Category Archives: 2014-15

Otter Valley

By | 2014-15, School Stories | No Comments

Otter Valley Union High School, located in Brandon, Vermont, serves approximately 550 students in grades 7-12. The school’s mission notes that “reflective teaching and learning leads to high expectations for all students and creates enthusiasm for knowledge that encourages success in a global community”. With this mission in mind, the Communications Team of Danielle Eddy, Ben Francoeur, and Isabell Kingsley (students), and Michele Cioffredi (Moosalamoo teacher) took on the challenge of communicating the work of promoting multiple pathways for learning. Otter Valley participated in the Communicating School Redesign class during the 2014-15 school year.

Even before the enactment of Act 77, Otter Valley offered many different venues for learning: online classes, dual enrollment, early enrollment, internships, Extended Learning Opportunities and Moosalamoo, a highly recognized wilderness-based interdisciplinary course. Despite this fact, many reported limited knowledge (or use) of these opportunities.

The Team decided to tailor its approach to helping the Otter Valley community look at Act 77 as a vehicle for all students to have a voice in their own learning. The Shaping Our Future Together coursework helped them to identify the need to educate students regarding the multiple opportunities for all students. They write articles for the school newsletter and developed presentations for both the whole school and the full School Board.

Otter Valley’s faculty survey results showed great excitement for continued movement forward with personalized learning plans and the implementation of advisories school-wide. Professional development has already begun for developing school-wide proficiency-based assessment and graduation requirements.

Hazen Union

By | 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16, School Stories | No Comments

Hazen Union is located in Hardwick, Vermont, often referred to as the gateway to the Northeast Kingdom. The school serves approximately 350 students in grades 7-12, with staff and students who appreciate the value of a small school. The current communications team for the 2015-16 school year is: Molly Stanciu, Russell Shopland, Clara Lew-Smith, Ryland O’Connell (students), Mike Moriarty (Principal), Chris Miller (Director of Guidance), and Jen Burton (Technology Integration faculty).

The Hazen Union Communications Team is in its third year of engagement with the Communicating School Redesign course. They were one of the pioneering schools during the CSR 2013-2014 year and re-formed to participate in last year’s coursework in order to take their plan to the next level. This resulted in a team-led Hazen faculty meeting and a district in-service to illustrate the “why” of Act 77: Flexible Pathways, and proficiency-based learning. Subsequent data showed that, while these efforts were effective in explaining the “why” of school change, more needed to be done to communicate the “what” and “how” of personalization.

To that end, the Hazen Leadership Team developed a Teacher Student Advisory program and a long block schedule, building Hazen’s capacity to support Flexible Pathways and Personal Learning Plans. The CSR team organized recruitment of students from each advisory who were trained in engaging strategies to introduce their peers to Act 77 and a more personalized approach to their education. They also produced a very effective video to introduce the study body to PLPs.

Hazen is the only school team to avail themselves of the CSR course for a third year in a row, due to administrative turnover and a desire to ensure that this work become embedded within the school infrastructure. They also have merged their communications work with the “Mindset, Metacognition and Motivation” initiative, based on survey data that indicates that fostering a growth mindset culture is key to Act 77 and proficiency implementation.

Hazen plans to use the district’s Professional Development Academy model to help faculty further personalization efforts. The school has received a 1:1 technology grant to support the implementation of Personal Learning Plans going forward.

Resources developed by the Hazen CSR team to engage their community in dialogue to develop support and understanding of Act 77 can be found on there web site. Specific resource links are noted below:

Hazen Union Shaping Our Future Together Website

Student Teacher Advisory Activities: Communication Team students and student leaders from Teacher Advisory periods worked together to build knowledge of and enthusiasm for Flexible Pathways, Personalized Learning Plans, and Proficiency Based Learning at Hazen. Student leaders facilitated a series of activities that engaged students in critical exploration and dialogue about Act 77.

The Hazen CSR team presented at a supervisory union School Board Meeting. The presentation included activities that they had been conducting in their student-teacher advisory.

As a part of an ongoing series of community focus forums, the Hazen team held Community Forum on Act 77. The forum was attended by parents, school board members, and community members.

The Hazen team wrote letters to the editor in the Hardwick Gazette. Each letter discusses Act 77 from a different stakeholder group
Letter 1: Team Introduction – Jan 14th
Letter 2: Teacher Perspective – Feb 4th
Letter 3: Student Perspective – Feb 18th
Letter 4: Board Perspective – Mar 18th
Letter 5: Principal Perspective – Apr 8th

Hazen’s presentation to the Vermont State School Board on May 17, 2016

Twinfield Union School

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Twinfield Union School serves 400 students Pre-K-12 from Plainfield and Marshfield Vermont. Twinfield Union participated in the Communicating School Redesign Course in the 2014-2015 school year. The Twinfield Communications Team included: Bridget Couture, Summer Haverick, Samantha Lege, Morgan MacIver (students), Mark Mooney (Principal), Debra Stoleroff (Renaissance Program Director), and Maria Forman (librarian and school technology coordinator).

Twinfield is distinguished in the realm of personalization, having offered the Renaissance Program for the last 15 years. Renaissance allows students to design their own standards-based opportunities (including studies, internships, service-learning, purposeful travel and any other opportunity they might imagine) in partnership with a community mentor. Students can self-design a stand-alone opportunity or their entire educational program. Seventy percent of Twinfield students design at least one independent study in the course of their four years of high school.

