Project-based Learning at Cleveland High School, Seattle.

Last Tuesday, eight Abbotsford educators went to visit the STEM academies at Cleveland High School in Seattle.  The school is the home to two academies:  School of Life Sciences and School of Engineering and Design.  We were looking for ideas to bring back to our work in Abbotsford with STEM.

Assistant-principal, Marjorie Milligan, was our host for the day.  Marjorie is responsible for the School of Life Sciences – staffing, administration, staff development, school operations and more.  She and her staff are working hard to build a culture of trust, responsibility, relationships and respect.  The school is in its second year of operation as a STEM academy.

Cleveland High School is located in south Seattle.  The school was slated for closure with declining enrolment, poor results and social problems.  A group of educators convinced the Board to give Cleveland new life by re-opening it as a STEM academy.  Deemed a school at risk, Cleveland qualified for grant money to improve.  As well, it was able to move disinterested teachers out and bring in teachers who would align with the new vision.  In the Seattle school system, it is an alternative school.  Students choose to attend Cleveland and those who do are selecting a school focused on sciences and mathematics.  Students are on a college/university entrance program.  Interestingly, the majority of students come from the local area feeder schools choosing a rigourous, science-oriented option.

The school has partnered with New Tech Network, a non-profit organization that helps create schools for the new century. The curruiculum is project-based with integrated technology and collaborative classrooms.  Each student has a personal laptop.  Staff have received training as well as on-going coaching from New Tech in PBL.  Teachers are 100% committed to the delivery model.  Those who aren’t are moved.  Teachers receive collaboration time twice a month to review curriculum and to vet projects together.  Marjorie said proudly that all projects receive the approval of the department prior to starting.

We all visited classrooms throughout the school in both academies.  We were instructed to ask teachers for the ‘entry document’ used in each project.  An entry document is given to students to introduce a project and to promote inquiry in the form of a video, invitation, game, podcast or any creative means.

Project-based learning engages students in rigourous, extended processes of inquiry that are focused on complex and authentic questions and problems.  Students demonstrate an in-depth understanding of academic knowledge and skills.  Projects build on 21st century skill such as collaboration, critical thinking and communications. 

A brilliant example of PBL was found in a 9th grade science class – Biomed Science 9.  By way of introducing a unit on body systems, the students entered the class one day to find a body on the floor surrounded by yellow tape.  The teacher gave the students a chance to examine the body (not a real one!) and some information related to the death.  The student’s job was to discover the cause(s) of death by studying various body systems (cardiovascular, nervous, pulmonory, digestive, etc) which they did over the next few weeks in class using lessons, research and collaborative inquiry.

We saw similar examples of project-based learning in Engineering Design classes, drama, mathematics and socials.  The Algebra 9 class used a problem-based approach rather than project-based, but an inquiry model nonetheless.  As we toured classes, it struck us that we did not see overhead projectors on with teachers behind them, nor teachers standing and delivering.  The classes I attended had teachers circulating and responding with corrrection and advice.  Teachers told us that they taught concepts embedded in the flow of the projects in response to student need.  There were clusters of students throughout the school in hallways and elsewhere taping segments for their projects. 

Staff and students are proud of their school and of their learning.  The academies have lifted the spirits and hopes of a new generation of learners who see school completion, college and university as realistic goals.  I was priviledged to meet Marjorie and her staff who have undertaken a bold venture into the future.  I would recommend a visit to Cleveland High School to anyone who wants to see student engagement and personalization in action.

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Learning and Leading from the Playground and Beyond

Upon reflection, the past week was filled with wonderful examples of learning at all levels in our school district.  Having thrice daily supervision responsibilities at an elementary school and a secondary school gives me the added opportunity to connect with kids, teachers and administrators.  What a tonic for a district-addled assistant superintendent!!  (Keep up the good work BCTF and BCPSEA.)  My reflection this week highlights learning in its many and wondrous forms in our school district.

