT scores are commendable. We have received state and national recognition for our educational programs. But, I always question, can we be better? I want every student at Avonworth to be prepared to attain their first choice upon graduation in whatever they want to pursue. Likewise, I want them to truly find school meaningful and for school to prepare them to be ready for all of life’s challenges and to perhaps, change the world.
Many of you may be aware that we have been evolving as a school district for some time now. We have slowly been integrating subject areas through interdisciplinary projects. Over the past several years, we have provided professional development on project-based learning and encouraged teachers to try new things in their classes. Through great partnerships, we have also been providing more and more authentic experiences for our students both within and outside the school walls. I can tell you that the depth of knowledge and level of engagement for our students through these experiences is truly powerful.
Coincidentally, our mission statement for our strategic plan, which was established four years ago through the work of teachers, administrators, parents, and community members, captures the notion of what today’s learners need as it reads:
Avonworth School District empowers students through authentic experiences to be creative, innovative thinkers.
Years ago, in preparation for the work of the strategic planning committee, multiple conversations took place between our staff and people in the workforce. Our team visited places like FedEx, where we asked the question of their executives: what are you looking for in the candidates that you are considering for hire?. We kept hearing the same message: we hire people who can collaborate, are flexible, can learn new things, can communicate, and that can problem-solve. This message has been confirmed through a greater body of research. Therefore, it only makes sense that we embed these qualities and characteristics in the learning experiences of our students to best prepare them for their future.
As you know, the Pennsylvania Core Standards provides guidance on the skills and content for curriculum. Focusing on literacy, numeracy, and an innovative spirit in the early grades ensures our students have the foundation to master the rigor of the PA Core Standards. In addition, incorporating project-based learning and interdisciplinary teaching, and the creative use of space and time, will provide the rich, deep-dive learning experience for our students. High-performing countries such as Finland have also utilized these elements to ensure their students have the very best learning experiences.
Rest assured, we plan to move forward very intentionally as we continue to evolve as a district. These changes are not so much about immediacy, but about doing things at a pace that makes sense. Professional development will support our teachers and prepare them to integrate innovative teaching methods. You will likely notice these changes much like what is occurring now: a slow and steady, purposeful progression towards more meaningful and engaging learning experiences.
Below is a graphic that includes the critical elements of the Pathways to the Future program that I believe will result in our students being academically prepared, and socially equipped to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
I also want to share with you a special website that has been created to support Pathways to the Future. This website provides important links to literature and research regarding the elements of the program: https://avonworthsd.wixsite.com/pathwaystothefuture
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