By Kevin Kelley
Schools in the United States must, and will, change, Fairview Park City School administrators said at the annual State of the Schools program Feb. 27 in the auditorium of Fairview High School. They made clear they intend for district schools to be on the cutting edge of those changes.
“At Fairview High School, we feel as though schools of the future will resemble us in the present,” Fairview High School Principal Brady Sheets told the audience of parents. “In other words, I think we are now where other schools will be in years to come.”
Sheets said district schools, like improving schools across the nation, will feature the following attributes:
• blended learning (a combination of traditional and online learning);
• online learning (for both remedial and advanced students);
• digital or flipped classrooms (where videos of lessons are viewed at home and problems are worked on in classroom time, see related story, left; and,
• activity-based lessons (use of technology to implement lessons rather than traditional lecturing).
Barb Brady, the principal of Gilles-Sweet Elementary School, said education is quickly moving away from the traditional model that has been used for more than a century.
“Rather than teaching 800 students to produce the same end product and recite the same information, we are striving to produce 800 unique individuals whose skills are fostered, differences are embraced and critical thinking is nurtured. We want to produce students who are thinkers and challengers, not robots.”
This way, Brady said, critical thinking skills will be fostered to prepare them for jobs that do not yet exist today. Instruction will involve students actively using information in hands-on projects rather than passively absorbing facts by listening to a teacher’s lecture, she explained.
To underscore this approach, students from the district’s elementary and middle schools displayed school projects they created using computer-based technology in the high school cafeteria following the administrators’ presentations.
The district’s director of pupil services, Constance Obrycki, underscored the need for a changed approach by noting that students now in kindergarden will graduate in 2025 and be in the workforce through the middle decades of the 21st century.
“For our children to be successful in tomorrow’s jobs, we must prepare them to be competitive in nonroutine jobs – jobs that are results driven, not goal driven, jobs that require decision making, innovation and creativity,” she said. “And although the United States spends more money on K-12 education than any other developed nation, studies unfortunately show that students in America are not prepared to compete globally.”
Ohio, she noted, is joining 45 other states in implementing a common core of standards in math and reading by the 2014-15 school year. Student testing based on these standards will be done via computers, making results available more quickly to both students and teachers, thus allowing remedial work to begin sooner when necessary.
In his remarks, Superintendent Brion Deitsch noted that public education in America attempts to address both excellence and equality, goals that can be in conflict. The only entrance exam for the Fairview Park City Schools, he said, was to have a Fairview Park address, he noted.
The district’s goal, he said, is to ensure that all students are career- and college-ready when they graduate.
“In education, we have to change and evolve,” the superintendent said. Technology, he said, is not a replacement for teachers but instead a tool for teachers and students. Technology can help personalize the educational process, he said, and help education move away from the “one size fits all” approach that had been used.
On the financial side, Treasurer Ryan Ghizzoni said the district could see a 25-percent increase in state funding under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget. But he warned that amount could decrease as the governor’s budget goes through the state legislature.
Even so, Ghizzoni explained that Kasich’s budget simply restores Fairview Park City Schools Columbus-based funding to what it was in 2003.
The district’s budget is balanced through 2015, Ghizzoni said, meaning no request for new taxes from homeowners until then. A new levy request could be postponed until 2017 if Kasich’s budget is passed as it now stands, he added.