It has been a challenging summer here in Durango with fire and flooding, with many people facing continuing hardships as a result. I’d like to express a special thank you to our first responders and public officials who have done an amazing job in serving our citizens during these crises. Also, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school or the district if 9-R can provide additional assistance.
This year brings a continued focus on an effort started many years ago in 9-R – a shift necessary to ensure that all students gain benefit from a quality education. This focus we’ve come to call Personalized Competency Based Learning or PCBL. The reality is that while our district has served many students very well, some students have moved through our system with skills gaps that have only compounded the learning challenges they face as they move into higher grades.
A great YouTube video from Sal Khan on Teaching for Mastery captures this challenge best. In our traditional system, students were taught and then assessed. Some students passed a class with a “C” and others with an “A.” Neither grade actually confirmed they had learned everything that would be necessary as learning is built upon each year. A student earning a “C” is missing at least 20% of the material. Continuing this pattern throughout an academic lifetime creates immeasurable challenges. Mr. Khan relates this to building a house. Imagine if a house was built on a foundation that was 80% accurate, or the second floor was added onto a first floor that was 75% complete. Students can’t keep moving through our system regardless of mastery.
Many fear that this will result in increased retention of students. I feel strongly that if we know what the goal is and we provide multiple pathways for students, this won’t be the case. Research is clear that all students can learn skills and concepts. It is our challenge to identify the appropriate pathways and strategies for each student. Students who are not ready to move will receive additional support before doing so.
Of course, this requires commitment on the part of our students, who must own their learning, act on their learning, and impact our community through their learning. Integral to this will be our community’s responsibility to help model the importance of an education to our students. With a rapidly changing world, opportunities abound for our children and their futures, but education will be the foundation for such opportunities.
I encourage you to visit our website at durangoschools.org to learn more. Also, for further information, please join me on Thursday, August 30 at 6:00 pm at the Administration Building located at 201 E. 12th Street. This will be an opportunity for a dialogue on how our work will lead to transformation within our educational system over the next few years.