The North Reading Public Schools are always looking to prepare our students for the future. A large part of this transition includes a coordinated effort to understand digital learning and to look at the concept from many angles. The Alliance for Excellent Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education, have formed the Future Ready Schools program and offered summits across the country to work with school districts.
Last year, Dr. Daniel Downs, Director of Digital Learning, and I brought the Superintendent the information about the Future Ready Schools program and as a team we decided to take the pledge. This lead to a team of educators from North Reading attending the Future Ready Summit in late 2016 and to our administrative team exploring the Future Ready tools in order to better prepare our schools for what lies ahead.
In taking the pledge, the District agreed to focus on the following areas:
- Foster a culture of collaborative leadership.
- Provide Rigorous Academic Content for all students to build life skills.
- Empower personalized professional learning opportunities.
- Help schools and families transition to anytime, anywhere learning.
- Rethink the use of space and time.
- Implement thoughtful data and privacy policies and protocols.
- Focus on long-term sustainability.
- Share and mentor for continuous improvement.
At last year’s summit, Dr. Downs, Kathleen Dasho, a Digital Learning Specialist, Kim Brown, our high school Library Media Specialist and Future Ready Librarian, and I joined with teams from around the country to learn more about what Future Read had to offer and shared best practices for adapting our schools to suit the needs of our students. We left the summit with a network of colleagues to continue to share ideas as well as connections to local organizations that have helped us to advance our personalized learning initiative in North Reading.
This school year our administrative leadership team has engaged in the process of completing the District Leadership Self-Assessment which has helped us to think about how we are serving our students and to guide us as we continued to develop our district strategic plan, NRPS 2021.
We have also explored in depth each of the seven gears of the Future Ready Framework:
- Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
- Use of Space and Time
- Robust Infrastructure
- Data and Privacy
- Community Partnerships
- Personalized Professional Learning
- Budget and Resources
For each gear our administrative team has taken (or plans to take by the spring of 2018) a survey pertaining to the details of each specific gear. Once our team has completed the survey we are able to analyze a very detailed report that is available for our review. In addition to the great summaries and graphic representations of the data that fuel our discussions, the reports also include suggested action steps that we can incorporate directly into our strategic plan.
We have found the survey questions have lead to detailed and in-depth discussions that have lead our team to ask very important questions about our preparedness for the future. This Future Ready Schools framework has been an invaluable addition to our process for strategic planning in North Reading.
After the administrators have reviewed the survey results we may begin to involve other stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, community members) in the survey process for some of the gears in order to gather additional information in order to improve our processes. Some gears lend themselves more to the inclusion of specific stakeholder groups than others and so our plans may include targeting groups to participate in the future.
We are very excited about the questions that we are discussing as the Future Ready Schools framework and the exploration of the gears has lead us to consider ideas that we had not previously discussed as a team. The highly specific nature of the surveys guide us to have high-level discussions about some of the cutting-edge concepts of digital learning in our schools. We believe that this information and the ensuing collaborative conversations will guide us to continuously improve our strategic plan so that we will be in the best position to create an environment for students who will be entering a workforce that is still being designed for careers that may not have even exist in 2018. It is a challenge for us to envision a curriculum and instructional program that prepares students for the challenges ahead but it is an exciting endeavor and the Future Ready Schools framework is providing us with a solid foundation for this rewarding work.