Mansfield ISD: A Model for Redefining Ready!

May 8, 2019, by Jimmy Minichello

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Mansfield Independent School District is a community located in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, about 20 minutes south of AT&T Stadium, the home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys.

Nestled within the boundaries of the school district lies the Ben Barber Innovation Academy. During any given school year, 10,000 students are getting real world, learning experiences in as many as 16 fields of study, including architecture and construction, business management, information technology, healthcare and manufacturing.

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"The No. 1 purpose of that facility is to get kids to graduate with industry-standard certifications," said Jim Vaszauskas, superintendent, Mansfield ISD.

We want students to "own their career, college and life-ready skills," said Kimberly Cantu, deputy superintendent, Mansfield ISD.

Students enrolling in the Academy program are given a "scorecard" which contains indicators tracking their academic performance for college, career and life readiness.

Superintendents and other school system leaders championing this movement visited Mansfield ISD last week for the first AASA Redefining Ready! Cohort meeting of the year. AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Microsoft, Forecast5 Analytics and Naviance by Hobsons hosted the three-day gathering.

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"Hosting the Redefining Ready spring meeting is an unbelievable honor for our district," said Vaszauskas, a graduate of AASA's National Superintendent Certification Program®. "I had an opportunity to hear Dave (Schuler, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year and past president of AASA, who serves as lead teacher for the Redefining Ready!) speak about Redefining Ready!. At the time, I was looking for our next step as a district and it felt like Dave was speaking to me. We immediately joined the Redefining Ready! Cohort."

"We have to plant new dreams in the minds of the children and their families," said Schuler, superintendent of Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ill. "Our children only know their current experiences. In many places of this great nation, we need to plant dreams in the minds of the kids to give them inspiration and motivation so they can be aspirational."

In addition to touring the Ben Barber Innovation Academy, cohort members visited the Dr. Sarah K. Jandrucko Academy for Early Learners. A facility that is part of Mansfield ISD, the focus of this learning center is to promote literacy and numeracy development at an early age in an exploratory and engaging environment. The meeting concluded with a visit to Mouser Electronics exemplifying the solid partnership between the school system and the business community.

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"It really gives me a continued opportunity to take a look at some of the great innovative (initiatives) that are being done across this country toward helping students achieve their career paths," said Louis Lee, assistant superintendent, Indian Prairie School District, Aurora, Ill.  "Being here gives me an opportunity to collaborate with like-minded leaders across the country."

"It's an eye-opening experience to see the different opportunities the students have for different venues of education as well as career readiness and life readiness," said Heidi Hellner-Gomez, assistant superintendent, Sunnyside School District, Sunnyside, Wash. 

"AASA is championing the critical issue of redefining college, career and life ready standards so our high school graduates can effectively pursue their post-secondary goals with confidence," said Mort Sherman, AASA associate executive director, leadership network. "We are thrilled that AASA members are coming together to engage about creating real-life workplace situations on behalf of our students. We thank our sponsors for supporting this initiative."

 

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The next AASA Redefining Ready! Cohort meeting is scheduled to take place in October at Township High District 214 in Arlington Height, Ill. To join the conversation via Twitter, access #RedefiningReady.

To learn more about the program, visit the AASA Redefining Ready! web page. Superintendents and other school system leaders can also contact Mort Sherman at msherman@aasa.org, or Debbie Magee, program manager, at dmagee@aasa.org.