Our Platform in Detail: Prepare students with the skills needed for the 21st century.

Our Platform in Detail: Prepare students with the skills needed for the 21st century.
Prepare students with the skills needed for the 21st century by enhancing STEM education, expanding language opportunities and exposure to world cultures, and renewing our commitment to gifted & talented programs.

STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is an area that needs renewed focus and attention. While our math scores, based on state mandated testing are excellent, the entire framework for Math and science education is changing with the adoption or imminent adoption of the Common Core Standards. The adoption of these standards plus the pressure of the market place requires that we renew our STEM initiatives in a proactive and effective manner. We have an obligation to students to prepare them for a place in a changing world where STEM related professions are among the fastest growing and best paying.

  • We need to increase professional development in the area of mathematics. Teachers must be prepared to instruct students and prepare them for a world in which “literacy” in mathematics is at least as important as verbal literacy
  • We must increase access to software designed to not only remediate student deficiencies, but also instruct youngsters in the ways that they learn best. Many youngsters today are visual and digital learners. We must provide the tools necessary for all youngsters to become skilled in mathematics.
  • We should continue to build on and expand the work of our very successful “Lead the Way” engineering program at Southington High School. This program, an honors level program, prepares students for entry into college engineering programs. Outreach needs to be made to female students to encourage them to consider this program.
  • A higher priority needs to be given to the entire Tech Program at the high school. The rooms and labs need a physical refurbishment – the attention you pay to the physical environment mirrors the priority the entire program has. Technology sufficient for the courses needs to be obtained – six year-old computers are OK for word processing, but not for CAD, graphics and design work.

Science, at all levels, needs to be a hands on experience. Much of this is being done, but we need to excite youngsters about math and science. Moreover, we must find a way to maintain that excitement and interest beyond elementary school. Above all, the Board needs to lead the way in these endeavors. We are the elected representatives of the community. We cannot be reactive, but most be proactive in educating the public about the value of these programs.

Language and World Cultures. We no longer live in a world in which English is the “Lingua Franca.” While English is still the dominant language of business, science and the arts, we are living in an ever more diverse and interconnected world. To ignore this fact places both our children’s future and our nation’s future at risk. Ignorance of other cultures and languages is going to become a greater and greater burden as time goes by. We need to prepare our students to enter a world where Chinese, Japanese, Russian or German is necessary to successfully compete in the world of business, science and commerce.

Language instruction should commence in early elementary school, even as early as kindergarten. This instruction should include and perhaps even emphasize languages that are now emerging as crucial to youngsters’ success in an ever more diverse world. These include not only the traditional languages taught in schools, but also Chinese, Japanese and Russian

An understanding of cultural differences, even within our own community, should be emphasized. While this is being done, it should be an integral part of lessons across the curriculum. While recognizing the differences among us, the curriculum needs to strengthen the idea that we are all living in one country or on one planet and that working together and understanding one another is essential to the cooperation that is essential to our ability to solve problems both within our community and across borders.

Gifted and talented programs are special education for students at the other end of the spectrum. We fight hard to maintain special education programming for struggling students. We need to fight just as hard for exceptional students since they too can fall through the cracks if they are not sufficiently challenged and motivated.

There have been some encouraging initiatives to help these students including:

  • STEM education … STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and the Virtual STEM University is bringing experiential learning into our schools, and is an area that needs even more focus and attention.
  • Project Lead the Way … this has been a successful engineering program at the high school for several years.
  • Vision 2020 … this initiative will bring all educational resources, including instructional, curricular, facilities, capital and community resources together, leading a new kind of student through the gateway to the future. Differentiated instruction and expanded extracurricular activities at all grade levels should help to make sure high achievers are challenged.
  • Talcott Mountain Science Center program … the fact that it is grant funded means no cost to the school district or parents, but since it is limited to fifth grade only, we need to find ways to expand these offerings to more students.
  • Sports, music and the arts … thankfully, these programs have remained mostly intact and serve as an important outlet for gifted and talented students.

To ensure gifted and talented programs survive in the future, we should start thinking of these programs in a new light. By treating them as system-wide enrichment programs or alternative instructional models, they could be incorporated into the regular curriculum, and be less likely to be cut during tough budgets.

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