Thursday, January 27, 2011


Welcome to my weekly Superintendents Blog!

In an effort to engage in ongoing and meaningful dialogue with our parents and community, I will be sharing information about teaching and learning at Hunterdon Central while inviting and encouraging your feedback. We are in the midst of great changes on the educational landscape as evidenced in this recent piece from the January 7, 2011 New York Times regarding the status of Advanced Placement courses

This month, Hunterdon Central screened the newly released film Race to Nowhere for our parents and community on Tuesday, January 25th in an effort to engage in meaningful dialogue around serious issues plaguing our teens such as extraordinarily overscheduled lives, voluminous amounts of homework, parental pressure to be accepted to select colleges, self-imposed pressure to achieve at all costs and other issues such as sleep deprivation and depression. Hunterdon Central plans to take a leadership position around these issues and engage in structured dialogue with our students, teachers, parents and community.

Hunterdon Central is a high performing high school with strong community support and high community expectations. It is a privilege for all of us who work so closely with our community’s children. With this privilege however, comes great responsibility and over the past two years, our school has engaged in rich conversations internally with our administrators and teachers around 21st Century skills and high school redesign.

Initially utilizing the work of Dr. Tony Wagner, Director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of The Global Achievement Gap, the district began collaborative inquiry work with administrators and teachers in the spring of 2009, focusing on what Wagner calls the Seven Survival Skills: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration and leadership, agility and adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurialism, effective written and oral communication, accessing and analyzing information, curiosity and imagination. By using these skills, promoted by Wagner in his journal article Rigor Redefined published in Educational Leadership in October 2008, the district was able to give specific examples of what is meant by the phrase “21st Century skills.”  By doing so, the phrase achieved a universal understanding among our constituents.  Traditional faculty meetings were abandoned during the 2009-2010 school year and that time was used instead for cross-curricular teacher groups, activities and discussions.  This strategy gave teachers the opportunity to consider the nature of today’s learners who are ubiquitously connected, globally aware, motivated to make a difference and developmentally different. Teacher groups explored the realities faced by today’s students, who will be required to work independently and to adapt to rapidly changing technological environments.  From the perspective of teaching and learning, it soon became obvious that an effective educational system cannot continue doing things the same way they have always been done.   Strong student performance on standardized tests can no longer be the sole standard used to evaluate preparedness and proficiency.  Old measures can no longer be used as an excuse not to change.

Over the course of this school year, I will be sharing the district’s pathway toward reform and inviting your feedback and insights.

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