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Let’s all do part to help students achieve, graduate

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Tony Evers
August 30, 2010

The new school year is an exciting time. Students meet new teachers, reconnect with friends and have opportunities to learn the knowledge and skills they need to graduate ready for the workforce or further education.


Graduation is a goal we must demand for all students. The cost of young people dropping out of school is too high, for the individual and for society. From kindergarteners to our elementary, middle, and high school students, we know each is an individual with different learning needs. Educators are working to meet the diverse needs of students through innovation that makes sense. We want zero dropouts so we can ensure all students graduate ready to be tomorrow’s leaders.


We’ve already begun transforming education to better meet student needs. Earlier this year, we adopted Common Core State Standards for English language arts and mathematics. The state led this effort to provide fewer, clearer statements of what students should learn at each grade level. The standards are benchmarked against expectations for college and careers and will help teachers improve instruction.


Working through the state’s 12 cooperative educational service agencies, we’re bringing Response to Intervention (RtI) to classrooms throughout Wisconsin. The RtI screening tools help teachers determine what students know and where they need help. Through differentiated instruction, lessons that target what groups of students need to learn, teachers will help kids who struggle and advance those who need more challenges. Assessments and research-based interventions also are part of RtI’s model.


Additionally, we’re working with other education partners on assessment reforms and a Longitudinal Data System that will provide a more accurate picture of student achievement. With better data, we can provide early warnings so educators and parents can intervene with struggling students.


The Department of Public Instruction will continue examining flexibility in educator licensing. We want to honor life and work experiences that can make valuable contributions to teaching while ensuring that students have quality educators in their schools and classrooms. Our quality educators know how to teach, develop lessons and evaluate student work; manage classrooms with diverse needs; communicate with parents; and collaborate with peers and the community.


One initiative that’s not so much about instructional practice but terribly important is the “Fair Funding for Our Future” framework. In partnership with stakeholders and policymakers, we want to reform Wisconsin’s school finance system so it’s fair, sustainable, transparent and accountable for results. Our students shouldn’t have to endure cuts to classes and threats to academic programs year after year. We need a funding system that provides predictable investments in our children’s education, even in the most difficult times.


Funding reform and our innovation efforts have one goal: improved achievement for all students. But state and local educators cannot do this alone. Our students need active involvement by parents and other community members to ensure success. As we welcome the start of the 2010-11 school year, let’s renew our commitment to education and work to ensure every child graduates. Education is an investment that pays lifetime dividends.


Tony Evers is the elected state superintendent of public instruction. Contact him at 125 S. Webster St., P.O. Box 7841, Madison, WI 53707-7841; phone (608) 266-3559.

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