Right now, I am posting from Old England (London) where I am visiting family and trying to find spring flowers and green grass. I have deserted New England, which is still waiting for snow to melt and to turn the mud into something that indicates that spring has arrived-and not just on the calendar.
Last week I explored the changes that are on the horizon in school systems across the nation, and this week I will share some of what’s happening in Northern New England with a different take on collaboration.
New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont are in various stages of implementing competency based education policies that have been adopted recently. New Hampshire (2005) has led the way, Maine (2012) is close behind, and Vermont (2013) is catching up. What these states have in common, besides snow and ornery natures, is a reverence for self-determination.
Competency based education has been defined at the state level (a bit differently within each state), but the framework for implementation is being developed at the district and school level. Instead of top down, it is happening bottom up. The state education agencies are providing resources to help districts develop implementation plans. The three states are collaborating to explore best practices and to provide professional development so that educators can learn from one another. The progress is faster in some places than others, but there are shining examples for possibilities to improve educational experiences for now and next gen students. The League of Innovative Schools is one of the opportunities for professional development across the region.
Find out more here: “Innovative Schools turning Around Lives in New England,” http://www.centralmaine.com/2013/05/20/innovative-schools-turning-lives-around_2013-05-21/
If you are interested, here are a few snapshots of what’s happening around the northern NE states
New Hampshire: PACE-Performance Assessment of Competency Education
- “Students at the Center: ELO’s at PMHS.” Extended Learning Opportunities at Pittsfield Middle High School. http://pittsfield-nh.com/sau/
- Here’s post by Chris Sturgis(2014) on the Competency blog that outlines an overview of progress in New Hampshire. “Five Take-aways on Implementation in New Hampshire.”http://www.competencyworks.org/reflections/five-big-take-aways-on-implementation-from-new-hampshire/
- From the school library webpage, Newfound Regional High School, a tutorial for setting up a proficiency based portfolio: “Creating Your Digital Portfolio.” Kerrie Zick, (2015) LMC Director
- “Voice and Choice in Learning.” 4th grade student explains how it works. http://mainedoenews.net/2012/01/18/voice-choice-learning/
- “Learning Faster, More Creatively With Technology.” 8th grade student tells how it works for him. http://mainedoenews.net/2012/01/18/learning-faster-creatively/
Vermont: Act 77: Flexible Pathways
One School’s Journey
Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School (Mt. Abe) in Bristol, Vermont has been headed down the personalization path for the past ten years. In order to keep high school students in school and to make learning relevant for those who were at risk of dropping out, educators developed a program, “Personal Pathways to Graduation.” It has been one of the choices that high school students can make as an alternative to the traditional course based track for graduation. Other high schools have developed similar models to meet the varied goals and needs of diverse students.
In the personalized learning program, students set goals and makes plans that are meaningful for their future. They take selected regular academic classes combined with apprenticeship opportunities. Some may take online courses or enroll in college classes, and go to other schools for classes. There are about 23 full time students in the program and up to 50-70 others, who cycle in and out part time. Two full time coaches lead participants and keep them on track in school, and also in outside school learning experiences.
Now, with the Act 77 timeline, all 7-12 schools in Vermont should have a system in place by 2017 that reflects the Flexible Pathways Initiative. The Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (home of Mt. Abe) is in the process of formulating plans, and providing professional development for educators that is modeled on the personal pathways program success.
Mt. Abe has an innovation team that has been offering professional development and training in personalized learning pedagogies for district educators, and has been helping set up record keeping systems and portfolios for students and teachers to coordinate progress. Students move toward mastery of knowledge and skills within areas of competency, rather than to take a course and get a grade. The personal pathways program is now a model for changing the traditional path to graduation that incorporates personalized learning opportunities for all students. It is a paradigm shift that will not happen overnight, so there is ongoing support for teachers to adopt and adapt.
Lauren Parren, the Innovation Coach for the school district, heads up the Instructional Coaching Services Team. The team includes other content specialists and consultants, and is located in a flexible learning space within the school learning commons area. The team works one on one or with small groups of teachers and students, or can embed in the classroom to encourage and model best practices in personalized learning. They have a very busy schedule.
Laura Mina, the high school library media specialist, is one of the team consultants. Her role is central to the work of the team, as the expert on information services. She has been renovating the library learning space for the past few years, and has a powerful virtual library that uses LibGuides as an organizational tool. https://sites.google.com/a/mtabevt.org/library/
Laura has compiled various resources and pathfinders for both teachers and students who are involved in creating personalized learning plans or developing curriculum. She is available for just in time teaching and learning, or for more formal classes, workshops, or other training opportunities.
If you would like to learn more about the progress for personal pathways at Mt. Abe, follow Lauren’s blog or join her, Barbara Bray, John Parker, Jon Tanner, Kathleen McClaskey, and Pat Lusher who will be speaking at the ISTE Conference on June 29 and July, 2015.
Off to do some sightseeing-Cheerio!
Image: Microsoft Clipart