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Thoughts on the purpose of Public Education

Dear Riverview Community,

     Just as our country has gone through many changes over time, so has the role of public education. The purpose of public schools in America has always been a reflection of the larger public debates and our nation’s direction at a given time in history. Early in our history, public education was used to develop literacy, primarily to enable the population to read the bible and advance puritan beliefs. At other times, public education has been used to enculturate particular populations into American society; for example, Native American and immigrant populations. It has also been used to support economic changes in our country, such as our transition from a largely agricultural society to an industrial society. Today, you may get 99 different perspectives from 100 people if you were to ask, ‘What is the purpose of public education?’

     On our recent parent survey, some parent feedback brought up this general question in relation to the appropriateness of the intentional social emotional learning occurring at Riverview. It is a fair question that has an answer. The Colorado Department of Education offers the following vision for students in Colorado, “All students in Colorado will become educated and productive citizens capable of succeeding in society, workforce, and life.” The mission of the Durango School District is, “to ensure each student develops the skills and attributes for lifelong learning. Through leading instructional models, globally minded learning programs and engaging teaching and learning methods, the district aims to instill in each student the ability to compete and contribute in the global community. Furthermore, the district encourages supportive and safe school environments, guaranteeing “equitable educational opportunities for each and every student.” In short, we are asked to prepare students with the necessary skills to have the ability to participate in society as full citizens. This encompasses academic as well as social and emotional skills of citizenship.

     For all Durango Schools, the particulars of preparing students are outlined by our district Performance Indicators in academic areas as well as in social and emotional skill sets, which Durango Schools terms ‘Mindsets and Behaviors’. Student development in Mindsets and Behaviors provides skills of citizenship for individuals as well as encourages a student culture that is safe for all students, a goal noted in our district mission statement. At Riverview, our counselors, Karen Finch and Lesley Ogburn, regularly visit homeroom classes to work with students on developing Skills of Citizenship. Our counselors co-plan with teachers around upcoming learning so they can better support students’ application of skills. Additionally, all staff are provided a monthly training on supporting students on a social and emotional level. The most important piece of support is you, our parents. On Wednesday, November 8th, at 6:00, Karen and Lesley will provide a 45 minute class teaching parents about the emotional part of the brain and how to support your kids through their social and emotional development and challenges. We are looking forward to seeing you in the Riverview Library for this event.

     Thank you for partnering with us in your child’s education.