Innovative Education Application

Graduation Requirements

As insightful schools transform to the 21st century platforms of teaching and learning Innovative education offers an education concept that is flexible enough to accommodate progressive new programs and the inevitable installation trail-and-error periods that are a natural byproduct of any innovation. The following is an article (“Graduation Requirements,” by Chris Vanden Heuvel – 2016) about the application of innovative education techniques in a small Northern California K-12 school district.

No one could have imagined how rapidly the world is changing. It’s become digitized, interconnected globally, and much more competitive. Thirty years ago, we never imagined that the largest department store franchise (Amazon) would never open a single store, that the largest music retailer (iTunes) would not sell a single CD, cassette or record, or that the largest cinema chain in the world (Netflix) wouldn’t have a single theater seat or even popcorn.

Our kids walk around with mini-computers in their pockets; factual knowledge instantly available at their fingertips. Never has it been more important to ensure that our students have the breadth of skills necessary to apply knowledge in a productive and efficient manner. They must learn to think critically and creatively, to collaborate with a team and to communicate clearly in order to be competitive in the job market they will encounter as adults. And, as your local school system, it is our duty to ensure that they graduate prepared for what the future holds.

After spending over a year investigating graduation requirements across the country, garnering community, staff and student input, the Healdsburg Unified School District Board of Trustees and District Leadership Team is proud to announce newly adopted graduation requirements – which will be phased in over the next three years – that we believe will better prepare our students for the demands of the 21st Century global marketplace.

All students will be required to take an additional year of Science and Mathematics (totaling three years of each). Beginning next year, new classes, such as Freshwater Ecology and Environmental Studies, and Financial Literacy and Business, will be developed to support students in reaching the new standards. Instead of grouping the arts with languages, all students will take one year of both Art and a Foreign Language, challenging them to tap into their creativity and think beyond themselves.

Our award winning Junior Academic Internship Program will become a requirement for graduation and be closely aligned with two College and Career Seminar courses in the freshman and junior years. These new courses will enable every student to thoughtfully explore potential careers, formulate an eight-year plan for high school, post-secondary and beyond, receive SAT/ACT preparation, be taught the ins and outs of the college application process, and acquire soft skill training, such as presentation skills.

Finally, every student will be required to take a minimum of one course in Career Technical Education (CTE). This will ensure that all have the opportunity to explore a specific industry from the diversity of courses we offer, such as Culinary Arts, Sustainable Construction, Agriculture, Computer Science, Engineering, Auto Mechanics and Digital Media. These increased standards will not only raise expectations for our students, but will ask more of our dedicated staff as we continuously endeavor to improve our services. Teaching staff, from kindergarten through twelfth grade, will be adopting new curriculum and implementing innovative instructional strategies to better support our students’ achievement of these more rigorous standards.

Nobody can argue that the demands of the 21st century will be vastly different from the past. As these demands change, so must the education and training we provide for our youth. At the Healdsburg Unified School District, we are confident that the newly adopted graduation standards will better prepare our students for college and career. They will provide them with more skills, more choices, more exposure to the world, and we hope bigger dreams for their future. Finally, through the support and expertise of our professional teaching staff, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to help each student realize those dreams. Chris Vanden Heuvel is the superintendent of the Healdsburg Unified School District.
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