In a separate blog post, a school superintendent to the east of us reflected on his experiences on the school yard with kids during the current job action.  An unanticipated benefit of the current situation allows board office folks  like me a chance to reconnect with kids – a distant calling.  This week I oversaw the primary section of the playground – swings, climbing bars, bark mulch – and all.  What a joy to watch the Kinergarten kids who are now fully ‘free’ at recess to explore and play on their own.  Countless are the number of interactions I have with the little ones who tell me with wide-eyed earnest that ‘the fence is ‘bwoken’ or ‘Johnny’ is calling me names, or ‘Billy’ kicked me in the b……s.  Facinacting to watch them problem solve among themselves when one of their classmates fall and cries:  who to tell, where to go, how to help……?

I followed this particular class of Kindergarten kids inside on Wednesday to see the other learning going on.  In fact, the teacher, was delighted to see me after several invitations to see the class in action particulary with their ‘Kinderpals‘.  I was intrigued this day because the district technology helping teacher was there to introduce the 5 year olds to IPads.  Also in attendance was a dad with his own IPad and a need to stay current with his kids.  Irony noted.  We started the class by connecting to Twitter and watching a clip on the Smartboard of the class’ Kinderpals in Indonesia.  Rather than watching clip, I watching the kids’ faces as they smiled, giggled, waved, oooo’d and awwww’d their way through the tour of a school half way around the world with all-weather fields and a swimming pool.  Hmm.  Just another day in Kindergarten?

Watching the kids open, start, navigate and use the IPad technology merely reinforced my understanding of the ‘digital native’.  Not me – the kids.  In minutes, the children in pairs, were exploring aps to help with letter and number recognition.  Many were reading the words being formed by the letters.  All were helpful to the stranger in their midst who needed to find the aps and to navigate the screen.  Another story.  I was struck by all of this by how simple learning is for kids.  Call them ’empty vessels’ or ‘thirsty sponges’ or whatever, but call it simple, enthusiastic, uncomplicated and authentic.

I received an email this week from our newest district technology helping teacher who was celebrating a joint project between an elementary French Immersion classroom and a secondary FI class. In this learning segment, the elementary students prepared and rehearsed questions to share with their secondary ‘buddies face to face via computer.  Said the teacher,  “(What) a great collaborative project between the students of both schools………………they were using FACETIME on iPads to talk to each other in French.  It was really great to see how excited the younger class at Sandy Hill was to talk to older buddies at Mouat. What a great way to bring real life meaning to second language learning!”

But kids weren’t the only ones collaborating and learning last week.  The administrators from the west end and district staff met to continue work on the Hansen family of schools consultation.  The purpose of the meeting was to review the bold vision and bold actions proposed in response to the consultation.  I was somewhat apprehensive about the meeting as were my assistant superintendent colleagues.   Given the current stresses under which our administrators are working at present, another meeting after school on a rainy night – not so much fun.  

We presented a bold vision for a vibrant family of schools and after a slow start the room came to life as everyone chipped in with support and understanding of the attributes of the vision.  There is a strong appetite to explore inquiry learning and curriculum design.  Our curriculum director took centre stage in his endorsement of backwards curriculum design.  Another of the rallying points in the vision is to create a collaborative culture – in classrooms, among students and teachers and between schools in the family.  We presented many aspects to the notion of collaboration and the many looks it may assume.  The conversation intensified when we considered belief statements to underscore the vision.  Our principals poured their hearts into the activity and before we knew it – time to go.

It was a good week and I was both proud and heartened to see learning in progress on many levels.  An enduring image for me is the smile on the face of the Kindergarten child with special needs who helped me learn how to locate an ap on the IPad. Priceless.

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Curriculum Design for a 21st Century School

The Abbotsford School District is engaged in a review of educational services in the Hansen family of schools.  In conjunction with the District’s Strategic Plan and the BC Ed Plan, there is compelling need to personalize and engage students actively and deeply in the learning process.  This is the opportunity to reflect on research based best practices for both teaching and curriculum design.

