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Advocate Voices

Legg: Teacher training needs to keep up with digital transformation

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Editor’s note: In the past two legislative sessions, Florida Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, has pushed for new digital learning funding and policies. As more students head back to school on Monday, the Senate Education Committee chairman says teacher training and professional development need to keep up with the changes happening elsewhere in society.

Sen. John Legg
Sen. John Legg

Today’s kindergarteners are unlike any generation before them. They are true Digital Natives, never knowing a world without tablets and wireless internet access. Digital Natives can dream bigger and brighter, due to advancements everywhere being made daily.

Digital Natives not only require, but demand, merging technology with learning. Portals of knowledge and exploration have literally been at their fingertips their entire lives; the use of devices and apps is instinctual. Our entire education system faces the challenge of empowering students for success, instead of powering down to an era before their birth.

Here’s to less wishing, more doing to empower parents

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Sharhonda Bossier
Sharhonda Bossier

Editor’s note: This is the third post in our school choice wish series. See the rest of the line-up here.

by Sharhonda Bossier

I’ve never been into making wish lists. I’m not much of a dreamer – or “wisher.” I am – and have always been – a doer, a worker, a fighter.

Perhaps my focus on “doing” is the result of where and how I grew up. I was raised by my grandparents, who never let me live under the delusion that WISHING for success would be enough. My grandparents had limited formal education, but they wanted better for their children so they DID something about it. They were part of the generation of Black Americans who left the South during the Great Migration in search of better lives only to encounter a slightly different Jim Crow.school choice wish 2014 logo

The awful schools, substandard living conditions and persistent discrimination weren’t that different from what they’d left behind. Still, they DID something about it. They fought for access to better schools and improved housing conditions. They fought against the weight of inner city violence, deeply rooted intergenerational poverty and drug epidemics. And, they invested in future generations, raising me to work hard and to fight for what I knew was right.

Thanks to my grandparents, my commitment to DOING led me to a career as an educator and organizer. I’ve spent the past decade working in schools and helping others fight for access to better schools, just like my grandparents. That is because I believe all children deserve to attend an excellent school that will prepare them for success in the college or career of their choice. I believe families should be able to choose where to send their children to school and we should support policies that make that possible – especially for children trapped in schools that have failed their communities for generations.

Four years ago, I set out to help build a movement of parents willing to do whatever it took to guarantee every child in their city received an excellent education. I marched with those parents, helped spread that momentum to other cities, and watched more parents DO something to guarantee a brighter future for their kids. I watched as decision-makers & power players were forced to listen to communities they’d once neglected & ignored.

Because of this, I am hopeful that the future my grandparents worked for – and yes, WISHED for – is possible.

Customization now among education’s fundamentals

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by Senator John Legg

Sen. John Legg
Sen. John Legg

As summer comes to a close and school doors get ready to open, one needs to simply walk into our classrooms to see how much has changed and continues to change in Florida’s educational system. The “one-room school house” is obsolete. The demands of the economy and the challenges that face our state and nation require new skills. Today students must learn not only the three R’s but also master the five C’s: creativity, content, customization, collaboration, and character.

Now, more than ever, our students need to utilize their creativity. The rigid, traditional methods of problem solving are insufficient. Today’s economy requires an ability to process and understand multiple variables. Students must be able to respond to new and unique problems facing our vibrant, rapidly changing communities. They must ask probing questions, consider options, investigate, test ideas, fail, learn, adapt, try again, and succeed.

Content matters, and it must be rigorous. More will be expected from our students as they pursue higher education or careers. No longer are classmates merely competing with one another. They are now being compared to their peers statewide, across the county, and around the globe. As Florida moves to elevate standards, it is essential that rigor be heighten in our classrooms. Content must be mastered by students in order to be competitive.

Collaboration is also essential, not just in the classroom but in the workplace. The days of listening to the “sage on the stage” has come and gone. Today’s students must work to identify problems, formulate solutions, build consensus and discover … together.

In all aspects of our lives we prosper as a result of customization, and achievement in learning is no different.

Across Tampa Bay the benefits and success of customization in education is evident. In Hillsborough, single-gender schools have prospered in areas where low achievement was the norm. Technology-focused schools, arts-themed academies, and medical and business industry certification programs have all been developed to nurture students’ inquisitive interests. Pasco County is soon to be home to a STEM-focused, aeronautic regional academy, the first of its kind. Special needs students will flourish at the new Pepin Academy, a celebrated charter school with a customized approach. Pinellas’ collegiate high school partnerships with St. Petersburg State College, veterinarian sciences schools, a graphic arts academy, and engineer-themed schools are the inspiration for what is now a statewide strategy.

These are just some of the latest innovations along with options for virtual education, themed-based schools, magnet, charter, and other opportunities that can be molded to students’ unique learning needs.