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December 9, 2012

Education Revolution: How Plan 2020 could reshape education in Alabama

(Continued)

‘The latitude to innovate’

Proponents call Plan 2020 an ambitious effort to improve graduation rates by adjusting the way graduation is achieved, and adapting curriculum to add more hands-on knowledge and career tech objectives. For example: Instead of just doing an equation on paper to determine square footage, students might soon be required to get a tape measure and physically measure a room to reach the result. Same basic question, but different routes to the answer.

“This is the challenge we always face, where a child may make As or Bs in class, but can’t pass maybe one portion of the graduation exam, so they can’t graduate based on the state guidelines,” county schools’ federal programs coordinator Denise Schuman said. “There are some kids who just aren’t test takers, and academia maybe isn’t their forte in life. Students all learn and work differently, some are better with their hands and learn in a hands-on approach. A student might not be able to pass the math part of the graduation exam, but can pull a car engine apart, fix it, and put it back together.”

Instead of the much-criticized federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standards that have been in place for nearly a decade, students would now be judged on “college and career readiness” in all core subjects that look at more practical abilities, in addition to local academic indicators and the college-entry placement exam the ACT.

Factors such as end-of-course tests, in-class assessments and certification in trade skills will all factor into the equation.

“We’re making sure we give local schools the latitude to innovate and try different things, where systems can bring innovative ideas in to meet the needs of that community, but still align with the state course of study,” state school board member Dr. Charles Elliott, Cullman County’s representative, told The Times. “The goal is to get kids college and career-ready, but the needs of a system on the Gulf Coast aren’t specifically the needs in Cullman. Students are all different, and have different needs and backgrounds. We’re getting to a point where we can individualize the needs for students.”

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