From Whence We Have Come
By: Dr. James H. Carter, Superintendent of Greene County Schools
Uniformly, schools are generally revered as learning facilities composed of educators who organize instruction sequentially to promote children to become model productive career oriented citizens. However, historically, the curriculum utilized to construct learning and educate children has not been readily identified and defined. From the agrarian era to the current informational age, public schools’ curriculum and instruction have been molded and shaped by various economic and political movements. Currently, public schools’ educators, under the strain of policy and accountability measures, reference curriculum as state standards. However, curriculum is far greater than the robotic implementation of rote learning tactics to memorize standards assessed on high-stakes assessments. Effective curriculum embodies a systematic process for enhancing intellectual autonomy and the construction of critical thinking and dialogue while promoting a commitment to emancipation.
Frequently, we are told that education is the key to success. However, rarely is education defined. How do we measure if students are receiving a quality education? What does education consist of? Is education defined as the five core subjects: math, reading, language, science, and history or does education consist of an array of curriculum beyond the five core subject areas? With economic and technological advancements, 21st Century education demands much more than the five primary subjects. The Greene County Schools System understands the importance of offering innovative curriculum to enhance vibrant future leaders who will one day make a tremendous impact on the community and world in which we live.
Back in my school days, the classroom was composed of one teacher, writing on the chalk board while children remained stoic in desks, lined in rows, copying notes for rote memory, while listening to the teacher lecture. Today, Greene County Schools’ students are working on digital software using smart boards, laptops, and desktop computers, no longer in rows; but are now working collaboratively in groups while the teacher facilitates learning.
Most importantly, curriculum has evolved in Greene County Schools. Last year, under my direction, Greene County Schools gained Advanced Education Accreditation. Along with Career Tech, on-line courses, and STEM, Greene County Schools currently offers Pre-AP (Advanced Placement) Courses in all subject areas, Automotive Engine One, Performance Engine One, Lodging One, Career Preparedness, and Family and Consumer Health/Science, Dance, Choir, Band, and Drama. Also, retaining good teachers is vital to curriculum. As a result, teacher mentors have been selected and will be assisting new teachers with transitioning into the world of education.
Further, collaborating with the Children’s Policy Council, Judge Osborne, and local agencies/law enforcement, students at Eutaw Primary School and as well as 7th and 8th grade students at Robert Brown Middle School were provided life skills training by trained professionals. Furthermore, this year, students are wearing blazers and ties at the Freshman Academy, which thrives to assist 9th Grade students with transitioning successfully into the high school environment. In addition, just recently, Greene County Schools renewed its partnership with the University of Alabama and Shelton State College to provide Dual Enrollment and Early College Programs to students who would like exposure to college courses and access to college credit while in high school. Frequently, students are traveling to Universities receiving vital enrollment information as well as participating in other learning adventures beyond the schools’ walls to gain exposure to curriculum.
It is these experiences and connections with curriculum and instruction that is having an impact on students. The high school debate team has placed at a number of local competitions. Further, there was an approximate 20 percent increase in 3rd grade Mathematics scores on the ACT Aspire (State Department of Education’s Annual Assessment) at Eutaw Primary School. The entire school system is now implementing black history throughout the curriculum. Curriculum and instruction makes a tremendous difference.
As Superintendent, it is my firm belief that diverse curriculum promotes student engagement and high order thinking, which includes curriculum as praxis integrated with Piaget’s ideology of constructivism and intellectual freedom (Kamil, 1984). Curriculum should include more than the rote memorization of core subject areas. Curriculum should promote student led liberal arts, writing, science exploration, math problem solving, technology, and laboratories (Smith, 2000). As curriculum continues to evolve, one thing is evident, effective curriculum provides the freedom to explore, create, synthesize, and manifest discussion between the teacher and the students regarding relevant issues and concepts that are a segment of the community and the nation. By implementing innovative curriculum, Greene County Schools System is presently striving to expose students to cutting edge instruction and learning resources above and beyond all restrictions, limitations, and dimensions. My mission is to progressively inspire confident, knowledgeable, prepared students who have the attitude, skills and ability to graduate college- and career-ready.