Abbotsford has embraced Robert Marzano’s Art and Science of Teaching as a structured approach to instruction in classrooms.  This year and in years to come, administrators and teachers will use Marzano’s framework for teaching.  This is an important part of a process to create and use a common language of instruction.

Add to this, the challenge of preparing our students for the 21st Century and beyond.  We must be aware that today’s students will enter a job market that values skills and abilities far different from the traditional workplace talents that so ably served their parents and grandparents. They must be able to collect, synthesize, and analyze information, then conduct targeted research and work with others to employ that newfound knowledge. In essence, students must learn how to learn, while responding to endlessly changing technologies and social, economic, and global conditions.  Our mandate then is to create learning environments that will prepare students to learn in different and exciting ways!  We are looking to transform classrooms across the school district into collaborative classrooms to address Social and Emotional Learning.

Traditional academic approaches — those that employ narrow tasks to emphasize rote memorization or the application of simple procedures — won’t develop learners who are critical thinkers or effective writers and speakers. Rather, students need to take part in complex, meaningful projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.

Our work to date has taken us to a study of inquiry-based learning.  The inquiry approach, also known as problem-based, project-based or challenge-based learning, presents an ideal platform upon which to base our work. 

‘The power of inquiry is its potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning. Inquiry honours the complex, interconnected nature of knowledge construction, striving to provide opportunities for both teachers and students to collaboratively build, test and reflect on their learning.’ (N. Stephenson)

What is the best curriculum design based on research upon which to design an inquiry model?

At the outset, it should be clear that curriculum design is not a ‘program’; nor is it another fad or add-on to a teacher’s workload.  Curriculum design is a process whereby teachers give coherence to the desired learning and desired methods of presentation. 

Two promising approaches to curriculum design are worth pursuing.  The first is Understanding by Design and the second the Universal Design for Learning.  In the next blog, Understanding by Design will be explored with a district focus.  There are presently two schools in Abbotsford with experience using UbD as part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program (MYP).  It will be worth a look at this framework as a district structure.

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A Bold Vision – Imagine Hansen!

A Bold Vision – Imagine Hansen!

(For Discussion Purposes Only)

Guiding Question:  How can the Hansen family of schools be re-created to prepare students for the 21st century?

  1. A.    Introduction:  

What is the current situation?

One of our district’s greatest challenges has been to assess and align the Rick Hansen Family of Schools.  Composed of 9 schools, the outer ring of K-7 rural elementary schools (Ross, Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt. Lehman) retains a blend of rural families that have populated these schools over time.  The inner core of K-5 elementary schools in this family (Blue Jay, Sayers, Kandal, Reimer and Hansen) reflects an increasing ethnic mix of families. 

The existing K-7 configuration of the rural elementary schools holds students in grades 6 and 7 and creates a three school transition for students from grade 7 to grade 9 at Hansen.

Over time, both Eugene Reimer Middle and Rick Hansen Secondary Schools have seen enrolments decline.  At the same time, both Abbotsford Traditional Middle and Abbotsford Traditional Secondary Schools have seen enrolments increase.  An analysis of school enrolments indicates that the traditional schools are populated with a significant number of students whose home schools are Reimer and Hansen.

Consequently, both Reimer and Hansen have seen their student enrolments drop over time to the point where the long time viability of both schools is in question.  While it is unlikely that these facilities would close, the district is left to wonder what the best course of action would maintain Reimer and Hansen as vibrant educational entities.

B.  The Consultation Process:

 What has been done in response to the current situation?

The school district responded to the challenges faced in the west end with an extensive consultation in 2010-2011 as part of the review of the Strategic Plan.  The consultation confirmed that the wants and needs of the outer circle of elementary schools are quite different from the the wants and needs of the inner core schools.  Predictably, the smaller, rural schools are concerned with their long term viability rather than programming or safety issues.  Meanwhile, the inner core schools are concerned with larger more pressing issues such as student safety, programming and declining enrolment. 

