By Terri Moon Cronk
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, May 12, 2015 – The Department of Defense Education Activity will begin a new initiative in the fall to better prepare its students for college or careers, the organization’s director said May 8.
DoDEA operates 181 accredited schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The system serves more than 78,000 children of active duty military and DoD civilian families.
Director Tom Brady said DoDEA’s priority in the College and Career Ready Standards initiative is uniformly giving students the skill sets they’ll need when they graduate, whether they continue on to college or enter the workforce.
“We’re very excited about the College and Career Ready Standards program,” he said. “It will increase our achievement levels and prepare students for the 21st century. We have a wonderful school system, so we’ll start off with a very high bar.”
Preparing Students for Choices
As a school system, DoDEA must prepare its students so they have choices, Brady said. “Not every student is on the same track at the same time,” he added.
Yet, he noted, common denominators exist in the goal of College and Career Ready Standards, such as what employers seek. “What they are looking for in their workforce are employees who can think independently and work together in groups,” he said, and adding that this is what the CCRS will emphasize.
How CCRS Will Work
The CCRS program will debut with mathematics in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade for the 2015-16 school year, he said. Because CCRS education will be gradually introduced through the 2019-20 school year, he added, mathematics will be introduced to the secondary grades next year. Likewise, he said, all subjects will be introduced gradually so students, teachers and parents aren’t overwhelmed.
Aligning With National Standards
Standards-based education also is known as “common core” education, Brady explained, adding that the approach is aligned with rigorous college- and career-ready academic standards to improve student achievement and school operations. DoDEA is aligning with 46 states and the District of Columbia in the national standards-based approach, he noted.
CCRS is important for DoDEA because “[after] our children are with us, they go back to the very school districts that have been implementing the college and career readiness standards in the last five years,” he said.
Assessments Will Measure CCRS
Performance assessment for students and teachers using tests and multiple evaluations will show how the standards are being met, Brady said, and the curriculum will be adjusted as necessary to align with national standards.
“We and will do it thoughtfully and over time,” he said. “Our target is to be the best. “It’s what you do with the results that's critical -- more than testing itself.”
Professional Development Underway
Restructuring DoDEA’s education process and professional development for administrators and teachers is considered more efficient and effective by adopting CCRS, Brady said.
“As with any change, there is some uncertainty and some angst, so we’ll communicate and provide absolutely terrific professional development, because we want our teachers to be comfortable,” he said. “And we're getting great feedback from the teachers that this is long overdue.”
Parents Education Important
Parents are critical in the DoDEA system, Brady said. They will become educated, too, on the program’s implementation with handbooks, a website, and through parent-teacher conferences and opening-day interaction with teachers.
“[When] the parents understand the theory behind the theory, it works out great,” he said. “The key to success is engaged parents. … They’re partners in our success in implementing these standards to make our students the best in the world.”