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Preparing students for an unforeseen future

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State Board of Education

I attended the Summit on Education Reform in Nashville, Tenn., where speakers and panelists from across the nation discussed directions education is taking and how our schools can prepare students for an ever changing future.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke about school choice and the role of parents in selecting the best school for their children. She continues to be an advocate for school choice to advance opportunities for all children. Several sessions highlighted success stories from students and parents who had taken advantage of school choice in their communities.

In a general session we heard about the importance of technology courses at all grade levels to prepare for future jobs that we can't currently define. One speaker said there were over 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States. What will happen when we embrace driverless cars and trucks? This was just one example of how jobs will experience change in the future. It's important to prepare students to adapt to changes so that the economy thrives and our citizens lead satisfying lives.

Colorado currently uses blended learning and online courses to enable students to learn skills that would otherwise be unavailable at their school. An example is a student in middle school currently enrolled in an advanced calculus course online. He is joined by three other students, in various grade levels, from other school districts across the state. Technology is opening up many opportunities that weren't available even two years ago. It is also moving so rapidly that we need to teach the basics of computer science beginning in kindergarten. And yes, there are fun applications currently available, online, for kindergarten students. Future careers will depend on this knowledge combined with creativity and flexibility to adapt.

The Colorado Department of Education with community participation is reviewing the Colorado State Standards and adding new standards for computer science. We need to prepare future teachers by including computer science in all teacher preparation programs.

Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District.

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