Tag: school design and models

Asking the Right Questions: Urban Assembly Maker Academy

December 16, 2014 by

UA MakerDesigning a school with only a blank page to start can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? Values? Themes? Needs of target population? Instructional approach?

I couldn’t stop thinking about design at the very, very new UA Maker (the twenty-fourth in the Urban Assembly network) because design itself is at the core of the school model. So are its values. A poster on the wall articulating the norms of UA Maker really brought this home:

We agree to center our work on the core values: curiosity, empathy, risk-taking, self-awareness and resilience.

We agree to:

  • Engage in Design Thinking and understand this work as iterative
  • Engage in growth mindset
  • Document our process
  • Respect each other’s time

The following highlights of their school design are based on conversations with Luke Bauer, Principal; Madelaine Hackett, Urban Assembly’s Carnegie Design Fellow embedded at the school site; Alexis Goldberg, Urban Assembly’s Achievement Coach; and members of the NYC Department of Education’s Digital Ready team Michael Preston, Jeremy Kraushar, and Joy Nolan. (more…)

Bronx Arena: Organizing Spaghetti (Part 1)

December 10, 2014 by

BronxThis article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with the overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Part 2 about Bronx Arena is below.

Ty Cesene and Samantha (Sam) Sherwood, co-principals at Bronx Arena (BxA), opened our conversation with an unexpected reference to spaghetti:

Competency-based structures are just one part of our school. In fact, for us, they’re the back-end. Our primary focus has always been to have a student-facing school that makes sense to students and also constantly reminds staff that our job is to support students.

Once you take away the element of time, as we did, the door is opened wide to everything you ever wanted kids to know and do. Of course, then there has to be some way of prioritizing. That’s where defining the competencies has become really important for us. Yes, there may be lots of ways to organize instruction, but we know exactly what we want kids to be able to do when they graduate from Bronx Arena.

As we started to put together all the ideas – asynchronous learning; responding to the intersection of our students’ social-emotional lives and their cognitive development; competency-based learning; flexibility in staffing, structures, and how we use time – we felt like we were trying to organize spaghetti.  (more…)

Bronx Arena: Innovating Until 100% of Students Graduate (Part 2)

by

One Hundred PercentThis article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. Part 1 of the Bronx Arena visit can be found here.

Students at BxA are unquestionably at the core of everything the school sets out to accomplish. You can see this in the way students are arranged academically.

Instead of traditional grades, students at BxA are “leveled.” Those assigned to Level 1 are focused on passing the Regents exams based on tenth grade skills, while those at Level 2 are in eleventh and twelfth grades. Students at Level 2 prepare for their senior portfolio, which includes designing their own capstone project for a course. Students select the competencies they will be demonstrating, as well as the rubric that will be used for assessment. This demonstrates that they know how to structure their own learning experiences – a skill that will be very handy in college and taking on new challenges in the workplace.

Designing Curriculum: Two Challenges and a Capstone

BxA has created a course model for teachers to follow. Every course is organized around two “challenges” and a capstone. A challenge is designed around one to two competencies and tends to be a bit larger than a unit. The challenge has a summative project by which students demonstrate proficiency. The capstone is designed for students to transfer the skills into a new context. (more…)

Carroll Gardens School for Innovation (MS 442): Intentional School Design

December 5, 2014 by

carroll gardens

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. You can also read the report on Bronx International High School

Carroll Gardens School for Innovations (MS 442) has only been using a mastery-based structure for three years, but it’s definitely one of the most well-developed competency-based schools I’ve visited. It’s the best example of a school designed so that personalized, mastery-based education works as well for students in special education as it does for all students. In other words, it’s a universal approach that works across a diverse population.

Thanks to Michael Preston, Jeremy Kraushar, and Joy Nolan for their leadership in bringing CGSI to the attention of CompetencyWorks. I am grateful to the extraordinary educators at CGSI for sharing their insights: Deanna Sinito, Principal; Noreen Mills, Assistant Principal; Liz Reale, technology and problem-solving teacher; Lisa Genduso, math coach and problem-solving teacher; Grace O’Shea, science teacher; Eric Silberberg, special education teacher focused on science; Jared Sutton, math teacher and technology specialist; and Connor Allen, science and problem-solving teacher.

The CGSI Approach

CGSI has created an integrated approach. Or perhaps I should call it an intentional approach, as every policy, practice, ritual, and routine reinforce each other and contribute to the culture of learning. Even though I saw each of the strands in all of my visits to the classrooms, it’s nearly impossible to pull out any single one as distinct from the others. I haven’t seen anything quite like this model in my many school visits, so I’m just going to call it the CGSI approach. (more…)

First Stop of the Magical Mastery Tour: Bronx International High School

December 4, 2014 by

BxIHS

This article is part of a series of case studies of schools in New York City. For the full story, start with my overview of the Magical Mastery Tour and the three biggest takeaways. You can also read the report on Carroll Gardens School for Innovation.

Inspiring. I know no other word to describe the students and staff at Bronx International High School (BxIHS). Arrived from all around the world, the 400+ BxIHS students come to the school with hope, drive, curiosity, creativity…and little or no English.

Designed as a high school to serve new immigrants, BxIHS “accepts students who score at or below the 20th percentile on the Language Assessment Battery (LAB-R) and have been in the United States fewer than four years.” Students enter with a wide range of academic experiences behind them, some having spent little or no time in a formal education setting.

