Cincinnati Public Schools adopts initiative to help prepare students for the changing world

CINCINNATI -- The world is changing and the superintendent of the Cincinnati Public School district is implementing a new program to make sure students don't get left in the dust.

Superintendent Mary Ronan and Cincinnati Board of Education members detailed their initiative, called My Tomorrow*ed, at the seventh annual State of the Schools event Thursday.

The record crowd of 300 people heard Ronan discuss that 97 percent of the district’s third-graders had passed reading tests and would be promoted to fourth grade under the state’s Third Grade Guarantee .

They also heard about a heightened focus on literacy, increased high school rigor, the expansion of the district’s Community Learning Centers and even a a new CPS mobile app to improve parent communication.

But what drew the most attention was the announcement of My Tomorrow, an initiative combining the latest technology and supportive adult relationships to redesign traditional learning models.

MORE INFORMATION FROM CPS: BROCHURE  AND VIDEO

With the world continuing to shrink as communications, travel and commerce become increasingly global, the new plan aims to help students prepare to live and work in an ever-growing, fast-paced world.

“What’s motivating us, what’s serving as our North Star, is our 2020 Vision: In six years, a full 100 percent of our seventh-graders will graduate prepared to actively pursue their chosen career path,” said Deputy Superintendent Laura Mitchell.

The eight guiding principles of My Tomorrow*ed:

  • Higher expectations - In order for students to meet tougher learning standards and compete for increasingly demanding jobs, they must be exposed to more rigorous content and performance expectations.
  • Engagement - The future is layered, networked and vibrant, so our students must be engaged socially, emotionally and intellectually-and at a deep level-to fully develop their talents.
  • Collaboration - The workplace is becoming increasingly collaborative and it will be even more so in the future. So our students must be comfortable working in teams, sharing responsibility and making joint decisions.
  • Real-world connections - The future holds many challenges, so our students must be exposed to real-world issues and their possible solutions, while being inspired by -- and even consulting with -- experts throughout the world.
  • Technology - The future promises to be only more wired (and wireless) and data-driven, so our students must be able to use information and communications technology to expand their knowledge and deepen their skills.
  • Social-emotional learning - In both the actual and digital realms, the future will be even more heavily networked, so our students must be able to expand their self-awareness, learn social skills and understand the hallmarks of wise choices.
  • Critical thinking - The future offers an abundance of information and opinion, so our students must be able to analyze, synthesize and evaluate.
  • Creativity - The future is awash in opportunities and challenges, so our students must be able to generate new and novel ideas, conceive of alternatives and view things from different perspectives.

The in-class initiative also entails increasing academic challenges and building upon the skills teachers in the district recognize as "critical to a 21st century education."

They're going to place an extra emphasis on several different learning styles, including inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, discovery learning, cooperative learning and something described as "authentic learning."

"To bring academic concepts to life, students must engage in activities that allow for real-world simulations of workplace scenarios to help them understand how to apply what they're learning," according to CPS officials.

With the new emphasis on technology, actual coursework in social studies, math, language arts and science classes will also change over time.

"Imagine, for instance, how social studies capstone projects might be 'published' as blogs or social media campaigns, or how teams of students may tackle science projects using virtual modeling," Cincinnati Public Schools wrote in its presentation materials.

CPS leaders believe placing an emphasis on specialty styles of learning will gives a "competitive edge" when they head into the workforce or onto college.

So, how will they do it?

All students in grades seven and eight will join an advisory team of teachers and stay with that team through graduation. Each group will meet with a teacher at least weekly to develop goals, understand work personalities, and create college and career plans.

High school students will use specialized software that is designed to assist them with college and career planning. The high-tech environment will also include devices for researching, exploring, connecting and presenting, according to CPS.

Students will also receive a "playbook" that has strategies and activities designed to help them achieve in the classroom and on a professional level.

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Tomorrow will roll out during the 2014-2015 school year at all 15 Cincinnati Public high schools and will eventually be implemented in every school throughout the district.

The official website for the initiative launches Aug. 20, five days before students head back to school.

Web editor Alyssa Dailey contributed to this report

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