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Message from the County Superintendent

The world has changed.

A three-year old with an iPad now has more computing power at her fingertips than the planet’s most learned scholar had just a generation ago.

For educational institutions preparing students to thrive in the complex world of the 21st century, five trends are of particular relevance:

  • The technological revolution reshaping and accelerating all aspects of society
  • The closely-related information revolution
  • The exponential increase in diversity across the United States, especially in California
  • The globalization of economic systems
  • The educational ascendency of other nations, illustrated by the fact that American students no longer lead the world in educational attainment

As educators, we are preparing our students to live in a world that is more complex and more connected than ever. A robust conversation is taking place around the question: What competencies will a student need in order to succeed and thrive in the 21st century?

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a collaborative bringing together leaders from industry and education, surveyed employers nation-wide and discovered that, in addition to a solid grasp of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and in addition to technological skills and specific career skills, all students would
need mastery of four competencies (identified as the 4Cs):

  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Communication
  • Collaboration

Many thoughtful educators have come to recognize the importance of adding a fifth C:

  • Character

The five Cs have been important to human thriving for generations. To thrive is to grow, to flourish, to reach one’s goals, to become all that one desires to be, and to be emotionally and physically healthy. Students who learn to think critically, act creatively, communicate effectively, collaborate generously, and act with character and integrity become contributing community members, citizens, and leaders. In the 21st century, students must learn these competencies in new contexts and apply them with new technologies. The world has changed. So must education.

Indeed, education is changing. Among the significant trends in education:

  • An explosion of online, blended, and digital learning, corresponding to the technological revolution, giving students access to the extraordinary resources (and significant challenges) of the digital world.
  • The growing emphasis on the need to prepare students for STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). STEM fields are the drivers of the new global economy and American students tend to lag behind their international peers in these fields. Some advocate for adding the Arts to the mix and referring to these as the “STEAM” careers.
  • The emphasis on college and career readiness. In previous generations, students with a high school diploma (or less) might still find gainful employment in farming, manufacturing, retail, or the trades and earn a middle class income. With globalization, many of the lower-skill jobs previously available to Americans have been exported to other nations. Most new jobs that pay a living wage require at least some post-secondary education and many require a college degree. More critical than ever is a pre-K through grade 12 education that assures students are ready to succeed, without remediation, in higher education.
  • Recognizing the need for change in education to keep pace with changes in technology, employment requirements, and the demands of a global economy, the State of California has adopted a series of new initiatives that are reshaping California education

- Common Core State Standards
- Local Control Funding Formula
- Local Control and Accountability Plans
- Smarter Balanced Assessments
- Next Generation Science Standards
- English Language Development Standards

These social, economic, technological, and educational changes constitute the external situation in which the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) must formulate its strategies for 2014-2019.

This Strategic Plan describes OCDE’s mission, values, vision, situation, strategic priorities, goals, and the key performance indicators we will use to track the progress of Orange County education and OCDE effectiveness over the next five years. I look forward to our work together to ensure that Orange County students lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.

Al Mijares' signature
Al Mijares, Ph.D.
County Superintendent of Schools