Some general themes and observations include:  30% of parents surveyed indicated that they would not send their children to either Reimer or Hansen; the rural elementary parents do not like sending children from grade 7 to middle school for one year in grade 8 and then to secondary school – three schools in three years; many parents and teachers are interested in a balanced school calendar.  Parents at middle and secondary expressed a desire for increased engagement and enjoyment for their child with school (22%); a desire for more trades/career opportunities (25%); increased safety (14%); more programs such as a sports academy and performing arts/ music (24%); increased community programming to support youth predominantly within the inner core of schools; the possibility of school uniforms; and more access to technology to support learning (25%). 

 C. First Steps:

 What Next?

The district must now consider how to respond to the recommendations brought about by the consultation process. 

 Up to this point there have been lots of things to consider, but no compelling or coherent framework upon which to bind the recommendations.  Clearly what is needed is a powerful vision statement with underpinning values and beliefs upon which to rebuild the west end.  The vision should be robust enough to embrace powerful learning and best practices to deeply engage all students in all classrooms, broad enough to include the educational programs best suited to the needs of the students and community, realistic enough to maximize facility usage, and nimble enough to accommodate cultural nuances within the family of schools.

An encompassing strategy is to ground a common pedagogy in the family of schools on an Inquiry-based model and create a common vision for schools could be captured in the statement:   Imagine Hansen – A Family of Inspired Learners!

Imagine a family of schools built on teaching that emphasizes active, student-directed learning where relevance and a real world context for learning forms the heart of the learning experience.  Imagine technology-rich classrooms where students engage in inquiry on a regular basis, where project-based learning replaces rote memorization.  Imagine classrooms where students are offered choice and voice to personalize the learning experience.  Imagine students who work in collaborative teams, solving problems engaged in higher order thinking skills.  Imagine!

D.   A Bold Vision: 

‘Imagine Hansen – a Family of Inspired Learners!’

How can we meet the expectations of the consultation process, the District Strategic Plan and the BC Ed Plan for Schools?

Interestingly, the question posed above describes the perfect learning storm with the Hansen family of schools at the confluence!  This is the perfect time to combine the leading expectations of each directive into a bold, new family of schools for the 21st century.  Leading recommendations from each document compel schools to engage, inspire, and challenge students at all levels.  The mandate for change is spelled out loudly and clearly by the Ministry in the new BC Ed Plan (www.bcedplan.ca) to prepare students for their places in the 21st century.   This is the opportunity to create a family of schools where students want to be and where parents want their kids to stay!

 

21st Century Skills.

Schools are realigning to prepare students for the future.  Students must be:

  • Problem solvers
  • Collaborators
  • Critical thinkers
  • Team players
  • Creators

 Students will learn in classrooms that are:

  • Flexible
  • Personalized
  • Collaborative
  • Challenging
  • Relevant

 The Ministry of Education has reaffirmed its commitment to align curriculum and assessment in the BC Ed Plan.

 

BC Education Plan

5 Keys

ü  Personalized learning for every student

ü  Quality teaching and learning

ü  Flexibility and choice

ü  High Standards

ü  Learning empowered by technology

 

Vision Statement for the Hansen Family of Schools: 

K-12 schools in the Hansen Family of Schools will offer powerful learning opportunities with engaging classrooms, relevant programs and integrated technology designed to challenge, motivate and inspire students for the 21st century.  Our teachers are highly trained experts who work collaboratively and are consistently challenging the status quo to ensure student success.  Our students will think globally and act locally. Our schools will be safe for all and will reflect our community with pride. 

 Belief Statements:

We believe that:

  • Students must be at the centre of their learning.
  • Student learning must be relevant, be connected to real life and inspire.
  • Innovation, inquiry, critical thinking and creativity are as fundamental as the –
  • Everyone is a learner and performs at a high standard of excellence.
  • Our schools will be personalized to create relationships and build community.

