LAFAYETTE - Recently, high school principals in the Boulder Valley School District gathered along with representatives from local businesses, higher education and community organizations to have a robust discussion about the future of education and what, specifically, our graduates need in order to succeed in whatever college or career pathway they may choose.
“The purpose was to engage an array of community stakeholders -- key partners with the Boulder Valley School District,” explained BVSD Assistant Superintendent of School Leadership Dr. Marc Schaffer. “We wanted to hear from them. As we prepare our students to enter college, career and community -- what are they looking for? How can we best serve our graduates by preparing them for the world beyond high school?”
While there have been similar discussions previously in BVSD, the meeting on February 27 was inspired by new graduation requirements recently mandated by the State of Colorado and adopted by BVSD.
“As we are looking at the new graduation requirements for 2021, I think we are really taking a step back and auditing and evaluating the way we serve our students PK- 12 and really taking a look at what is a profile of a graduate,” Schaffer said.
Each principal was encouraged to invite at least one guest from their community, resulting in a vibrant discussion regarding the attributes needed from today’s graduates.
“I was really surprised. What a broad group of thinkers coming to the table from education association reps to business folks with ties to trade in China to just intellectuals working in think tanks,” said Kyle Mathews, the high school principal at Peak to Peak Charter School and host of the event. “I thought it was a beautiful collaboration opportunity. I wish we would have had the whole day or the whole week.”
Mathews suggested the idea of a roundtable after the high school principals read Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith.
“The last couple years I’ve been studying Tony Wagner’s work on reinventing schools,” explained Mathews. “[During the group reading of Most Likely to Succeed], we thought about what high achievement means and growth for all students and where the gaps were in the opportunities. Our grads are coming out of all of our great high schools in BVSD. Are they truly ready, not just for their college classes, but the internships, the apprenticeships, the teaching assistant jobs and to actually be productive contributors to wherever they are going to find themselves globally? We want to be sure that we are creating students who are truly ready to embrace the opportunities that are out there.”
So, the principals gathered experts from different fields and listened.
“We took back a lot of feedback, a lot of notes. We did a lot of listening,” said Schaffer.
There were a lot of great ideas.
In many cases, the participants’ suggestions were supportive of the work already happening in BVSD, especially with the educational innovation initiatives.
“I would definitely say that it was affirming and validating to the work that we are currently doing,” Schaffer said. “First and foremost, they spoke to the need for authentic skills. Kids need to be able to engage in more real life and real-world experiences. Additionally, they spoke about using technology in ways that support education to reach out globally so we are not just limited to Boulder.”
Participants also encouraged BVSD to take advantage of the great opportunities in its backyard, by developing more partnerships with the universities and businesses in the area.
“The more we can do that, the more that we can teach our kids the soft skills and the partnership skills and the collaboration and seeing the diversity, I think we are going to get innovations left and right. It won’t just be college students at Stanford or CalTech or Carnegie Mellon. It will be every grad in BVSD will have innovative approaches to solving problems in the future. That is my biggest hope for the future,” Mathews said.
Finally, everyone agreed that this is only the beginning.
“Our commitment was that this was not going to be a one and done. I think we would have lost a lot if we had this one moment in time and didn’t have the opportunity to continue the conversation and the dialog,” Schaffer said.
“We need to carry on. We cannot lose the momentum we started there,” Mathews said.
The high school principals hope to expand the conversation during the 2018-19 school year, so it includes the entire PK-12 spectrum. Additionally they hope to involve teachers, staff and especially students in future conversations.