Opinion: ACSD making bold moves

Monday night, the newly formed unified Addison Central School District voted to deliver on what I believe to be its most important promise — a new, improved and inspiring vision for teaching and learning in our schools. To understand what it took to get here, we need to look back, before unification, before Act 46, to the process that began our collective thinking about how we can fundamentally do better by our kids, and by our community for the 21st century.
In 2014, people from around our community came together to begin to think about what we wanted from our schools, what we wanted for our kids and what we wanted for our community. We asked questions such as how we can best prepare a new generation of workers for the global and local economy, what skills and knowledge will our community need to thrive in the future, and how can we make sure ALL of our children have the best opportunity to succeed.
The resulting 5-year plan envisioned a more innovative, personalized approach to teaching and learning in our schools. Putting this plan into action, however, meant moving 7 school districts with differing needs, resources and traditions in the same direction. Act 46 unification incentives offered our community the opportunity to make that process smoother, and more effective for our students, by allowing us to combine our efforts and resources to make that vision a reality for every student.
During all of this, our educators were busy looking ahead at ways to change how we deliver on our educational promises to our children. Teachers, administrators, staff and community members came together to study an educational model called the International Baccalaureate program. This global educational model focuses on student-driven, personalized learning. What does that mean? It means students are asking questions, generating ideas, trying new things, and learning by doing. It means they are not just answering questions on a test, they have to demonstrate their learning, provide evidence of their skills and knowledge, and actively work in service to the community.
Most of us don’t go to work and spend a few hours on writing, a few hours on science, and a few hours doing math. We understand that we have to take all of our skills and knowledge, and put them together to get things done. Educators call this a transdisciplinary model, most of us call it reality. Why not teach our students, and help them learn, in the same way?
Monday night, the ACSD board voted to begin the process of becoming an International Baccalaureate district. This will involve a lot of work by our students, educators and administrators, as they begin to learn a new model for teaching and learning. But what excited me most about this change is that it faces, head-on, the challenges our kids will tackle in the new century. It will ask a lot of them, of us, and of our teachers. It will require us all to work together, and it will set us apart from other places as a community that dares to innovate, to inspire and to succeed.
I am pleased that our new board undertook, in its first real action, to deliver on a central promise to the community. Let’s get to work.
Jason Duquette-Hoffman
ID-4 and ACSD Board member

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