College and career readiness: Supporting with vision, leadership and funding
In his 20-plus years on the Hickman County school board, Allen Kyle has experienced the most positive excitement in the last few, due to the district’s college and career readiness efforts.
“When you’re in the education business, and you can see the results of what you’re trying to do, it is very rewarding,” he said.
Kyle, the board chairman, is talking mainly about the results generated by the linchpin of those efforts, the district’s dual-credit program called Falcon Academy. The board, community and other donors fund the Academy so that students pay nothing for taking college classes. College and career readiness in the district “has just blossomed since then,” along with community and parent support, Kyle said.
“And the interest of the students has just amazed us on the board and we can’t help but to try to support it in any way we can,” which, he said, combined with supporting the administrative staff, is the board’s role in moving a district toward college and career readiness.
Karen Byrd, chairwoman of the Boone County school board, agrees. “We have to set the vision, we have to set the direction and then empower our administrators to figure out how, in each school’s population, to carry that vision out” she said.
The district (whose efforts are detailed on the next page) has amended the slogan to college, career and life readiness to reflect the “soft skills” students need in addition to academics, and it has set the bar higher than the state’s by tying college and career readiness to an ACT score of 24-27.
With that benchmark, Byrd said, “Students are going to have the basic skills they need regardless of the path they choose, and that’s what we’re working toward – it’s college, career and life readiness … and whatever path they chose as their life’s path, we want to facilitate it.”
But with the bar set that high, “You’re going to have to equip your administrators and your teachers to be able to work with the students in their class to get them there,” she added.
Leadership is the key to ensuring that students graduate ready for college and careers, said Somerset Independent school board Chairman Scott Gulock.
“Our most important role is to hire the right leadership in the beginning and that just tailors from the top down. You’ve got to have good board members, too, to see this stuff through.
Our board team works very well together,” he said.
Gulock said the Somerset board supports college and career readiness by funding programs administrators feel will help and through embedding it in its strategic planning.
“We set goals, and that’s part of our district improvement plan,” he said. “The superintendent’s goals, his personal goals, are focused on college and career readiness and I think he sees to it that it’s communicated all the way down, to his principals, teachers and staff.”