Cape district takes new approach to goals

The Cape Girardeau School District is taking on a completely new way of thinking when it comes to setting its goals for next year, embracing a reform model that would supposedly make school settings "professional learning communities."

While the district has yet to work out the specifics, the gist of the plan is intended to allow each school to set its own specific goals on how to deal with individualized problems while always establishing collaborative, successful communities of learning for schoolchildren.

The model was developed by nationally known educator Rick DuFour and stresses continued professional development, the involvement of teachers, students and community members, the use of scientifically based teaching methods and the application and attainment of specific goals.

These objectives are a far cry from traditional goals like last year's in the Cape Girardeau district, which called for -- among other things -- improving academic performance, meeting unique educational needs of all students and achieving financial stability -- all of which might be assumed to be the goals of any district.

Like many new ideas, there are both pros and cons with this new plan.

On a positive note, handing over authority to each school to set its own goals is a good idea. Anyone familiar with the elementary education in Cape Girardeau knows that Alma Schrader Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School have needs and obstacles.

The overall goal under the new plan will always be quality education for children.

But the district has a lot of education to complete for its own teachers, staff, parents of students and the community in general.

The board met for more than 10 hours to come up with three goals that, at first glance, appear bound up in educationspeak.

The first goal is written like this:

"All staff will have articulated the essential components of professional learning communities and actively applied these components in processes within their buildings consistent with the conceptual frame-work."

That really means teachers will understand the ideas and practices involved in becoming a professional learning community and use those ideas and practices.

In simple language, another goal calls for holding students to high standards and helping them achieve to the best of their ability by using this model. The third goal says teachers will participate in professional development to improve student achievement.

Parents are likely to find the three main goals hard to comprehend. They were not involved in developing the goals and will be brought into the process as part activities begin to implement the new teaching model.

Some other questions that need to be answered as specific goals are created for each school: What is it we expect students to learn? How will we know what they learned? And how will we respond when they don't learn?

Though the goals may seem confusing now, district officials say the new program will eventually become clear and establish the foundation for a better way of teaching our children.