I recently had the opportunity to visit Walker Valley High School as the administration rolled out the new academy model for high school students.
This academic model allows students to tailor, with intent, their elective courses through graduation in order to prepare for their potential careers. In addition to an increased level of career advising, the model allows students to work with general core teachers who place focus on those elective fields. The academies include focuses beyond the freshman year in business, career/technical training, STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] and humanities.
This reform of the high school path is better suited to preparing our high school students than is the traditional one that has been used since the late 1800s. Funded by a grant, this same structure will soon roll out in our other local high schools.
The purpose of this letter is not necessarily to praise this reform, but to make others aware of what kind of work actually goes into such a measure. Unlike innovation in other arenas, educational reform is often more difficult because the stakes are so much greater. For this reason, there are rather heated debates about making changes to the school structure at both the national and local levels. In turn, these debates tend to generate watered-down solutions at best.
At the heart of any fear of reform is the potential for failure. The failure does not risk assets that can eventually be recovered, but rather risks a generation of students. Such a fear is typically only overcome when an academic crisis generates a greater fear of inaction. What is unfortunate is that when such a crisis is reached, subsequent responses are made in haste.
Any educational reform must be rooted in generating improved student performance. For that reason, teaching and learning must be of high priority. It is not enough for students to have the best. They must become the best. Therefore, pre-emptive reforms stand to be the most productive.
The hope of such thought changes comes only if the proposed reform is rooted in threads of common sense, has cornerstones in research, and is coupled with displays of sheer bravery in parents and educators.
I commend our local high schools for taking an intentional step to better prepare our students for tomorrow. I believe that guiding students to potential careers can start early and I see the bravery we need in these high school academies.
I wish our students, teachers and administrators a productive and successful school year!
— J. Adam Lowe
Bradley County Commission