By Barbara Jenkins | Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools
Last month, I joined Chiefs for Change, a national group of school superintendents and state education commissioners. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), I believe we are poised to further focus our public education system as the linchpin of our democracy.
Most would agree that isolation was once the norm for educators. As districts have worked tirelessly to remove barriers to collaboration within and among schools, so states must work equally hard to share best practices and solve problems for the benefit of the nation’s children.
Chiefs for Change can provide a significant opportunity to expand national dialogue and collaboration. It provides a chance to join colleagues around the country to share some of the innovative ideas we’re working on here in Orange County, Florida, particularly our digital learning initiative.
PROVIDING THE SUPPORT FOR OUR STUDENTS
Our district is doing well due to an excellent school board and leadership team with whom I have the honor of working. We regularly use data to drive decisions and assess our progress.
Our graduation rate is 87 percent; a dozen years ago it was less than 50 percent. We’ve seen a significant increase in students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and in students passing AP exams and earning college credit while still in high school. We regularly use data to identify students who should be able to succeed in our higher-level courses, and we encourage them to enroll in those courses and we provide support to help them succeed. We have proven over and over again that students of poverty or with very difficult home lives can succeed at a high level if we lessen the impact of those circumstances while they’re in school.
We won the prestigious Broad Prize in 2014, the Governor’s Sterling Award in 2014 and 2015, and other statewide and national plaudits for our progress. But our journey for student success is far from complete. We are determined to lead every one of our 200,000 students to success with the support and involvement of families and the community. We support a continuous improvement model and a growth mindset for students and the entire organization.
Our teachers and principals work hard every day, and our community is providing outstanding support for our students. From affluent families to homeless families, we are committed to student success.
I expect Chiefs for Change to provide an energizing collaboration with some exceptional school leaders that will help students succeed, both in Orange County and across the nation.