In 2013, Helen Beattie of UP for Learning and Jane Feinberg of Full Frame Communications, collaborated to design and teach a year-long credit bearing course in Vermont called “Communicating School Redesign Through the Youth-Adult Partnership Lens.” (To learn more about the course, please visit the course website.)
The course was offered again in 2014 and 2015, with the support of the Agency of Education, the Vermont School Boards Association and the Bay and Paul Foundations. Daniel Baron of the School Project Foundation joined the teaching team. (MEET THE TEAM.) Andrea Grayson Ed.D. stepped in as the communications expert for the 2015-2016 school year, as Jane turned her attention to her doctoral work and other professional pursuits.
Each year, four to seven school teams of youth and adults work together as colleagues to building public understanding and support of both Act 77:Flexible Pathways and proficiency-based learning. Adults receive graduate school credit for their participation, while young people received high school and/or community college credit. Check out the 2015-16 course syllabus!
The course teaches “strategic framing,” an approach to communications that is geared toward building understanding for public issues, and introduces participants to research on how Americans think about education and learning. Participants conduct their own research as well, to better understand how all stakeholders in their community view these same issues.
The course also provides tools and strategies for facilitating dialogues in schools and communities. The curriculum is project-based and proficiency driven; each team creates a communications and engagement plan and implements it in the course of the school year. Often, their work loops to the next year, and the teams become integral to the school infrastructure.
To broaden understanding of Act 77 and proficiency-based learning beyond the school teams, we also created a larger complementary statewide campaign called Shaping Our Future Together: Communicating School Redesign, of which the communications course is one part. The larger campaign has given us the opportunity to share approaches and strategies in a variety of venues: at a forum attended by thought leaders with representation from approximately one-quarter of Vermont’s school districts: at the Vermont School Boards Association’s Annual Conference; and at a joint House and Senate Education Committee convening at the Capitol Building in Montpelier. This year, videos, infographics, an “I dream of a school where” Instagram campaign, and other simple tools to spark understanding and dialogue are being produced for use by school teams and for statewide dissemination.
The 2014-15 Advisory Board was comprised of leaders from the Governor’s Office, the Agency of Education, the Vermont School Boards Association, the Vermont Business Roundtable, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and the Partnership for Change in Burlington/Winooski.
Our work to date has been funded by the Agency of Education, the Bay and Paul Foundations, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, and in-kind contributions from UP for Learning.