Rowland Foundation

2009 Rowland Fellows

2009 Fellows

Jean Berthiaume Jean Berthiaume, Harwood Union High School (jberthiaume@faystonelementary.org)

“This gift has allowed me to make meaningful and rich connections with a plethora of individuals and organizations both near and far. At the same time, it has provided me with the right balance of time and space to both collect and ponder so much about how to improve the quality of education at my school.”

The “democratization of school” will give students more opportunities to develop and use the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that are integral to a vibrant and active democracy. Harwood Union High School wants to integrate rigor, relevance, and relationship for the lives of their students and as a result increase student engagement.

This project focuses broadly on student voice and the role of ethnography in learning. More specifically it seeks to include many best practices that will ultimately increase opportunities for student voice in their schools and greater communities. For example, future curriculum will be developed collaboratively between teachers, students and community. Students will participate in the responsibilities of auditing, researching, and assessing needs for school reform. Finally, students will strive to understand themselves relative to the various communities they interact with both virtually and for real. In doing so they will become stronger democratic citizens that will not only seek to improve the world around them for themselves, but also for others around them.

UPDATE

The democratization of our school is the foundational principle upon which transformation has been built at Harwood Union High School. Our H-1 Change Proposal Process - empowers all stakeholders to initiate potential change. A team of students and faculty will showcase our collaborative, ongoing transformation work to include an H-term, a two-week block of instructional time devoted to student choice and student voice; student-run assemblies; a Big Picture Model school-within-a-school; transforming our food service by working with community partners; Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together team (YATST) using an action-research model to guide transformation; and a performance-based graduation portfolio meant to measure how our community is meeting the goals of our mission statement.

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Matthew DeBlois

Matthew DeBlois, Vergennes Union High School (mdeblois@anwsu.org)

“The opportunity presented by the Rowland Fellowship provides the means and opportunity to closely examine not only my own school's placement on the continuum of amelioration, but that of other more and less experienced schools to ascertain the correct path for us. Further, it strengthens our students understanding of their success, creates opportunities for them to contribute and grow in new and transformational ways.”

The personalization of learning at Vergennes Union High School begins with Morning Meeting, our advisory system. The system grows a community of learners partnered with an academic mentor - their advisor. This partnership, forged with parents and guidance counselors, assists them in identifying what success means for them, how they will go about achieving it and what kind of success they engage in long-term. The assessment of this system and our partnered callback system remain key pieces that aim to create an equitable opportunity for each student in our school.

Extended Learning Opportunities meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student body by offering learning experiences not only outside the building, but outside two traditional constraints of the school - setting and time. These endeavors will offer students insights into the community, opportunity to engage in a desired subject of study and a partnering endeavor rich with meaning. These guided experiences will facilitate collaboration with the school, a community resource team and the community itself creating a sustainable learning community.

UPDATE

The programming at Vergennes Union High School continues to look critically at how best our students can succeed. We identified a need for a more comprehensive advisory system that permits a continuum of opportunities to link with an adult in the building that will guide them throughout their four years of high school. The goals of the program support the students understanding of assorted curricular and extra-curricular opportunities, provide educational support, align our PBiS-VT programming and provide an adult in the building and sustainable peer group with whom the students move through the school. Likewise, we aim to differentiate and support our students in non-traditional ways in a formal setting: Callback. This block of time in the middle of our day permits students and teachers to meet either individually or in small groups for re-teaching and re-learning of concepts not mastered in the regular classroom. We recognize that in our block system that opportunities need to exist for students so as to allow them myriad and different pathways to success. Also, we are changing the paradigm of our summer programming in hopes of extending the school year for some students. We know that learning for some students in the summer is a challenge, so we will offer them extended learning opportunities. These will allow students to connect internships, work experience and non-current course offerings as part of their portfolio of academic success that moves toward a performance based graduation plan.

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Jessica DeCarolis

Sarah Kiefer

Jessica DeCarolis and Sarah Kiefer, Fair Haven Union High School (jdecarolisj@gmail.com) (skiefer@arsu.org)

"The Rowland Foundation Fellowship has allowed us the opportunity to pursue a passion in the making for 6 years. We have been formulating this plan for implementing a dynamic education in an alternative setting, yet did not have the time or resources to pursue this dream. This Fellowship has provided these resources. We are very proud to be among this group of professionals and eternally grateful for this opportunity."

The focus of our project is to expand upon and operationalize a new alternative education program, the Learning Annex. We are working to establish an environment that can support and educate students with a variety of individual needs in a dynamic way with local resources. We plan to promote a structured, sustainable, evidence/outcome based program that would not only address academic needs, but also interpersonal and community-based needs. Cultivating life long learners, involved community members, and self-reliant individuals is our vision. We have three goals for this Fellowship: to audit the current program, to research existing programs and current theory, and to create and implement a structured program.

UPDATE

As a result of much of the research and data collected for development of the alternative program at FHUHS, many new initiatives at the main campus have begun. Specifically, this year FHUHS is piloting a grade 3-12 (plus GED) web-based curricula called Odysseyware. Our hope is that this curricula will allow for greater opportunities for students on and off-site, and will help to alleviate obstacles related to scheduling, long-term absences, and non-traditional programming. This summer FHUHS will also be launching a district-wide summer transition program titled High School Prep. The development of this program has been a district-wide collaborative effort to better support students as they enter high school. These initiatives share with the Learning Annex effort the goal of improving and expanding opportunities for our students and our rural community as a whole.