 

E.  Bold Actions:

What must change in order to bring our vision to life?

 Educational Leadership

Principals and Vice-Principals must have the time to be the educational leaders in their building.  They must be working everyday with their staff to build their capacity to meet the needs of every student and to ensure that high standards of achievement and performance are realized.  They must use this time to build teacher leaders throughout the school who are skilled in working with their peers to improve student achievement and engagement.  

Bold Action

  • Every principal and vice-principal in the Hansen Family of Schools will be allocated appropriate time to function as an educational leader.

 Professional Learning

Regular and on-going collaboration structures need to be established to provide educators with the time to engage in systematic, professional learning imbedded in the context of their work.  Educators need the time to actively plan and refine and evaluate curriculum and pedagogy to ensure that students are actively engaged in authentic learning activities. Educators need the time to capitalize on and respond to the information from balanced assessment processes.

 Bold Actions

  • School Bell schedules will be aligned to optimize the opportunities for cross and in-school collaboration.
  • Educators will either participate in regularly scheduled collaboration/ professional learning sessions.

 

Creating Sustained and Coherent Facilities’ Usage 

 Minimizing transition frequency for students as well as aligning the developmental needs (Middle School Philosophy) with school configuration will allow all students to have equitable access to expanded opportunities provided in the Middle School environment.

 Bold Actions

  • K-5 alignment for all elementary schools
  • Review facilities usage in rural elementary schools.

Creating Responsive School Calendars to address learning and community needs:

Recognizing that long breaks (holiday sessions) can have a significant impact on learning, especially for vulnerable learners, balanced school calendars can provide more flexibility to respond to learning needs and enable students to demonstrate essential competencies before move forward in their learning.

Bold Action

  • Consider a balanced school calendar for all of the Hansen Family schools, with no holiday break longer than four weeks and with holiday breaks scheduled to accommodate attendance patterns.

 Personalizing Learning and Deeply Engaging Students: 

The Hansen family of Schools will become the professional crucible for the implementation of the BC Education Plan. Personalized learning for every student is the mandate and the driver for change. It will require educators, parents, students and community partners working together to make sure that students’ needs are met, passions are explored and goals are achieved.

Bold Actions: 

Using a Bold Action Innovation Grant structure to provide the resource dollars, each school will develop, in their School Growth Plans, action plans to capture the following:

  • Instruction – Engage all students in all schools through Inquiry Driven Project-based curriculum design for robust, relevant learning experiences for all.  Make this the default curriculum.  Build the culture of Discovery into all curricular areas. 
  • Reduce the number of electives and explorations and realign all electives into the Discovery model.   
  • Create options to learn beyond the 4 walls.  Develop a pod of IDS learners on the journey of Discovery.
  • Reinvent grade 9 to personalize and support entry into secondary school.
  • Engaging, Relevant Curriculum at all levels – Develop integrated Humanities and SciMatics courses for grades 6-10.  Develop each year on the theme of Discovery.  (ie.  Gr. 6 ‘Discover Man’, Gr. 7 ‘Discover Environments’ etc.)
  • Learning through technology- Engage students through technology.  Provide access to all relevant technologies for students in the classroom.  Integrate all available technologies into the classroom including the devices carried in backpacks and purses. 
  • Create a learning commons instead of a library.
  • Enhance online options.  Combine low enrolled courses into a blended learning environment.  ie  combine Chem 11/12 and enroll all in an online course.  Teacher serves as facilitator.
  • Make Hansen Secondary the home school for Distance Learning in the school district.
  • Assessment – Engage students through assessment.  Create a student-involved ‘for’ and ‘of’ learning model. Retrain all teachers in the art of assessment and move to more relevant, authentic models of assessment. 
  • Programs – Academies to engage.  Consider one semester,  interdisciplinary academy structures for grade cohorts.  Aviation, Rocketry, Robotics, STEM, Broadcasting, Entrepreneurial Studies.
  • Consider the 2 year academy model for a sport – wrestling.
  • Programs – Music to engage.  Consider music instruction within the family.  Consider culturally responsive music options as well as traditional forms of band and choir.
  • Careers – Work-based training to engage.  Bring a career program to Hansen.  Make it a career that would be supported by the community.  Expand involvement of Hansen kids in career programs across the district.

