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5A > C3

September 11, 2012

In education, we seem to love our acronyms. For years, we have had PASS to guide our curriculum. We code our finances through OCAS. We have the ACE graduation requirements and NCLB and AYP at the federal level. On a good day, we protect student privacy with FERPA. And lest we forget it, STEM is going to give all of our kids jobs that pay well.

It’s even better when we can do things with exponents. The Oklahoma C3 Initiative (College, Career, and Citizenship Readiness) has swept the state with underwhelming enthusiasm alike from parents and professional educators. And all schools in the state are involved in the REAC3H Network, one way or another. Even some of the people at the SDE in key positions within these reform movements (or who used to have key positions) have Stan Lee –esque alliterative names.

This is why I smiled a little bit when I read the Jenks Public Schools notice for its superintendent search on the OSSBA website. In part it reads:

The District’s goals include an emphasis in success in the five “A’s:” Academics, Attitude, Activities, Arts and Athletics. The Board of Education has identified the following qualities for the superintendent of schools. Have demonstrated leadership skills. Have the ability to use those leadership skills to motivate others and to create a positive climate in the school and community. Possess strong communication and listening skills with an openness and respect for the opinions of others in order to establish a good working relationship with students, staff members, district patrons and the Board of Education. Be a visible participant in the school and communities. Be a visionary leader who has a plan for moving the district forward, while focusing on the needs of the students. Possess excellent interpersonal relationship skills to positively lead people; with the ability to know when to delegate appropriate authority and responsibility. Be a positive, enthusiastic leader, who has the ability to inspire others to achieve to the highest level in all areas. Demonstrate high ethical standards and actions that reflect the district’s core values, which are compassion, courage, integrity, perseverance, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, and teamwork.

In addition to the list of qualities desired from a top education leader (some that many of this blog’s followers wish were exemplified by the state superintendent and SDE altogether), I really like the five “A’s.” Academics should always come first. Education professionals and politicians acting as educators can agree on that. Attitude is also important, but it probably means different things to different people. To me it means showing respect to individual student needs as well as the people charged with meeting those needs. Activities, Arts, and Athletics, should not be considered as ancillary, but rather as part of the academic process.

Allowing students to pursue their interests prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship better than standardized testing. High-performing districts have known this for a long time. Professionals who have spent a career helping students in both practical pursuits and personal passions in particular don’t need gimmicky acronyms and exponents to better understand this.

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