A Select Invitation to Washington, D.C. — DCE is Leading Educational Transformation
Recently, I had the honor to represent D.C. Everest at an event that gathered educational thought leaders from across the nation. The invitation for this one-day event, which took place in Washington, D.C., consisted of just 14 superintendents. Yes, let that soak in for a minute — 14 superintendents from across the United States. Why was this incredible honor bestowed upon me? Because, as the U.S. Department of Education and Future Ready Schools® put it, what our District is doing is “amazing.”
I will be honest, when I first received the invitation to apply for the event I thought, “They will never pick me.” But then I thought of all the hard work our staff and teachers have put into implementing our One-to-One personalized learning initiative. And I thought of the students who have thanked me countless times for the digital learning tools that allow them to learn at their own pace and showcase their talents in myriad formats. I thought of our community and business leaders who have supported us — sharing their experience and knowledge in order to make opportunities more tangible for our students. And I thought, “Why not? We have a great story to tell.”
The U.S. Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education’s Future Ready Schools® team agreed. We were, in their words, amazing. And, so, I was off to Washington D.C. to brainstorm with 13 other superintendents whose districts were being recognized for their commitment to the Future Ready pledge — ensuring that all students graduate from high school “ready for success in college, work, and citizenship” by implementing innovative teaching environments that provide equity to education through research-based digital learning strategies.
Each of us was chosen because of our district’s commitment to transform education and prepare every student — particularly those who are underserved — with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. Throughout the day, we had round-table discussions with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and Future Ready Schools. Each of us discussed our experiences implementing personalized digital learning strategies, shared the challenges we had faced and discussed opportunities for improvement. We also met with Dan Domenech, Excecutive Director of AASA (School Superintendent’s Association), who is a thought leader in personalized education and the author of Personalizing 21st Century Education.
At the end of the day, we met with U.S. Secretary of Education John King. He took just a few minutes to provide some brief opening remarks, and then we embarked on a brain storming session focused on the high school educational experience. It is hard to describe how uplifting it was to sit in a room with people who represented such a diversity of districts and experiences —from a small district in Wyoming to large districts in San Diego and New York — and are committed to transforming education. Each of us recognized that our students have boundless 21st century opportunities before them, but equally recognized our responsibility to provide them with the skills that place those opportunities within their grasp — STEAM skills such as critical thinking, design, creativity, real-world problem-solving, applied learning, collaboration, communication.
When asked to speak about our high school, I noted that student success is not measured by one test. The ACT, while useful, is not our standard of success; it is simply an indicator. Instead, we measure success by determining whether a student is future ready — equipped with the skills needed to solve challenges and bring positive change to the world. Equipped to begin a job, be a responsible citizen, serve the community, or pursue higher education upon graduating. I spoke of the meaningful coursework we offer, our high rates of participation in Advanced Placement and Dual Credit courses, the internships our businesses provide and the partnerships with community and business organizations that offer students the opportunity to explore real-world options.
This group of 14 was selected because our districts are willing to push boundaries and seek innovative means of breaking down barriers that are holding back the next generation. Our district should take immense pride in that — we are early adopters who are leading educational transformation that will benefit our students and our world. We began these new initiatives because it was clear that technology was changing the future of the workplace in leaps and bounds; our local business leaders continue to confirm that. Just a few years ago, we looked to other innovative districts as models for change. We are grateful to those districts and educational leaders for the guidance and inspiration they provided us, and we will continue to partner with them in order to share strategies, discuss challenges and improve. Because of you, we have become the district others look to for mentorship.
This work continues to be difficult, messy and sometimes exhausting. But I do know that our kids deserve the best for their future and not our past. So, thank you for blazing new trails, taking risks, and believing in kids. Together we can make school an amazing experience for all students.