Thank Goodness School Is Starting

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

ted_bwA few weeks ago, I volunteered at Regner Park for the West Bend Public Schools Foundation Concert Series and throughout the evening, parents jokingly thanked me that the school year was starting. They’d joke that they couldn’t wait for the kids to get out of the house, how their grocery budgets would be reduced because no one would be around to eat all the snacks and my favorite was one parent who said, they came to the rock concert for some “peace and quiet.”

Back-to-school is my favorite season. Nervous, young, first-time parents entrusting the kindergarten teacher with the family’s precious five-year-old child. New and veteran teachers both excited and nervous to meet their new students. Freshmen, walking down the hallway as if they own the school, confident on the outside and scared to death on the inside. The excited fifth grader going to the new Silverbrook. Everyone has a different feeling on the first day of school and it is the most energetic day of the year.

This past summer, when reflecting upon that energy, our Leadership Team had a conversation about our mission and vision. We came to the conclusion that the mission of “Preparing All Students For College Readiness AND Career Success” is our day-to-day mission. We also affirmed our vision of “Excellence for All” is our daily aspiration for all members of our school district’s community.

During those discussions, we had a deep conversation regarding what it is we want our students to become as we work towards meeting the mission for every child. We reminded each other that our students are truly the greatest asset of our community and they are more than a data point or indicator on a scorecard. We need to reemphasize, in every classroom, that tests don’t make great minds come alive; there is space for creativity, collaboration, and innovation. The once a year state assessment will not judge the contributions of the upcoming generation, and that data doesn’t have a heartbeat.

Standardized tests and assessments have become an expectation in school systems nationwide. As a result, parents are given data on a regular basis. Many parents look at their children in a panicky state when the results come home. Kids and parents alike don’t know if it is good or bad to be in the 82nd national percentile. We recognize that parents look at their child like all parents do and wonder with great excitement and nervousness, “What will she/he be when they grow up?” Through our learning system processes, students and parents will continue to grow in their understanding of achievement data and personal learning strategies, and make connections to their child’s future career goals.

As we move into the 2014-2015 school year, I’ve asked our teachers and staff to make their primary focus the preparation of all students for a life of options and that all students understand their contributions to the communities in which they live and represent.  This request/charge is not in absence of maximizing each individual students’ achievement potential; rather in partnership.  Standardized tests have their place and do focus all school systems on standards for learning. They measure the ability of each child to demonstrate their learning; however, the test should not be the sole measure of a child.

Our daily charge is to educate every child and to ensure that after one year of school, every child has one year or more of learning to show for it. As educators, we need to focus on providing a wealth of life experiences that emphasize the application of their knowledge, as well, as growing their collaboration and leadership skills. Our strategy this year to support the growth of every child in collaboration and leadership development increases our commitment to serving our community.

This year, every school has been asked to become active in our community, to demonstrate service, and to have all children share their skills and talents with the community. Education is what sustains and builds great communities. The children coming to our schools have thousands of gifts and talents that go beyond the indicators on standardized tests. These children come from remarkable homes, homes in transition, and homes in disruption. But, they come to schools with great teachers, consistent and safe environments, and hallways filled with optimism. Our students have the unique opportunity to both learn in their community and serve their community using their learning, collaboration, and leadership skills to help others.

As we begin the school year, please help our schools look for ways to support and lead in the community. Call the principals, email the teachers, and send the children to school with ideas. We’ll continue to aspire to be the “DESTINATION” school system in the state and we will become the destination if we collectively continue to work together to focus on preparing all students for life.

Ted Neitzke
Superintendent, West Bend School District

The Current welcomes submissions from all students, faculty, administration, and community members, but reserves the right to edit for length or content.  Any column, editorial, or letter to the editor expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the entire staff.

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