Preparing Students for the Real World – Part 1
The race for the Frederick County Board of Education is heating up and there’s a crowded candidate field with 12 people vying for three seats. Over the next few months, candidates will be asked a variety of questions about their positions on various topics associated with Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS).
One of these questions is: How should the school system appropriately and adequately prepare students for the “real world.”
At a recent TheTentacle.com writers’ breakfast, this very topic came up during our highly political, and often loud, discussion. As a graduate of our public school system, one of my most vivid memories is of learning how to write checks and balance a checkbook in middle school Home Economics.
It’s a skill that’s still used today. Our country is in economic crisis and many individuals have significant debt. Some of these concerns can be attributed to a lack of understanding of basic finances. If we’re not teaching our children how to handle basic financial responsibilities, we are failing as a society.
Thus, it’s important to know what each candidate will do to ensure that our students are prepared to enter the "real world" upon graduation. In answer to this specific question, here’s what they had to say. The responses are in alphabetical order.
Tony Chmelik: “No single person can ensure that our students will be prepared to enter the real world upon graduation. One purpose of an education is to equip and prepare a young adult for the next stage of his or her life, whether that be college or entering into the workforce.
“While FCPS has been doing a good job, compared to other states, we could be doing better. Why do so many of our graduates continue to have to take remedial math and/or English upon entering college? It is no wonder that so many Americans are fiscally irresponsible. They graduate high school without an inkling of understanding personal finance, the impact of credit/debt, budgeting and the importance of saving and investing for the future.
“As a board member, I would support efforts to review our entire curriculum and work toward one that is content based. The idea that a child must discover everything and not have to learn the basic building blocks and a proper foundation thru drill and memorization has led to widespread failure and is detrimental to our students. It is time to stop “teaching to a test.” Rather, teach solid content and then compose a test, not vice versa. If our education model is so great, why do we take the time to pull kids out of class during one subject to tutor them in another, so that they then miss a subject and need special tutoring in two subjects?
“In addition, I would work with the other members of the board and administration to find ways to alleviate the administrative burden on teachers so they can spend more time teaching.
I also strongly feel that the block schedule does injustice to a number of kids and certain subjects. Some students are gifted in areas such as the Career and Technology Center provides. To solve the answer to the question of preparing students to enter the ‘real world’ after graduation may involve thinking ‘out of the box.’ ”
Colleen Cusimano: “I'd like to begin by saying how disappointed I was at the College and Career readiness report released by FCPS in 2010. It seemed that they were so intent on pushing an agenda of requiring Algebra 2 (a hot topic at the time), that they focused on math classes and preparation. While there were numerous FCPS staff, a few PTA parents and FCC (Frederick Community College) staff on the committee, there was no invitation to anyone in the business community. That might have added some insight about career readiness for anyone not in the education field.
“That said, today I would like to see us opening opportunities to our high schoolers. We have a lot of attention and encouragement for high schoolers to take AP (Advance Placement) and IB (International Baccalaureate) classes. They can be beneficial, but there are also opportunities to take college courses at FCC via 'open campus' options. Students must provide their own transportation and that can be an obstacle. It would be nice to see us look for transportation options, as every high school has buses going to CTC (Career and Technology Center) (another great option for high schoolers) and we could potentially combine FCC and CTC (bus) runs.
“I find that FCPS really encourages kids to enroll in FCPS programs, such as AP, IB or CTC. They are less helpful getting and enrollment in non-FCPS, such as FCC and local internship opportunities. This means that only students with their own resources can find out about and engage in these opportunities.
“As our high schoolers near graduation, being out in the “real world” or experiencing it through real college courses, or real business experiences are some of the best ways to prepare for the next chapter.”
Katie Groth: “I am pleased to respond to questions about student achievement as this is a top priority of mine, not only because I am running for re-election … but also because I have always focused on student achievement as the number one goal of public education. By this I mean education for our struggling learners, our highly able learners and all the students in between. I mean ALL children.
“Frederick County Public Schools is entering into a time of some confusion between competing goals. This is because we are still under the federal mandate of No Child Left Behind even while we are getting ready to roll out a new Common Core Curriculum which has been mandated under another federal program called Race to the Top.
“FCPS has opted not to sit and wait to see what happens. We are rolling out our own K-12 Vision, an ambitious plan to ensure seamless transitions for students using the Common Core all the way from kindergarten through 12th grade. We plan to raise the bar on student performance and be sure the supports are in place for all students to achieve.
“Like never before, we must look at what business, industry and government need our students to know when they step out of high school with those brand new diplomas. The K-12 Vision of FCPS states: ‘Every child will graduate from Frederick County Public Schools, college or career ready.’
Here are some things we plan to provide to ensure our students will succeed:
“It is said that we must prepare students for jobs in their future that have not even been invented yet. How do we do that? We do it by ensuring that skills for the 21st Century are taught and practiced in our public schools each day. We do it by providing highly trained educators and the best facilities and technology we can afford. We also do it by teaching students to be good communicators and good collaborators.”
We will continue tomorrow with the responses from more candidates.