Recently, the headline of an article in the Port Aransas South Jetty read “Reach for the moon, catch the stars.” The article described how Port Aransas schools had not attained the highest rating of exemplary from the state for its 2010 levels of student achievement on the TAKS test. We instead received the second highest rating of recognized. The reporter who wrote the article must equate exemplary with reaching the moon, and recognized with catching the stars, or something like that.
I’d say it is just the opposite - after all, the moon is nearer to the earth than the stars. So, didn’t we reach the moon this year if we received a recognized rating? And, because we were rated exemplary last year, does that mean we caught the stars last year?
As the superintendent of schools, I can tell you that stepping foot on the moon or reaching the stars are not what our real goals are in the Port Aransas schools. Truth be told, achieving our PAISD Goal One is actually far less scientific and predictable as reaching the moon because what we do involves children who are not as predictable as a physics equation which may be used to get a rocket to the moon and back.
As far as not “reaching the moon” because of “a handful of students,” that isn’t accurate. As I said above, the teachers and staff of PAISD don’t think in terms of reaching the moon when it comes to student achievement, and we must know exactly which students are succeeding and which students need more help to succeed. Accuracy and detail are essential in how we teach children. We care about all of our students as individuals and we want to make absolutely sure each student gets the very best education we have to offer.
Goal One was approved in April, 2009 by the PAISD Board of Trustees. This is a key instructional goal which drives everything we do to ensure our students are successful.
Goal One says we will do our very best to make sure the children of our schools achieve high levels of learning and that we will use technology to do this. This goal also says we will provide “systemic and rigorous instruction.”
What does this mean? It means we will provide our students in all grade levels the most challenging instruction possible. Picture this: From Kindergarten through the 12th grade, all learning will be connected so student successes become connected and grow in complexity year-to-year, grade-level-to-grade- level. This takes time to do.
How do we even begin to get something so comprehensive and seemingly overwhelming up and going? We put Goal One at the forefront of our five-year district improvement plan. We have been working on what we said we would do in this plan for about a year now.
Because we work with children, this five-year plan, as well as the campus improvement plans and even the teachers’ lesson plans may change. Each time a child goes in a different direction in his or her learning, we must adjust our plans. As teachers, we adapt to our clientele, to our students. This is called education.
PAISD has some of the best teachers who know how and when to adapt to the needs of their students.
Let’s go back to the “reach for the moon” phrase in the newspaper.
As some of us who are old enough to remember will recall, space exploration in the United States began in the 1950’s. At a special address to a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared a national goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
President Kennedy’s goal was accomplished during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969.
It took more than eight years to successfully reach the President’s goal and land a man on the moon.
How long will it take PAISD to achieve Goal One?
With your unwavering and positive support, I’d say within three to five years, if we stay true to our plan and true to each other.
Dr. Sharon Doughty is superintendent of PAISD.