Columbus State University and the Muscogee County School District took their partnership to a higher level Monday as they started a two-day conference to help them better prepare local students for the workforce.
The “E3 Conference” is designed to “engage, equip and energize students, communities and each other through active learning, brain-based strategies and new century skills,” according to the packet given to the estimated 200 invited teachers and administrators, about 100 from each institution. They gathered in CSU’s Cunningham Center for sessions such as “Education in an Age of Acceleration,” “How Meaning is Created in People,” “Weaving, Connecting and Building” and “Exploring New Century Skills.”
Columbus Technical College also is participating in the partnership.
“New century” skills, also called “soft skills,” are abilities often not measured by standardized tests but critical to a successful career and sought by employers. They include real-world problem-solving, working well in teams, communicating effectively and meeting expectations.
Approximately two-thirds of MCSD’s teachers are CSU graduates, and approximately half of CSU’s students are MCSD graduates. That’s why, during an interview with the Ledger-Enquirer, CSU president Chris Markwood called the university’s relationship with the school district an ecosystem of education.
“We are coming together to talk about how we’re going to energize our classrooms, energize education,” Markwood said, “and we’re going to do it with the same language, the same approach and with the same goal in mind.”
MCSD superintendent David Lewis said during the interview, “We are immigrants in our kids’ worlds in terms of technology being implemented, so we have to adapt to the needs for them but also keeping in mind the needs for the workforce. That’s why the soft skills, the knowledge base as well as the pedagogy, are critically important for developing that workforce, which also will attract people to come here to go to school, to work and live in our community.”
Markwood emphasized the conference is the most visible part of a partnership that has been building for years. Last year, Markwood moved provost Tom Hackett, a former superintendent of Phenix City Schools, into a new position, executive director of PK-12 (prekindergarten through 12th grade) partnerships, to lead this effort.
The partnership’s goals are to:
▪ Align university curriculum with what MCSD seeks for its teachers.
▪ Collaborate on faculty development to promote more active learning.
▪ Plan for the development of an urban lab school.
▪ Begin planning for the transformation of school libraries into innovation and discovery centers.
▪ Expand efforts to advance soft skills in PK-graduate education.
▪ Increase participation in dual enrollment, which allows high school students to take college classes and earn college credit for free while still in high school.
“This is just the very beginning,” Markwood said of the E3 Conference. “The ultimate goal is to better prepare pre-K through doctoral students who come out of our institutions to meet the workforce needs of this community, this region and this state. And to do so, we really need to do it together.”
Lewis added, “Typically, what happens in school systems is that we have to retrain teachers when they come to us to work in the environment in which we work. Now, we’re seeing the more we forge this relationship the better and more efficient our model is for our teachers to be effective with our students.”
Along with Hackett, other organizers of the E3 Conference are:
▪ Former MCSD Teachers of the Year Kim Lester (Hannan Magnet Academy) and Stefan Lawrence (Carver High School)