The mission of Project STJASPIRE is to increase and expand the resources and support St. Johnsbury Academy provides to our students and by reaching out to parents as part of the Academy's "Center for Academic Improvement and Enrichment." Project ASPIRE will take the Academy to this next level.
It is recognized that the educational success of children is dependent on both the 6 hours of formal schooling each day and also, and critically so, the 18 hours of schooling which takes place at home. Communities and schools can do a better job ensuring the success of children and it is the vision of The Program Academic Improvement and Enrichment to be a key player in providing the support to achieve this.
Believing that parents are the first and best teachers of their children, and that during the high-school years they become increasingly distant from their children's education, the Academy is committed to do a better job in helping parents negotiate this new stage in their relationships with their children's education. The Academy will provide increased information, services, and resources so that our efforts during the school day are in turn supported at home after school hours.
Ultimately the goal of this proposal is to change our students and their parents' attitude of 'good enough' when it comes to academics and their child's potential to one of 'can do.'
"ASPIRE seeks to provide more tools and support to parents who have the momentous task of educating their children for the 18 hours a day their student is not at school," said Richard Boisseau, Director of the Center for Academic Improvement. In the early stages of Aspire, the project was awarded funding from the Rowland Foundation. The infusion of these funds propelled the Academy forward in both the intent and mission of ASPIRE.
Recently ASPIRE began offering "The Biggest Job," a nationally recognized program that addresses character issues of students, parents, and families. Additionally, a "Parent Conference Tip Sheet" from the Harvard Family Research Project was distributed to all teachers and parents. The tip sheet has received positive feedback.
Another example of outreach involves CapstoneAcademy seniors are required to complete a Capstone project. To inform the seniors' parents of Capstone requirements, a Capstone informational evening was offered at the beginning of both the Fall and Spring semesters in 2010-2011. The evening was attended by 75 percent of those invited. One parent responded, "First of all I would like to thank you for the great informational meeting about Capstone. It definitely helped us better understand what (our son) has been working on."
In the coming months, ASPIRE will expand its scope to include a web presence, improved teacher and parent communication, and programs aimed at involving parents during their students' transition from middle school into high school.
The goal of Dawn's project at Thetford Academy is the integration of technology in the classroom. While technology is available at TA, it is not being used to full potential. Working as a "colleague coach," Dawn will design and lead ongoing teacher education and reflective practice. Using the professional study group format already in place, she will help volunteer teachers work together to share ideas and learn integration techniques. These teachers will then share their knowledge with colleagues. Simultaneously, Dawn will convene a group of students to explore the new and exciting uses of technology, including social networking, in ways that are both safe and powerful for learning. These students will help design a new course offering for all students in the future. They will also make presentations to teachers, parents, and community members, helping them better understand applications such as Facebook and new technologies like iPods. Dawn believes that improved technology integration can have a transformative impact on the school, connecting the teaching and learning process with worldwide resources and 21st century modes of communication, thinking, and problem-solving.
Thetford Academy is buzzing with activity on the technology front. Last summer sixteen of our teachers attended a completely optional week long technology session. This summer 49 of the 60 returning faculty and staff will participate in another optional technology opportunity. Adults on campus are excited about the changes we are making and feel more a part of the decision making process. TA now has a teacher led technology team eager to take input from the entire campus. Faculty and staff are now committed to working toward a more unified technology future.
Vergennes Union High School (VUHS) is now writing a new set of performance-based graduation requirements that will open up multiple pathways for students and ensure that each graduate can apply the skills learned in high school. Our students must be able to function in the complex educational and employment world that awaits them. By giving students an active voice in what they study and how they demonstrate their learning we will engage students more deeply in their own education.
I believe the creation of a rigorous and individualized system for graduation will be a means to work collaboratively to build understanding and respect among faculty across core subjects. This effort should also create opportunities for interdisciplinary themes, and possibly courses. The performance tasks all students select for the online portfolios they will create as part of this process will also require them to self-assess their work and to demonstrate their learning using real world tools.
For my project I want to explore a specific way to increase the percentage of students pursuing post-secondary education by linking technology integration, student self-assessment, and the proposed performance-based graduation requirements. This linking will be in the form of the electronic online student portfolios and other means to aid students in demonstrating skills, knowledge and mastery. I believe that this would dovetail nicely with the instructional practices that we are using at VUHS: Formative Assessment Practices, Understanding by Design, and, at the middle school, Expeditionary Learning, which all emphasize the student's role in constructing knowledge. My project will also support our strong emerging advisory (Morning Meeting) and Call-Back systems which will facilitate the success of all students as they create a personal learning plan and eventually run student-led, portfolio-based conferences. The experience of reflecting upon and presenting their learning, repeated throughout their high school years, will help them to articulate their strengths, remain actively engaged in their own schooling, and raise their post-high school aspirations.
VUHS faculty developed nine different areas in which learners will demonstrate mastery of content and skills. These Performance Based Graduation Requirements (PBGRs) reflect the 21st Century skills:
In order to graduate, each VUHS learner creates and maintains a Graduation Portfolio that documents evidence of skills, knowledge, and enduring understanding as an autonomous, lifelong learner. The Graduation Portfolio must show proficiency in each of the following requirements. Each learner will give a final presentation and defense of their portfolio in their senior year.
