Episode 145: David Richards, Superintendent of Fraser Public Schools

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David Richards of Fraser Public Schools talks about the innovative things they’re doing from a competency-based education and blended learning standpoint, how he’s trying to rethink the culture for teachers in the school, and how he dealt with change.

Guest Bio:

David RichardsDr. Dave Richards is the Superintendent of Fraser Public Schools. Fraser is a school district of over 5,400 students located in Macomb County, Michigan.  The District is one of the largest 1:1 iPad initiatives in the Great Lakes Region with students in grades 3-12 equipped on a 1:1 basis and iPad classroom sets in grades PreK-2 with a focus on personalizing learning for every child.  To further support the individual learning needs of every student, the District is currently in the process of implementing a competency based learning model across all grade levels which will allow students to progress through their academic experience based upon demonstration of proficiency.

Dave is a Board Member for the Tri-County Alliance and the Galileo Consortium for Teacher Leaders.  Before being named Superintendent in 2010, Dave was the Principal of Fraser High School since 2005.  Prior to joining Fraser, Dave spent 10 years with the Rochester Community Schools, as the Director of Educational Technology and Information Systems.  While serving in this capacity, Dave was an elected member of the Consortium for School Networking Board, the Dell Computer Advisory Council, and served as the Chair of the Compaq Computer National Education Advisory Council. Previous to his work in Rochester, Dave was a classroom teacher and computer coordinator for Belding Area Schools.

Dave earned his B.S. degree from Central Michigan University, M.A. from Grand Valley State University, and Ed.S. and Ph.D. from Oakland University.

(source: edtechspecialists.com)

Show Notes:

(02:24) When you hear the word “successful,” who’s the first person or what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

(03:39) David’s background

(07:21) It’s cool to hear your own story of struggle and being “at risk.” I’m sure that gives you some obvious empathy towards your students and the faculty now. And obviously your background in education, coming from a technology background, gives you a sense for how to use technology to enable, rather than just institute it because it’s popular or it’s a trend.   

(9:46) I’m really curious as to the competency-based model that you’re thinking and how you’re using blended learning to support that model. Why don’t we set the table for the listeners on the demographics and what the community is like in Fraser?

(12:10) Let’s dive into the changes that you’ve helped to really accelerate here at Fraser. I was watching a video about how you’re really re-thinking grade levels and cohort-based education. And you’re thinking about it from a skills-based perspective. Where did that interest come from? I’m seeing it a lot at the higher education level. I haven’t seen it as much in K-12. I’m interested in your case, how have you been rethinking, how you have been getting through those barriers at that level?

(17:01) I’d like to get back to your point of really solving for mastery. I think it’s so critical, especially being done at the K-12 level… I’m wondering, just out of curiosity, do you do anything like that [Southern New Hampshire University’s program] at the higher ed level or industry at all to determine what skills are important for students to learn in that model?

(19:53) And that’s the thing. Instead of force-feeding kids into college, if they have technical skills like that, they don’t need to to be going to college.  

(20:54) I was reading something about the work that you’ve been doing and how it’s forced you to re-examine the cultural norms of the school, like legacy positions. Can you tell me how you’ve gotten teachers to come aboard with this and just all the dynamics around that?

(24:01) What do you think most educational leaders get wrong when they’re thinking about trying to change culture, bring in progressive models like this? What do you see from your colleagues across the country, that if you get them aside in a room, what would you tell them differently?

(26:17) What gets you most excited about the future of learning?

(27:28) What gets you most frustrated about the future of learning?

(29:03) Do you have a book, or maybe a couple of books, that have most influenced you, and why?

Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning by Chuck Schwahn and Bea Garvey

Managing Transitions by William Bridges

Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems by Michael Fullan

(29:57) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?



Website: http://www.fraser.k12.mi.us/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/drdavefps


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