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CLEVELAND.COM |  August 2014

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PARMA, Ohio – Parma City School District Superintendent Jeff Graham believes today's students must be primed "to grow into jobs that we cannot imagine, and use technologies that have not yet been invented."

He made that remark during his State of the Schools address Thursday to members of the Parma Area Chamber of Commerce at Parma Senior High School, a speech that focused on how the district is trying to prepare students to enter the 21st century workforce.

Here’s a look at the top five takeaways from Graham’s talk.

1) Three 'Rs' no longer enough: Relying simply on traditional instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic will not equip students to thrive in a rapidly evolving professional environment, Graham said.

He said students also need to be skilled in collaboration, cooperation, communication, creativity, organization, problem solving, self-direction and social responsibility and technological fluency.

“With this foundation, I envision children growing into independent, inquisitive, life-long learners. In the Parma schools, we make 21st century skills a focus for our students and our teachers,” he said.

2) New math curriculum was the right choice: Graham defended the switch to a new math curriculum this year, a move that has drawn criticism.

He said College Preparatory Math (CPM) not only addresses the Common Core standards, but also pushes students to develop the skills cited above.

“This is not just a transition to a new math book. It’s a paradigm shift, and it’s difficult,” he said. “But, it is the right thing to do because it's preparing our students for an ever-changing, evolving and highly technical working environment.”

Graham said districts including Beachwood, Solon, Chagrin Falls and Solon have followed Parma’s lead in adopting CPM.

“Those are some pretty high-powered school districts, but so is ours, and we fully recognize that our students will be in competition with their students and we need to prepare them accordingly. And we will,” he said.

3) STEM expanding: Graham said science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs at Pleasant Valley Elementary School and in the district's three high schools have proven popular with students.

These programs will be expanded next year to include more elementary students and middle schoolers, he said. The goal is to make the district much more STEM inclusive for all grade levels by the 2015-16 term, he said.

4) Everywhere Classroom: Graham said the district will provide all students with an Apple tablet or laptop computer by December 2015 as part of the "Everywhere Classroom" initiative. Kindergartners and first graders will receive an iPad mini; grades 2-7 an iPad Air; and grades 8-12 a MacBook Air, he said.

He said WiFi internet access is now available district wide, and bandwidth has been boosted by 10 times.

5) More college credit opportunities: Graham said district high schoolers will have more chances to earn college credit next year.

The 2014-15 “dual enrollment” offerings will be College Chemistry, College Biology, Art Appreciation, Introduction to Art, College Composition, College Algebra and College Trigonometry, he said.

Additionally, the district will be adding American Sign Language as a foreign language option, Team Sports 2 as a physical education course and Digital Electronics, he said.

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