The lead story was a "top 10" list. Most involved accomplishments the district had made in innovative programs and teaching methods, including a middle school with all national board-certified teachers, broadening access to achievement programs, and standardizing the math curriculum across all schools in the district.
I know a handful of teachers who've gone through the certification process. It's a rigorous process, including a great deal of self-study. I'm inspired by their dedication to their professional development. I imagine that the middle school programs will be enhanced, but, as always, I wonder about the unintended consequences? When such a rigorous program is mandated in a single institution, how much is lost to the students with the extra strain on time and energy is devoted to the certification? And who is absorbing the $3000 in fees?
Also on the list was free access to the SAT for 12th graders, PSAT for 11th graders, and an 8th grade assessment. I appreciate that the district is choosing the absorb this cost, which can be a barrier to higher education for low-income families. I'm a less comfortable, however, with the absorption of AP and IB programs. I don't question that eliminating the financial barriers can lead to more students accessing and excelling through these programs, but I am critical of the teach-to-the-test approach that is essentially mandated by the licensing of an AP curriculum (and similarly, presumably, in the IB program). Not that I have a great solution, mind you; I truly want young people to have equitable access to education. However, I don't want that access to be suppressed with a teaching of whatto think; I want our children to learn how to think.
Finally, the math curriculum edict certainly caught my eye. The district holds that it must be standardized because children frequently move between different schools and need to be able to pick up where they left off at their old school. What I didn't see was a reference to students who move in and out of district, for whom these standardizations would be rendered useless. I'm also a big believer in success in addressing individual learning styles, and one curriculum for seems diametrically opposite of that belief. With all that's put into specialized schools that emphasize STEM or the fine arts, why cannot the district better tailor an understanding of mathematics in the younger grades?
So, again, I don't necessarily have ready solutions to increase the graduation rate and eventual success of the coming generations. However, when a public institution issues a publication that aims to only produce accolades for its own benefit, I can only assume that we are called to skepticism.