Ann Riebock: District 41 confronting 21st century challenges
Every school is different, even within the same district.
One reason people get attached to their school is because of the million little things that make it what it is — the people, traditions and so on. But when we look at successful schools, we see some similarities: Successful schools build a picture of success for each student, are not complacent about achievement and are able to tackle difficult improvement efforts. Glen Ellyn School District 41 is taking a fresh look at its four elementary schools and asking, “Are we as successful as we can be?”
We ask this knowing that:
• The early years are crucial in preparing children for lifelong success;
• Our children need to be critical thinkers, problem-solvers and collaborators;
• Our children need a background in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math); and
• Our children will be assessed on the New Common Core Standards, which bump up the curriculum by a grade level if not more; and
• Our children will face global competition for college acceptance and jobs.
We are diverse: 30 percent minority, 19 percent low-income and 12 percent limited English. Some children come to us with every advantage while others have huge challenges.
We are striving to design a better way. This effort started with our Long-Range Plan and with research on 21st century learning by a team called the District 41 Think Tank.
Many goals have emerged: We want our learners to have a STEAM curriculum. We want our teachers to be able to go deeply into their subjects. We want our children to thrive in a rigorous learning environment grounded (as it is today) in strong relationships led by adults who care about them. And we want to give children what they need, when they need it, by understanding them as individuals.
Now we are into the hard part — translating these ideas into a change effort that stakeholders understand and support.
I encourage everyone in our community to visit www.d41.org/thinktank.htm. There is a lot to grapple with, but everyone I’ve spoken with is eager to understand where we are and why we need to adapt.
We don’t know what will finally emerge from the Think Tank conversation. But we do know that we need to adapt so that our children are equipped to succeed in school and in a changing world.
Ann Riebock is superintendent of Glen Ellyn School District 41
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