F.  Implications for District Staff:

What systemic changes will need to be managed in order to allow changes to occur?

Staffing / HR:  Working with HR and the APVPA, unions, school staff could be given the choice to opt out of the school(s) if they felt at odds with the changes proposed for the teaching and learning models.

Dedicated Curriculum and Staff Development Support

  • Hire a staff developer for the west-end schools who will support principal and vice-principals and teacher leaders with curriculum design, instructional practices (Inquiry-Based Instruction) that enhance student engagement and balanced assessment.
  • Train district resource staff to support classroom teachers with instruction and assessment.

G. References:

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Let Us Boldly Go!…………….. where every school should go.

A.  Overview:  (This is a draft document for the purposes of starting a discussion only.)

My thinking has been guided by the following questions:

  • Why are Reimer Middle and Hansen Secondary schools declining in enrolment?
  • Where do the students within the Hansen family catchment go?
  • What are the key findings of the Hansen Family of Schools consultation?
  • What is the district vision for the Hansen Family?
  • Which of the recommendations will lead to highest results in building/stabilizing the Hansen Family of Schools?
  • What changes would revitalize teaching and learning in these schools and give them passion and an identity.
  • How can the entire family of schools personalize learning for all students?
  • What changes will be necessary at the school, district, union levels to manage changes contemplated in the recommendations?
  • What resources will have to be committed by the district to create the vision?

B.  Introduction: 

One of our district’s greatest challenges has been to assess and align the Rick Hansen family of schools.  Composed of 9 schools, the outer ring of rural elementaries (Ross, Aberdeen, Bradner, Mt Lehman) retains a blend of rural caucasian families that have popluated these schools over time, along with an increasing mix of South Asian families.  The inner core of schools in this family (Blue Jay, Sayers, Kandal, Reimer and Hansen) reflects the influx of South Asian families, primarily of Indian descent.  The dicotomy within this family of schools is palpable and while no overt racism exists, clearly families migrate their children to schools along ethnic lines.  Within the South Asian community familes self-sort as an ever increasing number of South Asian families select the traditional stream of schools for their children.  Both ATMS and ATSS have seen a net migration of Caucasian families out of the traditional system.  Fewer children from the Auguston Traditional catchment to the east fill seats in ATMS.  As these seats have become available, they have been claimed by families who would normally have attended Eugene Reimer Middle School and ultimately Rick Hansen Secondary School.  Here is the crux of the problem:  many Caucasian families from the rural elemenaries have and continue to skirt ERMS and RHSS for traditional schools, independent schools (MEI, SJB), or other non-catchment schools.  Many South Asian families have and continue to skirt ERMS and RHSS for traditional schools, independent schools (Dasmesh), or other non-catchment schools.  The irony, of course, is that both ethnic groups bypass these schools for the same reasons – perceptions of safety issues, perceptions of racial stereotyping, perceptions of declining programs.  Consequently, both Reimer and Hansen have seen their student enrolments drop over time to the point where the long time viabilty of both schools is in question.  While it is unlikely that these facilities would close, the district is left to wonder what the best course of action would maitain Reimer and Hansen as vibrant educational entities.

C.  The Consultation Process: 

The school district responded to the challenges faced in the west end with an extensive consultation in 2010/11 as part of the the Strategic Plan.  The consultation confirmed that the wants and needs of the outer circle of elementary schools are quite different from the the wants and needs of the inner core schools.  Predictably, the smaller, rural schools are concerned with their long term viability rather than programming or safety issues.  Meanwhile, the inner core schools are concerned with larger more pressing issues such as student safety, programming and declining enrolment. 

