Yes, it is perfectly obvious that student learning is a priority for any school district. But read on, because you will quickly see that there are many variables to student achievement which are not obvious at all.
Over time, I have heard teachers express their frustrations about student learning in a variety of humorous ways: “If only it would work to strap books to their heads!” “I hope the experts develop telepathy soon; then I could just transfer understanding directly into their brains.” “If time travel is ever perfected, I’m going to find this kid’s future self and send him back to talk to himself!”
But all joking aside, there are no shortcuts when it comes to student learning. Oversimplified, the art rests in knowing both the material and the learner, and finding a way to make the one accessible to the other. I make no claims of perfection, but I have every confidence our district’s teachers are highly knowledgeable in the subject matter they teach. As for the learners…well, they are an ever-changing tide.
Research shows that a student’s success in school and his/her enthusiasm for the types of learning offered in classrooms rests on a wide array of factors. Some of these are under the teachers’ control: overall elements of the environment, including whether the student feels safe and is comfortable; the tools used to present and clarify the material; follow-up work which expands student competency. A great many more are not: whether the student is hungry or distracted, how well the learner has understood necessary foundational information, questions of confidence and self-esteem, the priority the student places on academic learning, the learner’s preferred learning style…the list goes on and on. And especially in a less stable household, many of these factors change from day to day.
So what is a school district to do? Everything possible, of course. Some of the students who like school least are the ones who need it most, so excuses are not an option.
Elements of the strategic plan extend into the three elements of learning—the subject matter, the learner, and the presentation of material.
The easiest one to explain is the first: how we will improve our teachers’ knowledge of their subject matter? Research shows that the higher the combined education level of a school’s staff, the more successful its students are. In this area, we have a very educated staff of teachers with a majority of teachers holding a Master’s Degree in Education.
I am not a huge fan of standardized tests as I do not believe it is a reflection of the learning that students have achieved while in our classrooms. But unfortunately it is one of the measurements used to evaluate the success of our district in educating our students. Raising these scores will demand considerable effort. We must find and repair the short circuits which have kept our groups from performing at target levels. As a result of this, we are continuing to evaluate our educational models and through our strategic planning process, we will look at how best to meet the needs of our students here in Camp Verde.
A key aspect in providing an educational environment is first fulfilling the human needs our students have…based upon Abraham H. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. We are already seeing this be fulfilled with Capturing Kids’ Hearts taking off in our district. We already have a solid foundation of CKH at the middle school, and the elementary and high schools are embracing the many benefits in meeting our students’ foundational needs. We believe for our students to be successful in school they first must feel safe, secure, wanted, and needed…then learning can occur.
The CVUSD Strategic Plan is a living document – in a continuous state of development. Thank you for taking an interest in reviewing our plan, this shows that you have a vested interest in our students and ultimately the future.
Dr. Dennis Goodwin, CVUSD Superintendent