When it comes to SpringBoard, some schools are all in
Even if the Hillsborough County School District wanted to part ways with SpringBoard -- and no one in the administration has indicated this will happen any time soon -- it would not be easy to unravel the program's relationships with individual schools.
College Board, the New York organization that also oversees Advanced Placement and SAT college entrance exams, designates "national demonstration schools" for its SpringBoard curriculum, a competitive process that conveys extra training, prestige and recognition. Such schools receive decorative plaques, educators are invited to College Board conferences and visitors tour their classrooms to observe SpringBoard in action. In recent years Bloomingdale High School, Strawberry Crest High School and Martinez Middle School earned that distinction.
Following a letter of support this week from Lennard High School math teacher Kelly Zunkiewicz, Superintendent Jeff Eakins received a similar letter of support from Carol McGuire, English department chairwoman at Strawberry Crest. These came in response to scathing remarks that School Board members made about SpringBoard during a workshop Tuesday.
I want to add my voice to that of the proponents of SpringBoard. There are many negative voices bombarding you with accusations that the SpringBoard curriculum does not work. However, I want you to know that not all teachers feel that way. I plead with you to look at the data and the curriculum itself. Visit classrooms where SpringBoard has been implemented with fidelity (myself and my team at Strawberry Crest High School would be happy to have you in our SpringBoard ELA classrooms).
If we are truly preparing students for life, I can say without a doubt, that the SpringBoard curriculum empowers students to think critically and to work cooperatively. Through this curriculum the students develop skills that will not only prepare them for college, but for whatever route they decide to take: college, work, or trade school. How do I know this? Let me share my background with you. Before I was a teacher, I was a PHR, a professional human resource manager. I hired people for a living. I evaluated the knowledge, skills and abilities of candidates looking for jobs at levels from secretarial to management. Candidates who could not only read, write and speak professionally, but who could also work cooperatively with others, were the strongest candidates.
The SpringBoard curriculum, when implemented as written, teaches students the skills they need to succeed beyond high school, beyond testing, and even beyond college. It asks them to question at a deeper level and to share their knowledge with others. It asks them to be metacognitive and reflective and to be cognizant of how they learn best.
Additionally, my teaching career began at the college level. I taught at Vincennes University, The University of Memphis, Webster College and locally at Hillsborough Community College. Having taught at the post-secondary level, one of the first things that impressed me about the SpringBoard curriculum was that it requires students to engage in ways similar to the ways my college students were required to read, write and study. Furthermore, I remember thinking to myself, "I wasn't encouraged to think, question or talk like this with other students until I myself was in graduate school." Thus, SpringBoard does indeed ask students to spring to higher levels.
SpringBoard is not the villain. It is simply the framework around which a well-trained, well-supported, and dedicated teacher can implement the path to success for his or her students. We are not shortchanging our students with SpringBoard, quite the contrary. We are giving them more than literature, more than writing skills; any curriculum paired with a strong teacher can do that. What SpringBoard can and does bring to our students, is skills for life.
Carol N. McGuire, MA