Change and Progress

The change of seasons always has me thinking about change. Isn’t it interesting how time seemed to move slowly when we were kids, and as we get a few miles behind us, nearly everything seems to be changing rapidly? I am old enough to remember using a pay phone, watching black and white television, and handing the clerk actual money to make a purchase, not just a plastic card. I admit I can recall when FM radio was the new thing, and remember spending hours in school learning to write in cursive! Can I get a witness? Much has changed, and I dare say much of the change is for the better.  Tony Robbins reminds us that “Change is INEVITABLE. Progress is OPTIONAL.”

Progress is not optional for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, or for our students. Progress requires innovation, and that’s exactly what KCKPS is all about. How so, you might ask? Let me share just a few examples. It’s been 10 years since we began our 1-1 Laptops for Learning program in our high schools. KCKPS stakeholders recognized a decade ago that technology was and is a driver of innovation in our world. Today, beginning in kindergarten, our students utilize technology resources every day to apply what they are learning in real world situations. Learning to write no longer means practicing the formation of letters; rather, writing is about communicating, producing, researching, and more.

Progress means our curriculum and school experiences have been redesigned to ensure each student is prepared for college and careers in a global society. Prepared means our students graduate with their high school diploma, plus one or more endorsements (www.kckps.org/diplomaplus), validating that our students have the skills they need for future success.

Progress means our high schools are transforming into Academies, aligning the way our students learn with what is required in industries, and student’s future career aspirations. Our classrooms are “noisy” with conversations about the learning. Questioning and exploring is commonplace. Talking between and among peers is encouraged. Students work together to produce research, and work on projects that demonstrate shared learning of the concepts. Teachers design projects, informed by business needs, to give our students real-world and relevant experiences. Our students are not asked to find the “right” answer, but to generate multiple solutions to a problem, test their hypotheses, and write and speak about their learning. Field trips are now career exploration excursions. Lessons and assignments actively teach collaboration, teamwork, technical reading and writing, leadership, flexibility, innovation, solution orientation, and problem-solving skills.

Classroom environments are rapidly changing as well. “Flexible” seating permeates our learning environments. Comfortable seating, stand-up desks, desks with no legs, bouncy balls, and “wiggle” chairs (that look like mushrooms) are emerging at all levels. Tables are arranged for collaboration, students work together in teams, and they share their work through technology platforms (like Google Docs).

Today, schools in KCKPS are profoundly different than they were a generation ago. They are no longer simply about preparing students for more school. Rather, Diploma+ is about preparing our students both for post-secondary education, and for the high-demand careers and jobs that will be the foundation of our future prosperity. I am proud of our KCKPS team, and the many partners who support Diploma+.  Innovation is what we do. Producing leaders for today and tomorrow is what we are all about. It’s Up to Us!

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