Regardless of background, the two things all the students share is a desire to learn English and to complete high school. Staff members, many of whom were English language learners at one time in their own lives, work collaboratively and joyfully in an “outcomes” approach to ensure that students reach proficiency in language/literacy, content, and skills. (more…)

The Big Three Takeaways of the Magical Mastery Tour

December 3, 2014 by

ThreeAlthough there were many takeaways from my visits to schools in New York City (what Jeremy Kraushar of the Digital Ready team referred to as the Magical Mastery Tour), I’ve selected three to write about here, as they respond to questions we’ve received over the past six months.

Please note: I’m using mastery-based, the term used by NYC, and competency-based interchangeably.

Most of these findings are based on schools that are doing tremendous work in developing highly developed mastery-based models. Descriptions of Bronx International, EPIC North, Bronx Arena, Carroll Gardens School for Innovation, and Maker Academy will be published in the coming weeks. However, one insight discussed below came from a school that shared the difficulties it was having developing a prototype model. While it’s important to learn from challenges as well as successes, schools trying their best to innovate don’t need the light from the internet shined upon them, so we didn’t write up a case study in that particular case. (more…)

Interested in innovative school models? What to consider to make sure they are successful

June 10, 2014 by
Anthony Kim

Anthony Kim

In working with over 100 schools across the country on new approaches to integrating instruction and technology in order to personalize learning, we’ve learned a lot about school models.

For decades, many schools have looked to digital content and online instruction primarily as a way to move students on one axis, below grade level to at grade level or at grade level to above grade level. This is demonstrated by the proliferation of credit recovery programs as well as the massive use of programs like Khan Academy. Often, the use of these programs for individual students is geared towards having students start at one point and complete tasks at a level of proficiency to get to another point (Figure 1, click on images for larger view).

Figure 1

Figure 1

The blended learning approach and subsequent new school models start to look at two axes, with x-axis being the one we already discussed, levels of learning (and acceleration of learning content), and the y-axis being the depth of learning (Figure 2).  For example, we often show a three group rotational model and associate the potential of these rotations to focus on different levels of Bloom’s (Figure 3). You can also apply Webb’s Depth of Knowledge here, but in this example, we will use Bloom’s for consistency. The independent station is great for students to learn at their own pace to be introduced to or practice new skills using adaptive digital content,  which emphasizes the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy – remembering and understanding.  At the small group instruction station, students receive instruction from the teacher to learn to apply and analyze skills. The project/collaboration station is great for students to work together on projects and develop mastery (evaluating and creating). [As a note, we can describe other models using the same approach, but I’m using the rotational model since it’s the easiest to describe.]

figure 2

Figure 2

figure 3

Figure 3

(more…)

Teachers in charge: USC Hybrid High’s approach to competency-based blended learning

June 4, 2014 by
Student at USC

From USC Hybrid High School web site

Originally posted June 3, 2014 at Christensen Institute.

Last week I had the privilege of visiting the USC Hybrid High School (HHS), a new charter school in Los Angeles and winner of a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Next Generation Learning Challenges grant. HHS is pursuing a blended and competency-based model—that is, the school is leveraging technology to deliver some academic content online and building opportunities for students to advance upon mastery, rather than according to hours of instruction. HHS has seen numerous iterations over its past two years in existence (EdSurge’s Mary Jo Madda did a great write-up of these changes earlier this year).

For example, last year the school used Apex Learning almost exclusively to drive a flex blended-learning model (wherein online learning is the backbone, and teachers work with students one-on-one and in groups on projects and tutorials). Now, in its second year, the school has shifted away from a single-provider model to instead making teachers the primary designers of the blended-learning models in their individual classrooms by using a wider range of tools. The school is also putting its money where its mouth is in this design: each teacher receives a stipend to purchase his own software products according to his particular course(s) and tastes. (more…)

Gateways, Not Grades

April 2, 2014 by

This is the second of a two-part series on Making Community Connections Charter School. Click here for Part 1.

 In our traditional system, students progress in age-based cohorts, with most students progressing regardless of what they know and somej curve being retained to repeat a year.  Competency education expects students to get the support they need so that they are proficient, offering flexibility as needed, such as allowing students to continue to focus on gaps or areas where they are not yet proficient (i.e. competency recovery) in the summer or the coming school year.  The challenge for the school is to keep students on track AND provide flexibility to ensure they become proficient, which means rapid response when students struggle and more intensive interventions as needed.

Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2) has a different understanding of what it means to be on track. It’s not just an arrow, angling up at 45 degrees. It’s the J curve, which predicts that as students become more mature, with the habits to be successful learners, they will take off and learn on a much steeper trajectory. Under this theory of learning, how does MC2 make sure students are on track and progressing?  (more…)

Igniting Learning at the Making Community Connections Charter School

April 1, 2014 by

This is the first of a two-part series about Making Community Connections Charter School. Click here for Part 2.

 

“As a learner, I grew in the way a fire would if you sprayed gasoline on it.” – From a student’s graduation portfoliomc2

That’s what Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2) is all about –creating dynamic learners. At MC2, serving grades 7-12 in Manchester, New Hampshire, it feels like they wiped the slate clean of all the traditional ideas of what makes a school and started to design the school from scratch.  It’s deeply student-centered in its design and operations.  Its theory of change is built upon a deep understanding and appreciation of adolescent development, motivation, and learning sciences. MC2 is a model that will work for any student. At its center, it is designed around the kids who are educationally challenged (about 35% of MC2 students are classified as having special education needs), have already had a tough time in life by age 14, who have felt betrayed by the adults in their lives, and are drawing from their own reservoirs of stubborn hope that things can get better.

This case study on MC2 is broken into two parts. The first is on the design principles and the theory of action driving the school. The second is on how students progress and the implications for teachers. (more…)

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