Category: District Exemplars

How One New Hampshire District is Leveraging Success Skills in a Competency-Based System

May 17, 2018 by

Sarah Kiley

By Jonathan G. Vander Els, Director of Innovative Projects for the New Hampshire Learning Initiative and Sarah Kiley, Epping School District Teacher and Work Study Practices Coordinator.

New Hampshire Overview:

Over the past three years, a number of New Hampshire schools have been focusing on how the integration of success skills (or Work Study Practices, as they’re called in New Hampshire) can be levers for students’ success. The intent was to intentionally integrate these deeper learning competencies into instruction, assessment, and curriculum to increase student agency as a lever for equity. (more…)

Supporting Practitioners in McComb

April 23, 2018 by

Image from the McComb website.

This is the eighth post on a series about McComb School District in McComb, Mississippi. Start here.

How is McComb School District supporting practitioners (teachers) in the transition to a personalized, competency-based system? They are trying out different strategies to figure out what might work best. (more…)

Catch Up on Kettle Moraine’s Approach to Personalized Learning

February 24, 2018 by

The series on Kettle Moraine School District’s is over, but certainly the innovation and learning at Kettle Moraine aren’t. Let’s touch base with them in a year or two to find out what they are learning from rolling out personalized learning to other schools.

In the meantime, here is a place for you to find all twelve blogs and make it easier to share with colleagues. (more…)

Reflections on Learning Without Boundaries at Kettle Moraine

January 30, 2018 by

Superintendent Patricia DeKlotz

Kettle Moraine Superintendent Patricia DeKlotz had to repeat herself to get me understand, “There is no recipe.” Again, “There is no recipe or one way of doing personalized learning.” Yet I was sure there must be more similarities between the different personalized schools we had visited than I was able to point to. Eventually, as I went through my notes, I eventually did come to the conclusion that there really wasn’t one model. What Kettle Moraine personalized schools share is a very strong set of core beliefs, a highly similar culture, and a few very clear structures.

I’m still in the process of understanding the core structures at Kettle Moraine (there really is only so much you can learn in a one-day site visit). I’ve been able to identify a few described below: (more…)

Distributed Leadership at Kettle Moraine

January 22, 2018 by

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the ninth in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Please read the first post on Kettle Moraine before continuing to read this post, as it will prepare you to fully take advantage of the ideas and resources shared in this series.

Everyone is a learner at Kettle Moraine. And with the distributed leadership model, everyone can be a leader. Currently, 10 percent of the educators are recognized as leaders of teacher teams. There are several ways that KM is developing leadership. (You can listen directly to Superintendent Pat DeKlotz, Assist Superintendent Theresa Ewald, and teacher leaders talk about distributed leadership on the second video in the left hand column.)

Tools for Distributing Leadership

DeKlotz described a number of techniques that she and Ewald used to engage educators, to help build a shared understanding of the strategic vision for the district, and, listen for coaching opportunities when there were misconceptions or narrow understanding of what personalized learning means. These tools or techniques included:   (more…)

Practicing What They Preach: Micro-Credentialing at Kettle Moraine

January 15, 2018 by

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the eighth in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Please read the first post on Kettle Moraine before continuing to read this post, as it will prepare you to fully take advantage of the ideas and resources shared in this series.

Kettle Moraine School District (KM) is practicing what they preach. If one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for students, why would we think it would work for teacher professional development?

(more…)

Kettle Moraine: How They Got Here and Where They are Going

December 4, 2017 by

Image from the Kettle Moraine website

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the second in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Please read the first post on Kettle Moraine before continuing to read this post, as it will prepare you to fully take advantage of the ideas and resources shared in this series.

