Opposing comments from two seventh-graders give an idea of the challenges Cincinnati Public Schools faces in launching a high school initiative called My Tomorrow.
For one student, “it’s better to do math with technology.” But the other student quickly disagreed: “It’s harder to do math on a computer.”
Making sure all CPS students are comfortable and proficient using technology to learn is one of the guiding principles of the far-reaching My Tomorrow initiative. The students were part of a My Tomorrow panel discussion held October 28 at Woodward Career Technical High School. Hosted by Parents for Public Schools of Greater Cincinnati, it was the second Community Conversation designed to help acquaint parents and community members with My Tomorrow.
Launched in August 2014, My Tomorrow is a new vision of education for Cincinnati Public Schools. It aims to prepare all students with the critical- and creative-thinking skills needed for success in 21st-century jobs and careers. My Tomorrow is about nurturing connections with students, helping students discover their possibilities and creating pathways to get there. It will reimagine classrooms, while developing new ways of delivering instruction and engaging students to be lifelong learners.
The My Tomorrow 2020 vision: Within six years, 100 percent of seventh-graders will graduate prepared to actively pursue their chosen career paths.
“It’s a very aggressive and measurable goal,” Jennifer Wagner, CPS’ Chief Information Officer told the group gathered at Woodward. “We want our students to know how to operate as a team, how to problem-solve, how to think critically…
“There were three drivers behind the creation of My Tomorrow — the need to graduate students college and career ready, the new online high school testing coming from the state, and the new more-rigorous Ohio high school graduation requirements,” Wagner said.
My Tomorrow’s focus on encouraging students to think beyond high school is a strong component, said Julie Harris, a CPS parent on the panel.
“What caught my eye is children being allowed to plan their lives, to really think about, ‘what do I want to be when I grow up’,” Harris said.
My Tomorrow was introduced to CPS’ seventh- and eighth-graders this school year, but the initiatives’ guiding principles “will roll down to lower grades,” said Cynthia Sanders, CPS’ curriculum manager for English/Language Arts, especially with more rigorous instruction in reading and in preparation for future online assessments.
Components of My Tomorrow also will be introduced to current students in grades 9-12, Wagner said.
Teachers are loving the arrival of additional technology in their classrooms. “It’s like Christmas when you get it all, but then you have to learn how to use it in your teaching,” said Megan Fennema, a Woodward math teacher.
“It’s been a joy to have that Advisory time set aside during the week. The students share with us, and we’re learning how to communication better with them so we can help solve problems,” Fennema said.
Teachers are being supported in the launch of My Tomorrow with professional development, teacher coaches assigned to classrooms where needed and classroom monitoring to assure students are on track, Wagner said. The technology also will be monitored and is on a five-year refresh plan to keep software up to date.
“We have to get there in six years, so we have to monitor everything closely,” Wagner said.
What can parents do to support their children’s success? That was the question on the minds of several parents listening to the My Tomorrow Community Conversation.
The answers from teachers and parents on the panel: Take away the calculator and help your child be solid in doing basic math skills; work with your child on learning how to navigate on desktop and laptop computers (at home and/or in the public library), perhaps posing questions and challenging your child to find answers online; and introducing your child to Word and Google docs.
Commented one parent at the end of the Community Conversation: “I can’t wait to get home to talk with my seventh-grader.”