At least half of the jobs that will be common when the current middle school students graduate college do not exist today. So fulfilling the goal of 21st century skills means schools have to go beyond the minimum of proficient academic ability in the core disciplines of reading, writing, math, science, history, and other humanities.
Don't you want your students to thrive rather than just survive?
Getting them ready to apply for a job isn't enough. Connecting the dots across disciplines must be incorporated into the academic strategy of schools, enabling students to actually create jobs and opportunities. Skills like innovation, purpose, problem solving, interpersonal relationships, grit, and self awareness will transform their options in an economy that rewards speed of learning and adaptation.
Bate Middle School in Danville KY
An excellent example of how to teach these skills is the program that has been developed in Danville Public Schools, with Bate Middle School leading the way. Dr. Carmen Coleman, Superintendent, and Dr. Amy Galloway, Principal, used a collaborative process with a wide array of leaders from across the community (and from NY Consortium Schools) to develop The Danville Diploma. Earning this distinguished honor requires students to go beyond the basics to develop a strong level of practical intelligence to excel in this balanced assessment system.
Last Monday we had the privilege of participating in the first ever performance based assessments at Bate. Their system was developed to teach and assess the Common Core, the ACT skill sets, and 21st century skills. They combined subject areas instead of assessing and teaching them separately which really helps students begin to "connect the dots" across the disciplines. The students still experience lessons and standard assessments that are focused on one skill area, but this is balanced with cross-curricular lessons, assessments, and projects.
The 6th Grade students that we evaluated were expected to prepare and present their complete portfolio of work that was accomplished during the fall semester. These students worked in groups to complete their projects and then defended their work as a group as well as being asked individual questions. We scored their work individually and provided feedback for improvement in the spring semester. Most impressive was the systematic approach that was developed to support this effort, with genuine commitment from the teachers to make it succeed.
WOW! We we're very impressed with the adults and students at Bate! I wish that my children had this type of experience in their middle school years, and hope this area of school design becomes contagious. We are certainly incorporating these learning strategies in our plans because of the short- and long-term benefits for students to take ownership of their purpose and dreams.