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State of Education: Agenda 2017
State of Education: Agenda 2017
Wisconsin’s State Superintendent, Tony Evers, has released Agenda 2017. In the comprehensive plan he details target goals that will prepare Wisconsin students for success in college, career, and life. He has been discussing his agenda for education with educators for months. It is our educational road map for the next few years.
Most of the area superintendents were in attendance this week at Superintendent Evers’ State of Education address in the Wisconsin State capitol rotunda. During the event he also recognized the Wisconsin Teacher of the Year honorees. When each was announced the ovation was loud, long, and heartfelt. The applause was clearly on behalf of four very talented individuals, but also meant to send a message to teachers throughout the state.
Superintendent Evers said, “No other profession deserves more respect, no other profession is more responsible for Wisconsin’s future.” Education has everything to do with the future of Wisconsin’s economy. The future workforce must be both highly skilled and highly educated to meet the needs of our state.
Superintendent Evers went on to say, “To be pro business you need to be pro education.” Business and industry rely upon educators to provide a highly skilled workforce. Evers talked about the strength of Wisconsin career and technical high school programming as a pathway to post-secondary opportunities with immediate high demand career options.
It is the responsibility of K-12 systems to open all doors for all students.
Agenda 2017 has four target goals. The first is to increase the Wisconsin graduation rate from 85.7 percent to 92 percent. Keep in mind that Wisconsin currently has the highest graduation rate in the nation and Menomonie’s rate is 99 percent. Evers calls for every child to be a graduate.
He also calls for schools to increase student’s career and college readiness from 32 percent to 67 percent. The readiness score is based upon the new higher standards. He calls for schools to close the readiness gaps and advocates for challenging coursework which will prepare students for high wage, high skill, and high demand jobs in business and industry and open access to university programming.
Last week the board of education revised the district’s graduation requirement policy. Several things prompted this policy discussion, including: 1) the new federal waiver and state accountability measures; 2) Menomonie High School reverting back to a 7-period day from a 4-block schedule in 2011-12; and 3) increasing requests for flexibility from our students and parents in order to meet their college and career readiness goals.
When the high school changed to a 4-block schedule in 1996, several changes occurred. Students had access to 16 blocks of classes or 8 credits per year. At that time, credit requirements were increased in the area of social studies, physical education, fine arts, and life skills. Even with the additional requirements, students still had access to roughly the same amount of elective choices.
The change back to a 7-period day in 2011-12 meant less course options for our students. Students actually have the equivalent of four less credits over four years. Thus, they have to make more choices between which courses to take. We knew the board policy would need to be addressed. The high school administration, department chairs, parents, and students asked for more flexibility in order to plan for their future goals.
The board policy change gives students more choices over which electives they take. We do not project any changes in staffing or programming as a result of the change. Some students wanted more access to the fine arts, UW-Stout Youth Options classes, internships, or other courses, which focused on their career and interest areas.
We were the only district in the state that required an extra .5 credit of physical education and also had language that required a credit of fine arts, which, in policy language included foreign languages, and a credit in life skills.
While there was some controversy over eliminating the fine arts requirement, 65 percent of our students were meeting the fine arts requirement by taking a foreign language. Most would agree foreign languages courses are not fine arts courses.
All high school students need access to a broad selection of courses. It is important to emphasize the change in policy language did not reduce any elective offerings. It is essential that we maintain access to strong programming in all areas.
Superintendent Evers’ final target goal is to have the state adopt his Fair Funding for Our Future plan in order to make school finance more equitable and transparent. Every school in Dunn County would benefit from his plan. Local tax levies would fall and funding would increase.
In order to maintain broad programming options, prepare students for college and careers, and set higher achievement, targets schools require resources and strong advocacy for what is important for our children.
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