Monday, March 8, 2010

Previewing the Future

Over the past year, I have had the tremendous good fortune to visit with the superintendent of nearly every school district in Oneida County (I'll complete my tour later this month).  I did this in preparation for our 3rd annual superintendent’s breakfast that will take place March 18th.  The possibility was too tempting – to get to walk the halls of every high school, sometimes the middle schools and junior highs, and sometimes even the elementary schools in every district.  The experience has allowed me to see first-hand what MVCC students of tomorrow are experiencing today…and think about what their expectations will be when they arrive at our doors.

An early indicator came in my first visit when the Superintendent told me that they had installed smartboard technology in every elementary and junior high classroom and were scheduled to finish the high school in the fall.  I later walked through many schools where smartboards were in every classroom in the district.  Fortunately, we are well on our way with smartboards and related faculty training in the active use of the technology – clearly, many of our future students will be expecting it. Although the classroom furniture was often the porcelain tablet armchairs, they were often in mixed arrangements and, as a percentage, more classrooms had tables and chairs than we currently have.  Our recent efforts to update classroom furniture need to continue and help create a more tangible difference between a high school and college classroom experience.

I received countless positive comments about the opportunity our dual credit offerings in the high schools provide their (our) students.  The changes we’ve made over the past year as a result of receiving national accreditation of our dual credit offerings have all been well received.  The curriculum, textbooks, and assessment processes are far more consistent than ever and the instructors feel more connected to MVCC as our adjunct faculty.  These responses were very affirming for me and signaled a shift from dual credit feeling like an expansive enrollment paper shuffle to the significant and relevant academic partnership effort that it needs to be.

Consistent challenges that became increasingly evident include the need to take action on aligning our curriculum better.  The number of students testing below college level is alarming - however, I received very insightful feedback that should prompt us to take a very close look at our basic skills testing processes and benchmark current practices of both two-year and four-year schools.  In addition, many schools are looking to us in the area of career education.  Not just to simply expand our partnerships with local BOCES, but to find creative ways to partner and have the College serve a larger role in creating opportunities for younger students - perhaps career awareness activities in elementary, career exposure activities in middle and junior level schools, and partnering with the School and Business Alliance and others to create career experiences at the high school level.

Much work needs to be done, but much of it is already underway.  We have many ‘boutique’ programs and various pilot models in place with school districts throughout the area.  With the unprecedented fiscal constraints facing us all, now is the time to bring these smaller programs to scale.  A perfect summary statement made at the end of one school visit captures the general tenor of most districts, “if you and your colleagues at MVCC have any ideas for innovation, creativity, or bold thinking with regard to programming, call us. We’re in.  We want to make it happen for our kids.”  We need to make it happen.  If you have any thoughts on this, please contact me at presblog@mvcc.edu.