First, I know this is Arcadia and we are all supposed to be Tiger Moms and Dads. And although I do believe academics are important - they are not the end-all-be-all. We have to strive for excellence in all things, not just academics. But let's get the academics out of the way first.
Simply put, while state test scores are rising, academic performance at the high school has been on a decline. Since the 2015-2016 school year, the percent of students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped from 77% to 65%. For math, that percentage dropped from 73% to 64%.
Data is collected from Accountability Reports from previous 4 years for students meeting or exceeding state standards.
Now, I seriously doubt the trend will continue until we drop below the state average, however, we must still be vigilant and ensure we reverse the trend. Since it seems that both English and Math scores are affected, it doesn't look to be a subject-specific problem, but is likely population wide. Of course, I suspect it may be equity related, but more work needs to be done to identify the problem areas and get them fixed as soon as possible.
It is abundantly clear that today's children have a much more difficult path to success than we and older generations did. From the need to master a new digital landscape, increased college competition and costs, and increasingly dynamic workforce needs, these challenges mean we must do much more to prepare this generation for an uncertain future. We've concentrated on STEM skills in recent years, but to remain globally relevant, there are other attributes that are critical to be successful in life beyond school.
Recent research has identified five critical "soft" skills that employers are looking for in the workforce. Ernest J. Wilson III, PhD calls this Third Space Thinking and lists these qualities as:
Intellectual Curiosity: a deep hunger to learn and grow and a willingness to experiment in order to learn.
360-Degree Thinking: the ability to think holistically, recognize patterns, and make imaginative leaps based on those patterns.
Cultural Competence: the capacity to think and act across the boundaries of functions, organizational cultures and global cultures.
Empathy: a deep emotional intelligence, closely connected to cultural competence, that enables those who possess it to see the world through others’ eyes, and understand their unique perspectives.
Adaptability: mental agility, comfort with ambiguity, and the capacity to change old behaviors in light of new evidence.
These qualities are so important that USC Annenberg has opened a Center for Third Space Thinking completely devoted to this research.
Beyond school and work, these skills are also applicable to life and society in general. Anxiety and depression are on the rise in students, and some of these qualities may also act to improve psychological resilience in our students. It is our duty, as parents, as the proverbial village, to do all we can to give the tools this generation needs to succeed, not just in school or in a career, but in life as well.
Investigate the reasons and provide solutions for recent testing declines at AHS
As noted above, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding state standards have dropped precipitously the past few years. Resources should be invested to ascertain the root causes of this decline and provide meaningful solutions to reverse this trend.
Create an initiative to promote Third Space Thinking
There are ongoing initiatives to promote soft skills and these can be built upon through a collaboration with the USC Center for Third Space Thinking. With such a great resource in our backyard, it would be irresponsible to not look at sending staff, teachers, or students to see how we can build these qualities and skills in the next generation. If not an official partnership, we should pursue opportunities to encourage each of these skills for students of all ages and grade levels.
Ultimately though, rather than striving to for successfulness, I offer that we may be better off striving for meaningfulness instead. Getting accepted into the dream school, being offered a job at a top firm, getting promoted in record time - all these things are nothing without meaning or purpose. It's easy to become focused on a never-ending checklist of success boxes to check off, but we must remember that we can make a difference every single day. My hope for this campaign is for us to make a small difference in a few people's lives and I'd be honored if you would come along that journey with me today.