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Superintendents’ Forum: A New Year with a New View

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle: 

By: Dr. Jennifer Murray, Reading School District Superintendent
Thursday, January 5, 2023

The welcoming of this New Year should be accompanied by the heralding of a new view on education to better prepare our students for their futures after graduation.

As leaders in K-12 education, we are guided by the lessons of the past, but our recent experiences have demonstrated that we cannot move forward while looking through the rearview mirror.

Our responsibility to our children’s future remains paramount. We must continue to support them socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Now, we must prepare them for the rapidly changing future by going beyond the traditional notions of pedagogy and instruction.

Success in the future will look different than it did in the past. While K-12 education must continue to prepare our students for rigorous engagement and success in higher education, now, more than ever, K-12 education must ready our graduates for responding to the immediate needs of the professional world, business and industry and the trades. This new view of K-12 education will better equip our students for life after graduation and truly make them college and career ready.

K-12 education must look and operate differently. We must function at a broader, more interconnected level. We will continue to build upon our close relationships with institutions of higher education to allow for seamless transitions into higher education for our graduates who want to pursue degrees. Programs like dual enrollment, College Level Examination Programs and Advancement Placement courses will continue to play a major role in the academic life of our students. Now, we must engage the business world and other industries, from manufacturing to health care, to equip our students with the experiences necessary to succeed after graduation.

Education has been and will continue to be structured around classroom learning. However, recent experience has forced us to rethink our definition of a classroom. Classrooms can be rooms within a traditional brick-and-mortar school building, but we now know that classrooms can be so much more.

A classroom could be within a professional office building where a student is placed as an intern. A classroom could be a hospital where a student shadows a health care professional and learns about patient care and new medical technologies. A classroom could be a construction site where a student is paired with a master tradesperson as an apprentice while pouring over blueprints and building schematics.

These real-world experiences, outside of the traditional four walls, cannot be replicated in a classroom. Better still, for many students, there will be a unique combination of the traditional and evolving view of the classroom.

Here in the Reading School District, we have prioritized this evolution. It is helping us to broaden the definition of success for our students. We continue to encourage and support our students to strive for higher education, but we understand that the path to success can be achieved through other avenues. Our goal is to expose our students to our community at large and the rich opportunities that lie within it, particularly among our alumni.

We know that it is important for our students to engage in real-world work experiences during their high school years, regardless of their plans after graduation. These experiences expose our students to the infinite possibilities that are within their reach. These experiences help our students to inform themselves on their journey, and they allow our students to begin developing professional networks of their own.

K-12 education should not only be a history lesson. It must be responsive and forward-thinking. To best prepare our students beyond their K-12 education, we must adopt a new view and do things differently.

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