In Parkland School Division we talk about having “jumped” and are focused on preparing our children for the 21st Century and the ever-changing global community. For a number of years now, we have been hearing about 21st Century learning skills. Well, we are now in 2013! We are well into the 21st Century and it is safe to say that innovative practices are changing the way that students learn and our teachers teach in PSD schools.
A great figurative example can be found in August of last year, when PSD’s 1,100 staff gathered at MCHS to start the school year. One of the videos shown for our staff on opening day was of a young skier about to launch from a much bigger ski jump than she had ever tried previously. The most compelling part of the video was how she talked herself through it, and the pride she felt once she made the ‘jump’. In PSD, – whether as educators, support staff, or administrators – we regularly talk, share, and show how we have also made that jump.
Our work to move PSD’s Three Year Education Plan forward is grounded in research but more and more it is becoming research in motion – as we see innovation and best-practices from around Alberta and the world, we adapt, we model, and we change our course when necessary. Few people question that the education system we have known for over a hundred years will serve our children in the same way it did our generation. But, shouldn’t we be questioning if a school system established in the 19th century can meet the needs and expectations of 21st century learners? Can we do things just a bit differently? Don’t we owe it to our kids to try? Our children have entered a global community where technology is a tool used daily to support the work in many organizations. That is why, in PSD, our updated mission is all about preparing, engaging and inspiring our students to be their best in a quickly changing global community.
We have heard in recent media accounts that Alberta’s new standardized tests will likely emphasize competency over content, and that Provincial Achievement Tests will be replaced with prototype tests focused on literacy skills and competency. Other exciting innovative opportunities include Alberta Education recently announcing an expansion of the High School Flexibility Enhancement Project that will enable more high schools in Alberta to become involved. Spruce Grove Composite High School was one of the first pilot schools in Alberta over the last three years. During the pilot project at SGCHS, the high school completion rate has risen to 82.1%, which is 8% higher than the provincial average for Alberta.
PSD’s ultimate goal of student success and well-being keeps us focused. Whether it is literacy, numeracy, competency-based report cards, learning coaches, professional learning, resiliency work, or the use of technology as a learning tool, we continue our journey toward every child being successful, sharing and learning in our local and global community. A few highlights of recent innovative work underway in PSD include:
- Greystone Centennial Middle School Innovation in Education Week. 260 school projects approved by administration were completed, culminating in a showcase at the end of the week for the student body. The overall purpose was to create learning experiences for students that help them develop and grow in innovative ways. Learning outcomes were met while allowing students to pursue an area of interest.
- Supporting PSD’s commitment to inclusion involved implementing a Learning Coach program to facilitate job-embedded and ongoing professional learning for teachers. We are moving from a model of special education to one where “all’ students are special. Dedicated learning coaches have been sharing the learning in a blog.
- Development of a youth resiliency project through hiring a resiliency coordinator to facilitate a division-wide comprehensive school health plan with every PSD school. This project aligns to PSD’s ultimate goal of student success and well-being. PSD is focused on enhancing the resiliency and health of all students, nurturing partnerships and maintaining a commitment to the development of the whole child at all levels of their education.
- Development of a Learning Leader project where staff and students have opportunities to learn how to use tools such as the iPad to facilitate their learning. This project highlights how technology is there to support/facilitate our learning in many ways.
Our future is exciting in PSD! Our children will have opportunities to enjoy, experience and discover new careers we could not even dream of only 10 or 20 years ago. Our role as schools, educators and school communities is to ensure that students have the skills they need to be ready for this wonderful opportunity.