The work of developing the PBGR system has become a means for us to work collaboratively to build understanding and respect among faculty across core subjects. We are looking to create opportunities for interdisciplinary themes, and possibly courses. Our work of developing a performance based graduation system is just beginning. Over the next 6 years, the staff will work with students and families to define the "evidence" that students will create to show that they are ready to graduate. These pieces of evidence that students select for their portfolios of academic success will also require them to self-assess their work and to demonstrate their learning using real world tools. Our advisory (Morning Meeting) and Call-Back systems are becoming more comprehensive as we seek to create opportunities which will facilitate the success of all students as they create a personal learning plan and eventually run student-led, portfolio-based conferences.
Each graduating class for the next 6 years will participate in some aspect of the new PBGR system. The Class of 2016 will be the first class expected to graduate based on successful performances of the PBGRs.
The Rowland Foundation Fellowship will enable Adam to work closely with a core team of dedicated Rutland High School educators in researching, designing, and implementing a program to improve learning by offering students a cohesive, interdisciplinary curriculum through a more personalized conduit of student and adult relationships. As they pilot this program, they will design a template for a 'Collaborative Community Network'--a network of core teams, each comprised of two to six teachers with a common group of students--and begin training teachers to work together creating theme-focused, interdisciplinary curricula and implementing best practices of instruction and assessment. Ideally, each community will cultivate its own identity, allowing students to gain a sense of ownership and belonging, and the teachers in each community will work together to provide support for their students and facilitate their success.
In the fall of 2010, Rutland High School piloted a freshman program in which an English, Math, and Science teacher provided an integrated and personalized approach to learning for a common group of sixty students. The program was built upon core standards that teachers reinforced in each of their content areas, and a collaborative approach to curriculum development, implementation, and intervention.
In the fall of 2011, building off of the success of the Freshman pilot, we expanded the program to include the entire Freshman class. Our Freshman Interdisciplinary Teamcomprised of two English, two Social Studies, two Science, and four math teachersoffers students a cohesive, integrated curriculum in which they are given opportunities to demonstrate what they learn within real-life contexts through project-based units. As the program evolves, two sets of competenciesGlobal Studies and STEMwill be emphasized.
Plans for the future, coordinated by our 2012 Rowland Foundation Fellow Jen Kravitz, include building this integrated approach to curriculum vertically through senior year. Students will have the opportunity to concentrate in Global Studies or STEM and receive the respective designation upon graduating.
Schools may be the last platform for democracy. The Declare Ourselves! Project is devoted to make this last platform effective, relevant and inspiring to our students of the Millennial Generation. The Declare Ourselves! Project will develop a participatory action research toolkit as well as a student leadership model dedicated to developing 21st century student voice at Twinfield Union School and across Vermont. Ultimately, students will establish a foundation that will lead to collaboration with schools across the world and as a result, the students will break down the geographical borders rural schools face in Vermont. The goal of the project is to enable students to understand themselves as they seek to understand others.
How can civic engagement be infused with 21st century skills? I believe curriculum is the foundation for civic engagement. Participatory action research and deliberative dialogue is the foundation that students need to establish in order to understand others' perspectives as well as realizing their own. A toolkit for action research, deliberative dialogue and rural issues action will be developed. I believe civic engagement needs to be modeled and supported at all levels of school leadership. Weekly Principal's Roundtables will be established and led by students to honor that, in the words of Twinfield Principal Owen Bradley, "those with the most positional power have the highest responsibility to share it with those with the least positional power." I believe 21st century technology has transformed the means of civic engagement and voice. The timing to infuse web-based technology with democratic dialogue and critical thinking is NOW! Twinfield will develop professional development to enable our school to meaningfully connect and collaborate with other schools across Vermont, the United States and the World using live video communication technology. In the end, we know civic dialogue and engagement happens best when it is concert with other youth voices. In knowing others we know ourselves, and as a result, we declare ourselves. Twinfield students will join with other students in Youth & Adults Transforming Education Together Initiative to provide a model for students and adults committed to find the most effective means to engage in youth voice and civic engagement.
"The Rowland Foundation Fellowship has provided credibility and momentum to a model of student voice in decision-making not only at our school but also throughout the state. I am so grateful to have this opportunity to reflect on my practice as well as have the ability to envision my next steps with a wealth of current research, best available resources, new experiences and inspired colleagues as my new foundation for continued growth."
Schools may be the last platform for democracy. The Declare Ourselves! Project continues to be devoted to make this last platform effective, relevant and inspiring to our students of the Millennial Generation. The Declare Ourselves! Project developed a participatory action research model dedicated to developing 21st century student voice at Twinfield Union School and across Vermont. Students continue to establish collaboration with schools across the world and as a result, are breaking down the geographical borders rural schools face in Vermont. The goal of the project is to enable students to understand themselves as they seek to understand others.