As many of us grew up, the “game” of school was passing tests, earning extra credit, and being compliant with what our teachers expected from us. Sadly, sometimes our compliance led to us moving through the system without really gaining the same knowledge and skill as our peers. This has cast a negative light on Public Education as we all hear of stories of students with high school diplomas who are unprepared for the challenges of college, career or the military. While those stories are not highly prevalent in Durango, we want all students to be best prepared for post-secondary success.
Next year, our district continues to shift further into what is now known nationally as Competency Based Education. This approach is already reflected in our new graduation guidelines where students must demonstrate key skills in math, language arts, science and social studies through a variety of ways to earn their diploma from Durango 9-R. With this in place, our attention turns to students in grades pre-k through 11th to design similar expectations of what students need to know and do to be proficient in any given subject.
Our competency based education model requires that students demonstrate mastery of performance indicators identified across the grades through a variety of ways. While we’ve been accustomed to “testing” in our education world, today’s skills often require students actually perform a skill rather than simply mark the right answer or write an appropriate paragraph about it. Teachers from across the district are helping to define criteria this summer, which will be used across the district to ensure common levels of mastery. With four additional days of training for our staff this next school year, together we will work with teachers on these definitions so they can be prepared to help each student find their own personal successes.
Your child may not detect a difference in their classrooms as this becomes more prominent throughout the district; teachers will still use their creativity and passion to teach content and provide students a chance to practice their newly learned skill and apply their attained knowledge. What will look different is the means by which we track student learning. While we’ve all been used to the old A-F system of grading, the reality is that such a reporting mechanism doesn’t really tell us what our students know or don’t know yet.
While we will work to inform parents of how student learning will be reported, it is important to know that the depth of information available to you should increase with student data becoming center to the conversations as we conference on your child’s learning. You may not see an immediate change in paper reporting, but I am hopeful that the conversations you have with your child’s teachers will make a dramatic shift.
Know that Durango is not alone in this movement. Competency based education is a critical element to ensuring that our public education system increases its effectiveness of learning for all children. If we are the pathway to a stronger Durango, a stronger Colorado, and a stronger country, we have to ensure that children – regardless of background – are prepared to lead us into the future.
I’m always happy to dialogue with parents or members of the community about the shifts in our systems. Next year, I will hold a variety of events for simple discussion and exchange of ideas on how we can continue to make our school district a more effective place for our kids.
Have a great summer and we look forward to seeing you and your children next year for another exciting year of learning in Durango 9-R!
Dan Snowberger | Superintendent