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Career ready, college ready, post-secondary prepared and future ready.

If you've talked to an educator over the past decade, you have undoubtedly heard these words. Bentonville schools are no different; it's our goal to prepare kids for life. The conversation starts with us, but includes you. We invite you to join in forming a consensus on a shared definition of what these words mean for our community.

One part of the definition has to include the delivery of quality pre-school opportunities. This early stage of formal education is so important, especially for families without resources to create and support a learning environment at home. This initial component is crucial to establishing a mindset geared toward learning.

Defining preparedness also has to focus on early elementary. Numerous studies conclude that creating active learners proficient in literacy and math by third grade is a leading indicator of future success. Another critical point for defining preparedness occurs in sixth through eighth grade where studies cite an understanding of algebra concepts as indicative of preparedness for future college and career opportunities.

Literacy and math competency is important for preparing students ready for future opportunities. But it's not enough. Learning to think is perhaps the most critical component in arriving at a consensus to define preparedness.

Our teachers build critical thinking skills into lessons more now than I can remember. I love walking into a first-grade classroom where kids are doing research, discussing what they discover and collaborating in the publication of a book to document their efforts. This is so different from my own first-grade experience where rote learning of the antics of Dick and Jane kept me glued to my seat.

I've been in middle school classrooms where students explain art projects that display their interpretation of a current or historical event. The depth of thinking on display during this year's junior high science fairs was phenomenal. Each project involved an in-depth analysis of a complex, real-world problem and concluded with a creative solution. The development of critical thinking skills leads to our high school, where students produce thoughtful products with real-world applications.

As we continue to evolve and refine our definition of preparedness. It has never been more important for you, our community, to be an active participant. We need you to actively engage with our students through mentorships, internships and as clients for our high school students. We need your help to change the conversation on preparedness to focus the definition on developing a mindset of continuous learning as a priority for everyone -- whether an 18-year-old high school graduate or a 53-year-old superintendent.

An evolving definition of college ready, career ready, post-secondary prepared and future ready requires a change in the delivery model of education to align with community needs. We are collaborating with Wal-mart Information Systems Division and TATA Consultancy Services to implement a technology solutions classroom engaging small and large businesses, non-profits and other local organizations with students to create real, relevant learning opportunities. We are developing partnerships with other Benton County school districts and home and commercial builders to provide options for students to explore future employment opportunities.

The time has come to think critically about how we define preparedness and start a conversation toward building a consensus on what that means for our community.

NAN Our Town on 04/30/2015

Print Headline: 'Ready for the world' looks different these days

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