DeWitt High School gears up to help students become “college and career ready”

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By Emily Griffes
Bath-DeWitt Connection staff writer

States who have/have not adopted the Common Core Standards. Image by National Geographic School Publishing

When Dr. John Deiter became the DeWitt School District’s superintendent this January, one of his first decisions was to create a full-time director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. He did this to allow DeWitt schools to thrive with the new curriculum standards that Michigan adopted.

 

In June 2010, Michigan was the 40th state to adopt the Common Core State Standards Initiatives for k-12 education. This initiative outlines specific knowledge standards that students need to gain in each step of their education. The goal of these standards is to better prepare students for college and career readiness.

David Potter accepted the challenge, and in just a few, short months has taken many necessary steps to reach these standards.

“My goal is to create a different mindset in our schools,” Potter said. “To re-map how we do things to have a better fit for the 21st century.”

His first step in reaching this goal was to take a long, hard look at the current curriculum in DeWitt’s High School. In doing so, he found that the school needed an upgrade if it was going to graduate students who not only met the criteria in place by the Common Core Standards, but also were able to flourish in whatever pathway they chose to take in their life.

“The world is changing, we are now truly a global society,” Potter said. “We, as a school, need to teach students effective communication strategies for the job market that is out there today.”

With today’s technology, students have access to any type on information with the click of a button. It is because of this that Potter says the staff at DeWitt High School needs to teach students how to be producers of knowledge, not just consumers.

“In order to motivate students to want to learn, we need to bring rigor and relevance into our schools,” Potter said. “Rigor being critical thinking with in-depth learning, while still being relevant to what these kids are really facing in real life, so they can see that what they’re learning truly can apply to the real world.”

With these new standards in place, it is up to DeWitt High School’s teachers to take on the challenge in their classrooms. Rebecca Griffes, a math teacher at the high school, said that they’re doing all they can to get students where they need to be when they graduate.

“The administration has really pushed us to create a connection with each student,” Griffes said. “They hope that if the students respect us as teachers, they will want to do their best.”

But in a classroom of between 24 and 28 kids, getting around to each student can be a daunting task.

“I’m sweating by the time I’m done getting around to each student and answering all of their questions,” Griffes said. “And there are times when I feel that it isn’t enough.”

For students who need help beyond the traditional classroom, many DeWitt teachers have stepped up to help put together programs where students can get personalized attention. There are after-school studying programs, as well as math and writing labs during homeroom that kids can take advantage of to ensure that they are learning all that they can.

“When I help out with the math lab I always try to have a few seniors on hand who are really good at math,” Griffes said. “That way, there are a lot of people to answer questions so kids don’t think of it as being a waste.”

The next few years will be trying for DeWitt High School, but the administration and teachers alike are ready for the challenge.

“We didn’t become educators for the glory,” Potter said. “We did it because we are passionate about the future: our children.”

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