Campbell Union High School District (CUHSD) organized three forums in January and February 2016, where members of the community were invited to share their thoughts on the state of public education in general and the district's position relative to that.
Representatives from neighboring school districts, community colleges and universities, students, teachers, and community supporters gathered around tables to discuss how to help students succeed in today’s world.
Their conversations were focused around three questions, which prompted many interesting ideas and responses:
- What does success in and beyond high school look like in a 21st century society?
- What skills and experiences do students need in order to succeed beyond high school?
- How do we transform our school environment or culture to support successful educational experiences?
The community seemed to agree that well-rounded students were likelier to succeed both inside and outside of high school.
In fact, much of the community input the district received on this topic can be summarized in the following quote from Nicandro Mendoza, senior class president at Branham High School:
"I'd also like to talk about connecting students with individualized programs, giving them a wider repertoire of things that they can do and connect themselves with and providing adulthood experiences within high schools such as having a mock election, especially in an election year where we could bring in booths and have them go in and pretend to vote; and for those eligible—register to vote, so it's an expectation for them to go out and vote."
• Multiple pathways for learning • Opportunties to explore, succeed, and fail
• Individualized programs to provide students w/ a window into the world and to help students identify their interests
Skills & Experience
To the surprise of many (except maybe the students themselves), very few members of the community felt that technical / computer / technology skills would help CUHSD students succeed in today's world.
Rather, the community valued softer skills like social and interpersonal skills; problem-solving and critical thinking skills; communication and collaboration; characteristics such as perseverance, resilience, and self-awareness; and the ability to be creative, adaptable, and flexible over job training or workforce experience.
Similarly, the community emphasized the need for students to find their passion, to study what they like or what they love to do as opposed to studying for a specific job or career.
• Passion over practicality
• Character over mere learning (i.e., test scores)
Students expressed a desire for more support from teachers and guidance counselors in the form of more personalized conversations about their aspirations for the future and their personal and academic needs.
Community members also wanted to see more flexible, modern classrooms that can be configured into dynamic learning environments to facilitate more individualized learning.
This seems to jibe with California's new Common Core standards, which call for more student collaboration and discussion across academic subjects in addition to changes in curriculum and teaching practices.
Moving to a more student-centered, project-oriented learning model would require transforming the physical environment through investments in, for example, classroom furniture that enables students to move their chairs and tables together to engage in discussion and learning.
The process of sharing space and materials and working with different people toward a common goal would result in students becoming more responsible, reflective learners with the ability to recognize, listen to, and respect different points of view.
• Change begins with caring, understanding relationships between teachers & students and equitably distributed facility improvements that promote spirit and boost morale.