This spring I will have the honor of celebrating college graduation with one of my daughter’s friends who became a part of our family over the years.
I cannot help but think about how many kids I have watched grow up, from my own kids to the many students I have supported personally and professionally in my 20-plus years as an educator.
As a parent, I remember looking forward to and celebrating all the milestones in my children’s lives – from their first smile, first word and first step to first dates and driver’s licenses. As an educator, I am also always looking for and celebrating key learning milestones in our students’ lives. I know that our children need to hit their developmental milestones and that they also need to hit key learning milestones in order to grow into successful adults.
As a district, we are looking for key learning milestones to make sure our students are “growing up” successfully during their time with us, and to identify and support students who may be struggling to reach these milestones. We do this through testing, through homework assignments and most importantly, through the day-to-day interactions between teachers and students.
We focus on several milestones that we know have a big impact on students’ ability to graduate on time and be prepared for college or careers. These include a successful foundation for learning in preschool and kindergarten, becoming strong readers in elementary school, attending school regularly, staying engaged and out of trouble, passing language arts and math classes in middle school and having a successful freshman year in high school. I wanted to share with you a little more about why we look at these important milestones.
Foundation for learning – It is important that children enter kindergarten with a foundation for learning and that we build that foundation for children who do not yet have those skills (for example, vocabulary, number skills like counting, and social skills). We know that children who are ready in kindergarten are much more likely to be reading and doing math successfully by third grade and are at a much lower risk for behavior problems as they get older.Reading in elementary – Reading well provides the foundation for all learning as students move through school, so it is essential that we support students in learning to read proficiently. Children who are reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school on time.Attendance – Attending school regularly is critical to student learning. Students who attended at least 90 percent of the time were much more likely to pass their classes and graduate on time, and students who attended less than 80 percent of the time were at higher risk for failing their classes. Academic success in middle school – Middle school is a key time for student learning and a time when students begin to explore and learn more complex concepts in math and English. Passing English and math classes in middle school is a key predictor for high school success. Engagement and behavior – Helping students stay out of trouble and positively engaged in school is also critical to their success. Students who demonstrate consistently poor behavior or who are suspended from school are much more likely to struggle academically and may not graduate on time. Successful freshman year in high school – Transitioning into high school is a big milestone, and it is important that students receive the support they need to be successful, academically and socially, as they enter high school. A successful ninth-grade year sets the stage for students to be successful throughout high school and to graduate ready for college or a career.As educators, we are committed to supporting all our students in reaching these important milestones so they can graduate high school and grow into adults who have the skills they need to reach for their dreams in life. We are providing supports and programs in all schools and all grades to help our students reach these milestones.
Please join us in supporting all our students in reaching these milestones by reading to the children in your life, ensuring they are attending school regularly and reaching out to your children’s teachers to understand your child’s learning progress and how you can help support them.
Lori Haukeness is superintendent of Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1. Reach her at [email protected]. Re-1’s’s regular education column appears in The Journal on the fourth Friday of every month.