By Michael J. Williams
Tuesday, April 17, my wife and I attended the presentation at Auburn High School regarding the District 205 and Alignment Rockford proposal to implement the College and Career Preparatory Academy model at each of the four high schools in Rockford. As a former School Board member and parent of former students who attended District 205 schools, I was not surprised to see the presentation include the statistic that only 36 percent of Rockford high school graduates are prepared to enter college or other post-secondary educational programs, or have the academic foundation to qualify for most job opportunities offered by area employers. I have seen the empirical data over the past two decades showing student academic achievement on a decline and student dropout rates spiraling out of control. It is more than evident that it is now well past the time that something should be done to change the direction of the Rockford public educational system.
District 205 Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Willis and his administrative team, the business community, and Alignment Rockford have come together to support the “College and Career Readiness Rock” to deliver the transformative change that most of us in Rockford have been seeking for a long time. I was made aware of this initiative about a year ago when it was in the earliest part of the planning stage. I felt at that time Alignment Rockford and the administrative leadership team for District 205 was finally starting to address the curriculum and instruction issues that could have a positive effect on student academic outcomes. I am even more convinced now that the College and Career Preparatory Academy model will be what parents, students and teachers have been looking for to answer the question, “How do you get Rockford students effectively engaged in the learning process?” I am excited to see that the plan is better defined, designed and vetted.
Students should be excited about receiving instruction that is relevant to the real world and provides opportunities for service learning credits and post-secondary school opportunities. Parents should support this initiative because it is designed to motivate their children to learn and to stay in school. Teachers should be excited because the plan is designed to create a positive learning environment where they can teach more and deal with fewer discipline problems.
Many have tried, but few have been able to make systemic changes to our public education system that have made much difference in student behavior and academic achievement. For the sake of our children and community, let’s give Dr. Willis and Alignment Rockford the support needed to make academies work.
Michael J. Williams is a former Rockford School Board president.
From the May 2-8, 2012, issue