Before they turned to personalized learning, Kettle Moraine School District (KM) was already considered a high performing school district, with 80-90 percent of students going on to post-secondary education and training and numerous recognitions of excellence every year. Superintendent Patricia DeKlotz explained, “How we think of success and high performance is based on what we measure. Eighty percent of our students go on to college, but only 45 percent of those students complete post-secondary. We want to measure ourselves based on things that really count for our students. We know we can do better. We know we can create more relevance for our students and their futures. ”

In fact, some people interpreted the suggestion that there should be change as an indication that there was a problem. DeKlotz explained, “When we first started talking about personalization, some people didn’t understand why. They saw it as we aren’t good enough. But that wasn’t the case at all. We are changing because we can do better, not that we are failing. This is important because trust between a district and the community, between schools and parents, begins with the belief that we are doing the very best for students. It’s important to begin from a position of strength if you can.” Assistant Superintendent Theresa Ewald added, “Many of the traditional measures of success used are those that were set in a time when few attended college, when knowledge was less accessible to all. The context has changed, so must the measures of success.”

There was another driving force: finances. Wisconsin, like other states, hasn’t been keeping up with increases in inflation, and the cost pressures are significant on districts. KM had had revenue limits in place since 1993. DeKlotz described that previous response to the tightening fiscal situation was to try to cut programs and drop things from the budget. Her background in business and familiarity with the Kaizan approach encouraged her to find another way. As did meeting Richard DeLorenzo, one of the architects of the Chugach performance-based model at a MCREL meeting. The dual drivers of costs and excellence catalyzed KM to look for more cost-effective ways of organizing education. Their answer was personalizing education to create more efficiency and to be much more effective for preparing their students for college, careers, and all they might encounter in life.

The shift to personalized learning and the district’s ability to sustain the transformation is based on four major processes:

  • School board adoption of a policy governance model: Working with Superintendent Pat DeKlotz, the school board clarified its role as policy, advocacy, and helping to promote the district. This left DeKlotz and her team to make strategic and operational decisions as they emerged.
  • Strategic visioning: Every three to four years, the district engages 100 members of the community in building a strategic vision. The most recent developed the vision of Learning Without Boundaries and guides the district today. The final product is a paper that is shared widely in the hopes of reaching even more people to engage them in the shared vision.
  • District annual retreat: Every year the school board and leadership council, consisting of twenty-four community members and educators, reflect on data about student achievement, school performance, financials, and student and parent feedback. They set the goals for the next year and develop 100-day action plans. This continuous improvement and public accountability has been instrumental in building trust between the district and community.
  • School annual retreats: Every school uses the same retreat process with a leadership team, reflection on school goals aligned with district goals, action plans, and monitoring implementation of those plans.

DeKlotz emphasized, “These processes have proven to be essential. This is how we hold the change process tight and not have things slip off the plate.” The strategic visioning process was particularly meaningful. As described in the first article about personalized learning in Wisconsin, the Institute for Personalized Learning describes three core elements of personalized learning: learner profile to track student learning; customized learning plans; and proficiency-based progress. KM wanted to make sure their understanding of personalized learning was embedded in their own experiences as a community. Based on the strategic visioning process, KM developed the vision statement Learning Without Boundaries, which captures the spirit of their personalized learning approach. (more…)

Kettle Moraine: Where the Future of Education is Being Created Student by Student

by

This article is part of a series on personalized, proficiency-based education in Wisconsin and the first in a ten-part series on Kettle Moraine. Start the entire series here.

There are many reasons to learn about what Kettle Moraine School District is doing:

  • Personalizing education;
  • Opening up learning by using a learner continuum rather than grade level standards;
  • Multi-age classrooms;
  • Chartering schools to test innovations prior to scaling;
  • Micro-credentials;
  • Place-based learning; and
  • Community outreach and community partnerships.

Similar to Waukesha’s STEM Academy, Kettle Moraine (KM) is using a learner continuum that recognizes where the student is and where they will go. Although the standards might be the same, organizing around the learner rather than the grade level opens up new ways of organizing learning. It’s easier to think about meeting students where they are. It’s easier to allow students to learn above their grade level. It’s easier to think about providing students multiple opportunities for how they learn, as teachers must have resources and assessments prepared for students at different places along the continuum. This is the direction every district should be going.