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Jason Finley

Jason Finley, Otter Valley Union High School (jdfinley@about.me)

"The difference between a dreamer and a visionary is action. The Rowland Fellowships allow educators an opportunity to take those actions."

The Rowland Initiative at Otter Valley is about creating a unified vision for school change. Caitlin and Jason are leading the development of two programs: (1) an interdisciplinary, sustainability-themed Freshman Academy and (2) the framework for External Learning Opportunities to encourage upperclassmen to design their own inspired, standards-based courses and projects. Beyond developing new programs, the Rowland Initiative is about supporting what Otter Valley already does well (including programs like the successful Moosalamoo Center and well-established interdisciplinary courses) and aligning all of these initiatives under a common mission: to use local natural and social communities to make connections and give meaning to classroom lessons; to inspire students to find personal relevance in their learning.

UPDATE

Jason is continuing to expand the External Learning Opportunities program. In the coming year all independent studies will fall under ELOs. Students will be required to follow the format of performing action research and demonstrating their findings through a service learning project. Students in ELOs are also now incorporating an extensive amount of blended instruction. Blending instruction involves a combination of face-to-face and on-line instruction.

The third link of the Otter Valley Rowland Initiatives, Moosalamoo Center, has expanded its curriculum to include two separate offerings for students. To enable this, it will be moving its program to the main campus next year, albeit in a field station which the students will build on Hawk Hill. The move will allow more students to participate in the program and ensure its heterogeneous mix.

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Michael Martin

Michael Martin, Champlain Valley Union High School (mikem@mpsvt.org)

"At a time when everyone seems to have an opinion on education, The Rowland Foundation had the faith and wisdom to ask Vermont teachers for their ideas on how to improve our schools. The Rowland Fellowship is a great opportunity for Vermont schools and a vote of confidence for dedicated educators working to change schools from the ground up."

If you walk down the halls of any high school you will notice that some students don't want to be there. And anyone who has seen how some students truly resent going to school must wonder what happened to the exuberant first-graders they once were. Why do so many children who loved elementary school seem to struggle in high school? At just the moment when students need to build advanced skills for college or a career, why do so many seem to think that high school is a waste of time? Of course young people will always crave freedom, and maybe there will always be “senioritis”, but this shouldn't mean that they can only escape high school by graduating early or dropping out.

And students who don't want to be there create significant challenges to a school's climate.

The goal of Mike Martin's Rowland Foundation Fellowship is to create a school transformation pilot program at Champlain Valley Union High School composed of the following: an interdisciplinary team of excellent teachers, community experience, rigorous standards, flexible scheduling, and the best in information and communication technology.

Mike is spending his sabbatical semester to conduct research, complete relevant graduate coursework at the University of Vermont, and visit schools where similar school transformation programs exist. In the hopes of designing a global education strand, Mike will also visit Senegal to lay the groundwork for a sister school relationship in West Africa.

UPDATE

Mike's work with a transformation team of CVU teachers last year culminated in a two-day Transformation Seminar at the Hilton Burlington. Teachers and students presented their findings and recommendations to school board members, parents, students, administrators, and other Vermont educators. Speakers included VT Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca, Deputy Commissioner Rae Ann Knopf, and CVU Principal Sean McMannon.

As a part-time teacher leader this year, Mike has continued to help with his school's transformation work and to contribute new research as a UVM EdD student. Mike has also helped facilitate the 2010-11 CVU professional development strands which have been dedicated to improving communication around student learning, establishing authentic assessment practices, and designing extended learning opportunities for students.

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Caitlin Steele

Caitlin Steele, Otter Valley Union High School (caitfrazier@gmail.com)

"The Rowland Fellowship is an inspired program offering teachers what they need most: Time."

The Rowland Initiative at Otter Valley is about creating a unified vision for school change. Caitlin and Jason are leading the development of two programs: (1) an interdisciplinary, sustainability-themed Freshman Academy and (2) the framework for External Learning Opportunities to encourage upperclassmen to design their own inspired, standards-based courses and projects. Beyond developing new programs, the Rowland Initiative is about supporting what Otter Valley already does well (including programs like the successful Moosalamoo Center and well-established interdisciplinary courses) and aligning all of these initiatives under a common mission: to use local natural and social communities to make connections and give meaning to classroom lessons; to inspire students to find personal relevance in their learning.

UPDATE

In the fall of 2010, we launched the pilot of our Freshman Academy at Otter Valley. It is an interdisciplinary program in which we team teach 9th grade English, science, and social studies through the lens of sustainability. The daily schedule is flexible to allow for a variety of lesson styles ranging from traditional lectures to high-tech, hands-on group projects. Our first group of students is - as we'd hoped - heterogeneous, challenging us to support students with a wide range of strengths and talents as each struggles toward a higher level of achievement. The curriculum emphasizes not only hard skills in research, writing, critical thinking, etc. but also self-reflection as we ask the students to consider how they learn best and encourage them to engage actively in determining their own educational paths. We are currently in the process of evaluating the program's success to this point. We've administered surveys to students and parents in both the Freshman Academy and traditional 9th grade program, and we're collecting data on attendance, achievement, and discipline. We've seen a great deal of student engagement, enthusiasm, and growth so far this year and are hopeful for the future of the program.

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