On January 18, 2011, approximately 40 community members interested in education issues convened to continue their discussion about the top strengths and weaknesses in the birth to work continuum. Following an introductory session in which the group reviewed a video about changing paradigms of public education (see the video at http://www.youttube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpl4U), the group split into work teams focused on prenatal to pre-kindergarten, kindergarten through high school, and higher education.
Using a list of strengths and weaknesses that the work teams developed at the November education meeting, participants were charged with narrowing the identified weaknesses down to the top 2-4 that the community can impact in some way. The following weaknesses were identified:
Prenatal to Pre-Kindergarten
o Lack of awareness about early brain development and nutrition. The group acknowledged that Dalton-Whitfield has many educators/providers of services, but that it is very difficult to get parents and caregivers to internalize the information available. The group discussed the need to get parents to collaborate and share best practices. The group noted that we need to work on building a community of parents and find ways to engage parents in active learning.
o Lack of appreciation among business and government leaders of the economic realities of failing with this age group.
o Inadequate mental health services and providers for parents of children.
o Lack of participation in community efforts from our churches, diverse populations, etc.
Kindergarten through 12th Grade
o We have an outdated mental model of how we do school: The way that we have done school over the past several generations is no longer the best/most relevant way in this “digital age.” We need to reconsider the role of administrators, teachers, and students. Is there a new mental model that we need to be creating?
o We have outdated curriculum: What knowledge has value in today’s society? Better yet, what knowledge will have value in tomorrow’s society?
o We are underutilizing technology: For the most part, we are using technology in our education system to do the same old thing. Primarily, it is a teaching tool and not a learning tool. How can we better utilize the technology that we have?
o We have disconnected families: As education evolves and family make-ups change, we need to reconsider the role of the family in education. It is no longer appropriate for the family to simply drop their child off at the school house door.
Higher Education (encompasses any education after high school)
o Negative image of technical jobs/technical skills.
o Too many students entering Dalton State College require learning support.
o There are not enough co-ops/internships for students.
Over the next month, members of these subgroups will meet to further explore these weaknesses and how the Dalton-Whitfield community can begin to impact them. On February 22, 2011, the prenatal to pre-Kindergarten group and the higher education group will meet at 6:00 PM at Dalton State College’s Brown Center. The Kindergarten through 12th grade group will not meet at that time due to conflicts with both school systems. The entire group will reconvene on March 15, 2011, at 6:00 PM in the Brown Center.