Taking stock on implementing Vermont’s Act 77
“Do you know where you are?”
Usually it’s a question medical professionals ask in emergency situations. It’s not as dramatic in the context of education, but it can be just as useful as a diagnostic criteria.
We’re going to ask you to take stock of where you are in the implementation of three pillars: Personalization (PLP’s), Proficiency, and Flexible Pathways. They’re the three pillars holding up Act 77, Vermont’s legislation to put students at the center of innovative school change.
*whips out a clipboard, tucks pen behind ear*
A student-centered approach to school discipline
Editor’s note: The students in Randolph Union’s PBL class have created a restorative justice system for their school. The students wrote this post as a way to share their story and encourage other schools to give restorative justice a try.
A lot of people are afraid to start implementing restorative justice in schools because of how intensive the work is. Although it certainly has been difficult to do it at Randolph Union High School (RUHS), we have found that it is well worth our efforts. Students have found that the working in setting up and running Restorative Justice has made subtle but important changes in their learning.
A flexible pathway for religious choice
In a time when combining 21st century skills with personalized learning is in the thoughts of educators, students, and parents, I see the choice of a faith-based education as a very specific personal pathway.
But how does a faith-based education work in the context of 21st century learning?
It’s about time
I am fascinated with master schedules! This is certainly a massive understatement. I love the challenge of putting all the pieces together, showing how everything is connected. My mind is wired to think through a systems lens. I am always asking myself, if I change this thing over here what happens over there?
However, I feel like the picture on the puzzle box, you know, the one that shows you how to put the puzzle together, isn’t the right image to be working off anymore. The way we build schedules is struggling to keep pace with the pedagogical beliefs and practices in schools.
On exploring flexible pathways to learning
This past August, Vermont Secretary of Education Dr Rebecca Holcombe addressed the 2016 Amplifying Student Voice & Partnership Conference on the topic of equity in education. She was also kind enough to allow us to record and share her remarks.
In the first of two installments, we hear from Secretary Holcombe as she highlights the story of one particular student from Randolph Union High School, who, along with support from his community, found a way to channel his passion for farming into work-based learning in Vermont, and from there, a world of high-level business skills.
How one school tackles work-based learning
“Work-based learning experiences are activities that involve actual work experience or that connect classroom learning to employment and careers. Through work-based learning experiences, educational programs become more relevant, rigorous, challenging, and rewarding for students, parents, educators, and businesses. These opportunities particularly help students make the connection between academic principles and real world applications.”
–Vermont Agency of Education
If you’re a student on the 8th grade team at Mill River Union High School in North Clarendon, Vermont, you’re leading the way in this arena: it’s tradition that every eighth grader at this school experiences a Career Exploration unit in the spring of their year.
How do student behaviors change?
Debi Serafino, a math teacher at Brattleboro Area Middle School, presents the results of her semester-long action research project examining the effects of implementing 1:1 norms and digital citizenship on the behavior of the incoming 7th graders, all of whom participate in a 1:1 Chromebook project.
Here’s what she and her team discovered.
4 lessons learned
A few months back, I wrote about how the Washington West Supervisory Union (WWSU) here in Vermont had initiated a series of conversations with the community with a kick-off film screening and discussion. I noted that “the most exciting thing about the conversation was the feeling in the room that we, as a community, could transform our schools. People were clearly ready and willing to have a conversation, and the general vibe was that we wanted to find a way to empower students to do great things within and beyond our schools.”
I’m happy to report that those positive feelings of community engagement coalesced into a sustained and profound exercise in participatory democracy. More than 100 community members came together during four two-hour Monday evenings in March. They worked in groups to examine their own beliefs, learn about school transformation efforts already underway, and ultimately provide recommendations that will be considered by the school system’s leadership team.
A tech-rich case study from rural Vermont
The team from Hazen Union Middle School, in Hardwick, Vermont, conducted an action research project over the fall semester of 2015, centered around deepening students’ connection to their community. They called the unit “I Belong”.
It provided students with tech-rich opportunities to engage with the small and rural community of their town.
4 lessons from a recent gathering
On Friday, March 11, more than 50 participants from public and private schools, community education partners, and higher education from Vermont and the surrounding region gathered for a Community Based Learning workday, put on by Big Picture Learning, Eagle Rock School, Big Picture South Burlington, and Partnership for Change. This day of speakers, working sessions, and roundtable discussions brought together educators from different settings to “explore the possibilities, challenges, and resources of community-based learning in Vermont.”
A few folks from the Tarrant Institute were in attendance, and in this post we present 4 lessons about community-based learning in Vermont, gathered from the formal and informal discussions throughout the day. Continue reading