The advisory system at Randolph Union has slowly evolved over the past four years, serving as a support system for students, helping prepare them to execute student led conferences, housing student work in portfolios, and preparing students to defend those portfolios in two separate high school rites of passage. Our time as Rowland fellows will allow us to continue this work as we move toward Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements and begin implementing facets of Act 77.
During the sabbatical, we intend to research best advisory practices and the schedules and structures that support successful advisory models. This research will include: collaborating with Rowland Fellows who have taken on similar challenges, attending workshops and conferences, visiting schools that have successfully created programs similar to what we endeavor to institute, reading and reflecting upon the work of others, and collaborating with colleagues and advisories to revise our current advisory handbook, curriculum elements, routines and protocols.
The goal is to develop a collaborative team consisting of students and colleagues from throughout the school. This leadership team will develop a feedback tool in order to provide a consistent means for collecting and sharing information from school visits. The intention is to develop up to three proposals for faculty, student, and community feedback and, ultimately, with the support of all stakeholders, adopt a proposal that best supports a robust advisory system. Additionally, we intend to continue to work with our current advisories throughout the year and, during the spring semester, envision creating continual professional development opportunities and working as a support team for our colleagues.
We have spent the last several years on revising our assessment methods in our high school classrooms, with a specific focus on standards-based grading. As we have refined our grading and assessment systems, we have attempted to bring them to scale, but quickly realized that changing the grading paradigm is incredibly complex. Not only does it require systems level changes, but it also necessitates a mindset shift for all involved stakeholders.
Standards-based grading may seem old hat, but when one really starts to investigate this topic, it becomes readily apparent that the discourse is mostly rhetoric. There are certainly a number of model schools that are toying with standards-based grading practices and some have fully implemented systems, but by no means is the work done in this field. It seems that many schools struggle with the implementation process and some have plateaued with their ability to find a way to move from traditional grading schemes to more competency-based systems. Others have been met with strong opposition from students and parents. Our intent is to become an exemplar school so others may see how to successfully implement a SBG system. This will be particularly important with the advent of PLP's and proficiency-based graduation requirements in the state of Vermont. Our work will focus on understanding the successes and tribulations of other schools with implementing a standards-based system of grading and reporting. Our aim will be to provide transparency so as to help parents, teachers, students, and community members transition to a new philosophy of assessment and grading.
In a formidable effort to embrace the potential of technology, Lamoille Union placed iPads into the hands of every student in grades 7-12 two years ago. This continuing initiative, known as Lancer One, is guided by four important principles: universal access, spontaneous learning, equity, and personalized learning. Of these four principles, we have made strong gains in the first three, and it is in the fourth--personalized learning--that I see the greatest potential for growth. With the advent of Act 77 and Personalized Learning Plans, the time is ripe for a return to what school should be: simultaneously full of wonder and adventure. I intend to recapture these qualities through the study of games-based learning, and to harness the transformative potential of Lamoille Union's 1:1 iPad initiative.
Transformative, authentic experiences engage, connect, and inspire. Remarkable lessons accomplish this in the classroom, in addition to instilling a sense of wonder and adventure in their participants. As evidenced daily by the allure they have for our students, games have the power to encompass all of this and more. In fact, games could well be one of the best methods of curriculum delivery yet to gain real traction in everyday lesson design. The educational benefits of well-designed games are numerous: they motivate us through challenges and then reward us for our accomplishments; they celebrate experimentation and reward our "failures"; they engage us, connect us with others, and ultimately remind us that play is a universal teacher. Games captivate students with the promise of fun, and as rigorous educational tools, challenge students to push their boundaries and create meaningful learning experiences.
As a Rowland fellow, I will deepen my understanding of how the components of game-play are successfully applied to curriculum design and personalized learning. It is my goal to design two humanities games based on the themes of Identity and Survival, as well as to create a template for games-based lessons that will offer time-starved teachers a faster, more accessible path to games-based learning. My guiding principle will be to frame learning as an adventure as I increase the capacity of our Lancer One initiative and establish a mindset that embraces the wonder of games as powerful learning tools.
The enactment of Vermont's Act 77 in Vermont offers an opportunity to transform the public school system as we have known it. This law allows for personalization of learning as well as a redesigned reporting system that focuses on learning. With these changes come difficult and uncomfortable moments for classroom teachers, students and parents. Daniel Pink's work on autonomy, mastery and purpose as essential components of intrinsic motivation, provides the foundation for my proposal. Personalization requires teachers to rethink the management of their classrooms and the design of their curriculum. Students will need to be more self-directed than ever before. I will research and explore models of self-directed learning as they relate to a public school. I will develop tools for both teachers and students that will help to scaffold self-directed learning. I will explore the impact that technology might have on personalization in the classroom. The most important aspect of this change that I will be working on will be the change in culture needed to make these changes in a way that they "stick". The development of a collaborative, sharing culture of constant change will be vital. I will be working collaboratively with our teacher leadership team and principal to create systems and structures that will facilitate these changes in a productive and collaborative way.
The ultimate goal of this project is to develop a public school system for personalized learning that engages all students in meaningful learning. The systems, structures and tools developed will give all students the opportunity to be self-directed learners.
Montpelier High School is a top-notch school. We're consistently ranked among the top 10 schools in the state. We have a tiny drop out rate and frankly, it's a great place to work! But like many Vermont schools we are facing a dip in enrollment, which has implications for our future budgets. In a time when the state formula may be shifting, it would be great to have more students in our school.
To address this issue some public schools in Maine and New York have started boarding programs in which international students stay only one year. Montpelier High School is ideally positioned to start such a boarding program. Vermont College of Fine Arts has excess dorm space, a cafeteria that already serves three meals a day, and most importantly, they're enthusiastic about partnering with us. The big pieces of this puzzle are coming together, but there are many details to work out yet.
Through my Rowland Fellowship I, and a team of stakeholders, will put together the logistical, legal, financial, recruitment, and hospitality details of starting a public boarding program. I hope to collect best practices from successful boarding programs, and document our program in such a way that it could serve as a model for other schools. Montpelier stands to substantially benefit financially and culturally from this program, and it may be a solution for other Vermont schools as well.