Friday, October 31, 2014

COBBS: State of Ottawa High School Address

By RYAN COBBS, Ottawa High School | 2/10/2014

About two years ago at this time, we knew there would be an administrative change at Ottawa High School. A few months later, I was blessed with the opportunity to lead our school into the future with a great administrative team and a staff that are, in my opinion, second to none.

As we put together a plan for the items that needed to be addressed, the priorities came to the forefront with conviction. The needs included the utilization of a tested accreditation process, a transformation from a curriculum that was based on state standards to one that is focused on college and career readiness standards and which include the Common Core standards, a focus on an assessment system that is meaningful to our students while meeting the guidelines set forth by the state, implementing a program that would put an electronic device in the hands of every student at OHS, beginning a system that would recognize our students for their greatness, including grades, attendance and behavior, improving graduation rates and finally addressing the facilities needs at our school.

About two years ago at this time, we knew there would be an administrative change at Ottawa High School. A few months later, I was blessed with the opportunity to lead our school into the future with a great administrative team and a staff that are, in my opinion, second to none.

As we put together a plan for the items that needed to be addressed, the priorities came to the forefront with conviction. The needs included the utilization of a tested accreditation process, a transformation from a curriculum that was based on state standards to one that is focused on college and career readiness standards and which include the Common Core standards, a focus on an assessment system that is meaningful to our students while meeting the guidelines set forth by the state, implementing a program that would put an electronic device in the hands of every student at OHS, beginning a system that would recognize our students for their greatness, including grades, attendance and behavior, improving graduation rates and finally addressing the facilities needs at our school.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you exactly where we are on meeting these goals and begin to define what is next for our school.

The accreditation process was of utmost importance to our school and the students who we have served. Since we moved to the High Schools that Work Model, we struggled in determining our direction and found it difficult to find support services to help us define that direction. This year, under the guidance of Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa school superintendent, we moved to a known model provided by AdvancED. OHS has since worked through a building-level survey of what areas we perform well in and what areas we feel need to improve. Through this process, we developed a list of those processes that are leading to positivity and improvement in our building, as well as a list of the items we would like to improve, how we want to go about doing it, and a time line for those events to take place. We now are working with our building-level team and our site council to determine which of those processes are the most important for OHS, how they should be implemented, and finally when we should see the fruits of our labor, as well as a manner in which we can measure our success. We will be working through this process for the next few months in preparation for our first visit from AdvancED in April. We are very excited about our accreditation process and the improvements it should lead to in our school.  

Another issue of concern for us here in Ottawa, as well as across the state and the nation for that matter, is the implementation of a new set of standards. We began the implementation of College and Career Readiness Standards, or Common Core standards, a few years ago with our math department and have continued into our other academic areas. The change comes down to the expectation for students to truly apply knowledge to real world challenges and to prepare students to think and reason across all levels of academia. We will continue this implementation as new standards for the social sciences, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards, become adopted by the school board. We look forward to these changes and the opportunities they provide for our students.  

Next time we will discuss the other goals we had for our school, including assessment practices, student recognition programs, the 1-to-1 initiative known as Cyclone Connect, the rate of graduation for our students and, of course, facilities. We think we have made great strides in making OHS a better place for our students — one that is truly preparing them to take the next step in their lives, while providing them the foundational tools needed to guarantee their successes.

Dr. Ryan Cobbs is principal at Ottawa High School. Email him at cobbsr@usd290.org or call (785) 229-8020.

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