Teacher shortages. Whereas just a few years ago, every teaching position was highly competitive because there were so many candidates, now there open spots all over the county. We are losing teachers to other professions because they are burnt out and to other counties as well. We must find innovative ways to attract and retain the best and the brightest or our schools and our students will suffer for it.
We are all navigating a climate where verifying the reliability of information is more crucial now than ever. Students need to be taught critical thinking from an early age. They need to look at a few things. What is the source? Can the information be verified in multiple places? What is the date of the citation? Students need to learn to evaluate the quality of the URLs and author credits. They are never too young to start learning these life skills.
The key to successful intervention is identifying a student at risk of failing as early as possible. Students benefit from low-stakes assessments and regular feedback. Also, we need to look at the entire picture of a child’s life and what might be happening outside of the classroom. Rather than focusing on deficits, we can focus on building upon and broadening their talents and strengths.
If our public school system does not produce fully thriving adults who understand the importance of voting as one of many aspects of civic engagement, we have failed. We have a real opportunity to educate kids on why voting is so important. Their lives (more so now than ever) literally depend on it.
We have to move away from making decisions about firing, promoting and paying teachers based upon student test scores. We need to develop teacher evaluation systems that include multiple measures of performance including student surveys and classroom observations by experienced peers. Test scores can be a piece of the evaluation but shouldn't be given undue weight.
Equity of access:
Not all areas of the county have access to the same classroom resources and supports. We need to continue the work the Superintendent has started of drilling down allocation of resources.
Not all areas of the county have access to appropriately sized classes. While the secondary average is 22, over 2000 classes last year were over 28 students. We must put a cap on class size to ensure all students in all parts of the county have access to appropriately sized classes.
In a society of retweets and sound bites, we have to teach our students to ask questions that go past surface content. To do that, we must ask them questions that go beyond regurgitation.
In Henrico, every student grades 2-12 has a laptop. They have access to an infinite number of resources. When we ask deeper questions of our students that require them to synthesize those resources together, an inherently piece should be to require them to analyze the context and validity of their information.
As I teacher, I know first hand that the best way to ensure success for all our students is to be proactive identifying/providing supports for our students before they are at risk of failing.
Often remediation removes students from class and can cause them to fall further behind.
Flex time during the school day provides opportunity for students to receive extra support without missing instruction (examples: RTI block in elementary, advisory block in middle, and common lunch in high schools)
Programs of Project Citizen and We the People promote deep understanding of local law and the Constitution. I promote the expansion of these programs throughout Henrico County and with students at all levels. These initiatives require students to move past simple content knowledge and synthesize pieces together to identify problems, articulate defenses, and find solutions.
Teacher evaluations need to be based on what is happening in the everyday classroom. This is achieved through genuine and regular observations, not through discrete checklists.
To support teachers we must ensure they have appropriate class sizes, the resources they need, and daily unencumbered planning time. We must use a classroom lens to create policy that treats teachers like professionals and doesn’t pile more “stuff” on their already overflowing plate.