In the photo below, you see two distinguished representatives from the School District of Janesville in Beijing, China.
Why are they there? Why is the School District of Janesville placing an emphasis on international studies as a stepping stone to academic excellence as measured by student achievement?
As I have reviewed in an earlier blog, we were asked by then school board member Tim Cullen to review languages taught in the School District of Janesville. A study committee decided Mandarin Chinese should be introduced because it’s the most spoken language in the world.
This decision was embraced by the Board of Education, our administrators and staff. Six years later, we find ourselves in the enviable position of a national leader in Chinese programs. We have received international recognition and continue to develop Janesville International Education Program (JIEP) along all area in the district.
We are committed to preparing Janesville students to compete in a global marketplace. We don’t claim to have invented this type of program. We are taking the best of others, including highly acclaimed programs in Ladysmith, Wisconsin and Oxford, Michigan, and applied them to our goals and best practices. First and foremost, our mission is to serve out community by educating every child. We pledge to provide every child the best education possible.
While not the primary goal of JIEP, there is a very real financial aspect with possible revenue enhancements. In addition to tuition, international students and families represent opportunities for economic development in our community.
The School District of Janesville is uniquely situated to benefit from a strong international curriculum. The district is excelling in many areas. Our district has some of the best chess players in the state. We have a top 20 robotics team in international competition, a team that may advance to MIT and see coding it developed used by the space station.
It is only natural that we continue to find ways to help our student compete globally.
Curriculum Director Kim Ehrhardt continually reminds us that our goals and the programs we enact to meet those goals must be aligned throughout the district. At every level, and in every department, we must all be pushing the ball in the same direction. Whatever we do must, eventually, result in improving academic excellence as measured by high student achievement.
This includes JIEP. It’s why Dr. Robert Smiley recently returned from China, Thailand and Cambodia. Technology and information delivery systems must be aligned with our instruction in all areas, including JIEP. How could we expect to continue to lead in international studies, especially our emphasis on Chinese, if our overall communication system was not aligned with that area?
As you know, our Chinese program began at the elementary level. As it cascades to middle and high school, we must be mindful to not forget our elementary base. That’s why you see Lincoln Elementary Principal Shawn Galvin in the photo.
You will notice Janesville Board of Education President Greg Ardry in the photo. Other Board of Education Commissioners including Kristin Hesselbacher and Dave DiStefano have traveled to China. They were there to see first-hand the inroads we have made in terms of establishing partner schools and collaborative relationships.
Our board commissioners set policy and direction. They have asked me and the district administrators to implement that policy in the form of JIEP.
That’s why you will continue to see photos like the one accompanying this blog. These photos represent a furthering of our efforts to continue on the road to academic excellence through high student achievement.