Some general themes and observations include:  30% of parents surveyed indicated that they would not send their children to either Reimer or Hansen;  the rural elementary parents do not like sending children from grade 7 to middle school for one year in grade 8 and then to secondary school – three schools in three years; many parents and teachers are interested in a balanced school calendar.  Parents at middle and secondary expressed a desire for increased engagement and enjoyment for their child with school (22%); a desire for more trades/career opportunites (25%); increased safety (14%); more programs such as a sports academy and performing arts/ music (24%); increased community programming to support youth predominantly within the inner core of schools; the possibility of school uniforms; and more access to technology to support learning (25%). 

The district must now consider how to respond to the recommendations brought about by the consultation process.  At this point there are lots of things to consider, but no compelling or coherent framework upon which to bind the recommendations.  Clearly what is needed is a powerful vision statement with underpinning values and beliefs upon which to rebuild the west end.  The vision should be robust enough to embrace powerful learning and best practices to deeply engage all students in all classrooms, broad enough to include the educational programs best suited to the needs of the students and community, realistic enough to maximize facility useage, and nimble enough to accommodate cultural nuances within the family of schools.

My encompassing idea would be to ground the pedagogy in the family of schools on an Inquiry-based model.  I would suggest that the common vision for schools could be captured in the phrase ‘Discover Hansen – a family of inspired learners!’  Rough admittedly, but a start??

D.   Considerations:

1.  A Sample Vision Statement:  K-12 schools in the Hansen family of schools will offer powerful learning opportunities with engaging classrooms, relevant programs and integrated technology designed to challenge, motivate and inspire students for the 21st century.  Our teachers are highly trained experts who work collaboratively to ensure student success.  Our schools will be safe for all.  They will encourage and reward social responsibility, and will reflect our community with pride.  In our schools, students are at the centre of everything we do!

2.  Beliefs:

  • Inspired Teaching and Powerful Learning is the focus of our school.
  • Our schools will be personalized to create relationships and community.
  • Innovation, design, discovery and creativity are important. 
  • We learn through our Critical thinking skills.
  • Our teachers and students work in a collaborative school setting.
  • Our students will practice the skills of a 21st Century learner.
  • In our schools, everyone learns.
  • Student learning must be relevant, connected to their lives and inspiring.
  • Student needs are at the centre of our decisions.
  • School will be safe and orderly for all.
  • We are all peaceful, respectful members of a learning community.
  • Parents are our partners.
  • We will have the community in our school and our schools in the community.

3.  Creating Sustained and Coherent Facilities’ Usage. 

  • Consider a K-5 alignment for all elementary schools.  This would add more grade 6 and 7 students to Reimer. Approx 1 divison at grade 6 and 7.
  • Realign rural facilities K-5.  Contemplate further consultations for closure if necessay.
  • Consider realigning a portion of Ten Broeck Elementary (south of Old Yale Rd) to feed Reimer.  This would add about 1 division per year at grade 6.

4.  Safe Orderly Schools / Culture:  Schools of Character. Social support for grade 9’s.

  • Create a comprehensive response in all schools based on character education.  (see Mouat)
  • Declare a war on drugs.
  • Create programs and structures to nurture and support grade 9’s upon transition. (Pod them?)
  • Community Hub support with APD and SACRO on site in middle and secondary.
  • Personal Electronic Learning Plans for all students