The passage of Vermont’s Acts 77 and 130 allows Twinfield to further its personalization of education. The block schedule implemented this year supports this goal, as well as the newly created X-Day, a weekly “class-less” day that allows time for student support and learning extensions such as field trips, community meetings and a variety of other meetings that would otherwise take away from class time. The day also supports the creation of student-generated clubs. The current Teacher Advisory system will serve as a grounding space as Twinfield moves to the development of Personalized Learning Plans for all students.

With all of these elements in place, the Communications Team’s research showed a solid baseline understanding of personalization across students, teachers, and community members. The Team has sought to increase that understanding through community dialogue, the creation of PSAs on community radio, the development of an informational website, and presentations to various stakeholders, including the School Board.

This year they have received a grant to further develop their community dialogue efforts, with the support of Everyday Democracy, a national organization focused on community mobilization.

To listen to their PSA, go to their Shaping Our Future Together website!

Twinfields FAQs about Act 77 and proficiencies

Colchester High School

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Colchester High School serves approximately 700 students grades 9-12. Colchester High School participated in the Communicating School Redesign course during the 2014-15 school year. The Colchester Communications Team included: Cynthia Alers-Rodriquez, Angus Doherty, Sawyer Loftus, and Mikayla Wallis (students), Wayland Cole (Humanities teacher), Bob Hall (Guidance Counselor), Rachel Wood (Humanities teacher), and Jean Shea (Director of Student Support Services).

Colchester High School is a school that is proud of its students, faculty, and community. Rooted in a strong vision of respect for individual student needs, leadership and faculty are known for being willing to make innovative change to do what is best for all students. Colchester’s Mission is “to ensure that all students will develop the academic proficiency, social skill, and character, to be fulfilled, responsible, and involved citizens” through “diverse, challenging educational experiences in partnership with families and the community.” Their work with Shaping Our Future Together has been focused on Personal Learning Plans, a natural extension of that commitment.

Colchester has a number of existing supports for the work of personalization, including a Block Schedule and a robust Advisory system. While multiple pathways have been an important part of Colchester High School for some time, the Team’s research showed that its next step was to make sure that all stakeholders – students, faculty and larger community – were aware of the many varied options that exist for all students. The Team’s coursework highlighted the importance of thinking about communication in terms of metaphors.

The team has and will continue to apply this learning to the development of videos that communicate the elements and value of Flexible Pathways and PLPs.

Harwood Union High School

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Harwood Union High School, located in Moretown, serves approximately 800 students from Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren, and Waterbury Vermont.

Harwood Union High School was one of the pioneering teams, who took the Communicating School Redesign Course during the 2013-14 school year. A larger team, including the Co-Principal and three students, enrolled in the CSR class during the 2014-15 school year to continue their work.

The 2014-15 Harwood Communications Team was comprised of: Cole Lavoie, Sophia Minter, Alexa Widschwenter, and Asah Whalen (students), Amy Rex (Co-Principal), Ellen Berrings (Next Step teacher and pioneering team member), and Marcus Grace (World Language teacher).

Harwood Union is committed to creating an equitable, personalized learning environment, rooted in a collectively developed vision for personalized learning. That vision begins with the student point of view: “I am a student who cares about my learning and needs to have ownership because how I want to learn matters.” The school believes that all students do care and that the core challenge is to ensure there is a pathway that inspires individual engagement, personal growth, and efficacy via relevancy, meaningful relationships and high, clearly articulated expectations for learning. The school aspires to offer as many pathways as they have students.

A critical component in the development of student pathways is ownership. Students must be provided an opportunity to participate in the personalization process along with the knowledge, resources and supports necessary to make informed pathway decisions. At Harwood, ownership is fostered through Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) supported by a network of adults who help students learn about their individual strengths, challenges, and interests; set goals; create a plan and carry it out; assess, reflect and revise that plan as needed. Student ownership is nurtured by the values, mindsets, and beliefs of the school culture, and the Communications Team contributes to student, staff, parent and community understanding through Community Forums and faculty-student Dialogue Circles.

The Harwood CSR team’s major accomplishment was orchestrating an all-school dialogue with all 800 students (both the middle and high school), with student facilitators taking a major role it its design and implementation. The “Student Voice and Choice: All School Dialogue Spring 2015” video below provides an excellent snapshot of this experience. The team collected schoolwide data in the process of this session, and then shared the findings with the school community. There was a notable shift in the school climate subsequent to this event. The inclusion of students as initiators in this effort reinforced the school’s commitment to elevating student voice in the change process and in learning itself.

The team secured funding to expand their communications efforts this 2015-2016 year. They have launched a community dialogue effort, in conjunction with Everyday Democracy, creating community-based study circles to explore school redesign. This work has been grounded by prior CSR work, utilizing the strategic framing approach and mental models research.

Student Voice & Choice: All School Dialogue Spring 2015: In the spring of 2015 Harwood held an all school dialogue day where both students and faculty members engaged in structured dialogue to better understand their perspectives of education at Harwood.

The Personalization of Learning: A video created by Harwood Union High School to introduce personalized learning plans.