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Consortium asks parents to help create new educational environment
Officials from a consortium of North Texas school districts gave parents a primer on their efforts to "transform" public education in Texas at a community meeting Monday in Plano.
The presentation, sponsored by the Plano ISD Council of PTAs, was led by representatives from the North Texas Regional Visioning Consortium, an organization consisting of administration, staff and school board members from nine North Texas school districts, including Plano.
Dan Mossakowski, president of the Frisco ISD school board, began by asking parents a not-so-simple question: Will today's kindergarteners be prepared for the jobs available when they graduate high school in 2026?
"Think about ... how many things have changed in your lifetime, and what that means for our kids' lifetimes," he said. "It's going to change three, four, fivefold from what we experienced."
It was this changing landscape that led the consortium to develop a visioning document that would serve as a "roadmap" for all districts in transitioning to an educational model that emphasizes 21st-century skill sets and "active" learning, Mossakowski said.
"The good jobs in the future are really going to be rewarded to individuals that know that creative thinking," he said. "They know how to problem solve they know how to work together as a team."
One of the ways schools can do this, Mossakowski said, is by creating a "digital learning environment." As an example, the audience was shown a video clip from Harrison Central High School in Gulfport, Miss., in which students use technology in real-world, lesson-reinforcing applications.
"It's only happening in small pockets, and we need to create that type of collaboration," Mossakowski said.
Mossakowksi then posited that learning should be "specified to a profound level," adding that assessment should recognize deeper learning, not rote memorization of facts. Furthermore, he said, assessments could be administered in a manner that's in line with community -- not just state -- standards.
"There's a lot of things that determine if a business is successful, not just one test," he said. "Yet we still think its OK to do it in public education."
Plano ISD Trustee Missy Bender said Plano ISD has already implemented many of the ideas developed with the consortium, from enabling campuses with wireless Internet before it was the norm to launching three secondary-level academies focusing each on problem-based learning, the study of health sciences and the International Baccalaureate program.
"That's why we did the academy, because it's a model of instruction, and we will take what we learn there and scale up the rest of the district," Bender said, adding her district was partially inspired by Coppell's New Tech High for the academies.
Communities can build support for not only new ideas but legislative change by building awareness both internally and externally in their communities. Together, she said, parents can tackle everything from classroom technology to high-stakes testing if they can garner the proper support.
"If you can get your friends together, we can turn the tides on some important stuff," she said.
Tammy Hooker, a Plano ISD parent attending the meeting, said as a human resources professional she recognizes the importance of teamwork and innovation and hopes that current students will be able to learn those traits in next-generation schools.
"It alarms me that businesses in Plano saw that 18 years ago, and we're just now addressing it," she said. "But I'm encouraged that we're catching up to it."