5.  Personalizing Learning and Deeply Engaging Students: 

  • Programs – Academies to engage.  Consider semestered interdisciplinary academy structures for grade 12 cohorts.  Aviation.  Rocketry.  Robotics.  Broadcasting.  Entrpreneurial Studies.  Or consider the 2 year academy model for a sport – wrestling.
  • Programs – Music to engage.  Consider music instruction within the family.  Consider culturally responsive music options as well as traditional forms of band and choir.
  • Careers – Work-based training to engage.  Bring a career program to Hansen.  Make it a career that would be supported by the community.  Expand involvement of Hansen kids in career programs across the district.
  • Instruction – Engage all students in all schools through Inquiry-based / Project-based curriculum design for robust, relevant learning experiences for all.  Make this the default curriculum.  Build the culture of Discovery into all curricular areas.  Reduce the number of electives and realign all electives into the Discovery model.  Add choice.  Create options to learn beyond the 4 walls.  Develop a pod of IDS learners on the journey of Discovery.
  • Engaging, Relevant Curriculum at all levels – Develop integrated Humanities and SciMatics courses for grades 6-10.  Develop each year on the theme of Discovery.  (ie.  Gr. 6 ‘Discover Man’, Gr. 7 ‘Discover Environments’ etc.)
  • Enhance online options.  Combine low enrolled courses into a blended learning environment.  ie  combine Chem 11/12 and enroll all in an online course.  Teacher serves as facilitator.
  • Assessment – Engage students through assessment.  Create a student-involved ‘for’ and ‘of’ learning model. Retrain all teachers in the art of assessment and move to more relevant, authentic models of assessment. 
  • Technology – Engage students through technology.  Provide access to all relevant technologies for students in the classroom.  Integrate all available technologies into the classroom including the devices carried in backpacks and purses.  Create a learning commons instead of a library.
  • Time – Be flexible and creative with the school schedule and the School Calendar. Allow late starts and early starts.   Allow for collaboration time for teachers each week.  Allow for catch-up or consolidation time for students each term.   A balance calendar should be rooted in a pedagogical rationale as well as cultural.

E.  Implications:

  • Staffing / HR:  Working with HR and the Union, teachers could be given the choice to opt out of the school(s) if they felt at odds with the changes proposed for the teaching and learning models.
  • Curriculum and Staff Development Support:  Hire a staff developer for the westend schools who will support teachers will curriculum design (Inquiry), instructional practices (coopertive learning, project/challenge-based learning, Marzano – engagement et al.  Align all classroom assessment and common assessments with best assessment practices.  Train existing helping teachers to be resources for these schools.
  • Music Education:  Hire a teacher to work between the middle and secondary school to rebuild the music education program. Provide elementary band support until elementary schools realign K-5.
  • Community Connections:  Space for new programs in our schools. 
  • Other things.  There will be lots more to add!

F.  References:

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How Are We Helping Grade 9 Students Succeed?

In his article, 21 Ideas for the 21st Century, Charles Leadbeater chronicles the work done by five schools in Britain to change the nature and quality of education.

Personalizing the learning experience for students increases engagement.  The five schools in the study did many things to increase personalization. Strategies included teaching by ability rather than by age; varying start times of the school day; arranging the timetable to allow for longer and shorted periods; creating catch up / consolidation time each term; aligning curriculum among feeder schools with a focus on learning skills; using project-based Skills 4 Learning programs; creating independent approaches to Humanties; creating social spaces; developing learning villages; having students participate in personal challenges; investing in social support and skills for students entering high school; developing electronic learning plans; using adult mentors; and connecting the schools to the community in many ways.

Perhaps it is time to rethink grade 9.  We know that grade 9 is the turning point for many students who enter the secondary stream.  Leaving the stuctures of the middle school is perilous for some students particularly the most vulnerable.  It make sense to make grade 9 a transition year and for schools to consider ways to provide social support to assist with the adjustment.  To that end, schools should examine ways to support the social development of grade 9 students. 

The literature is very clear on the efficacy of student/teacher relationships.  Creating structures in grade 9 to allow fewer teacher contacts is a beginning.  Students can be arranged in pods with core teachers.  Social skills can be taught and reinforced in small groups both with teachers and among students.  A greater the investment made with the social development of students will enable them to relate better to one another as well as with the adults.

Curriculum can be integrated into interdisciplinary studies.  Having an adult advocate and having students create a personal learning plan with an adult is a good idea, particularly for at risk students.

Schools can improve the experience for students entering the secondary track.  A strong start for grade 9 students will ensure a greater success rate in the following years.

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