This series is designed to help you understand the Kettle Moraine (KM) approach and how they are making it work. But don’t get too excited. Kettle Moraine is implementing personalized learning based on a strong culture of learning, a belief that students can learn to be independent learners, and a few powerful structures including a graduate profile and learner continuua. And each personalized learning school has then selected their own themes, their own learning designs, and instructional strategies to emphasize. Thus, you are not going to find an easy recipe for replication. Wherever I could, I’ve added links to KM video and resources so you can go even deeper. I truly encourage you to take the time to read this series slowly.

Get Ready to Read This Series

To get ready to read this series, I also encourage you to do two things and to consider two things. (more…)

Buzzing Toward Personalized Learning in Wisconsin

October 23, 2017 by

Click image to enlarge.

This is the first post in a series on my visit to Wisconsin.

We know there are different entry points to developing a personalized, competency-based system. But what we don’t know is whether they all get us to a high quality competency-based system, what the primary features of the system will be, and what the journey might look like. My visit to Wisconsin in the spring suggests that starting with a strong orientation to customized learning paths and proficiency-based progress may help us to leapfrog out of the age-based “covering the standards” approach that so many schools still find themselves in to a learning continuum that provides much more flexibility and the ability to meet students where they are.

It’s taken me a very long time to write up my visits to Waukesha School District and Kettle-Moraine School District because of their orientation and approach…and because the way they are organizing their schools is substantially different than what I’ve seen before. I find that writing about the most innovative models takes me the longest because I don’t want to push them into the themes and boxes of my previous understanding. They need to be described in a way that captures their values, framing, and spirit.

The Institute for Personalized Learning, launched by CESA #1, has played a very influential role in introducing Wisconsin districts to the concepts of personalized learning. They define personalized learning as an approach to learning and instruction that is designed around the individual learner readiness, strengths, needs and interests. Their approach to school transformation, 27 Personalized Learning Elements, is fondly known as the honeycomb. Originally, proficiency-based learning was just one of 27 elements of personalized learning. Now it is one of the three core elements along with learner profiles and customized learning paths. Thanks to Jim Rickabaugh, the founding director of IPL and now a senior fellow, and Ryan Krohn, current director, for all their help in introducing me to their approach to personalized learning.

The Personalized Learning Honeycomb

Starting with 27 elements is a lot to make sense of, but IPL has organized it with four levels that you can use to get your head wrapped around it: (more…)

Starting with Design Principles in Cleveland

July 5, 2017 by

Image from the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools Wesbsite

This is the second of a five-part series on competency-based schools in Cleveland Metropolitan Schools.

In its efforts to expand its portfolio of high schools, Cleveland has created four new schools using the Opportunity by Design framework supported by Carnegie Corporation and its partner, Springpoint. We visited two schools in the Lincoln-West building, Global Studies and School of Science and Health, followed by two schools in the JFK building, E3agle Academy and PACT (Problem-Based Academy of Critical Thinking). Each of the schools has a different theme or emphasis, while all draw on the design principles to create personalized, competency-based schools with deeper learning opportunities for students.

The Design Principles and Process

The new schools were developed using the following ten principles.

  1. Integrates positive youth development to optimize student engagement & effort
  2. Has a clear mission & coherent culture
  3. Develops & deploys collective strengths
  4. Remains porous & connected
  5. Prioritizes mastery of rigorous standards aligned to college & career readiness
  6. Personalizes student learning to meet student needs
  7. Empowers & supports students through key transitions into & beyond high school
  8. Maintains an effective human capital strategy aligned with school model & priorities
  9. Continuously improves its operations & model
  10. Manages school operations efficiently & effectively

Schools engaged youth and the surrounding communities to shape their missions and their themes. (See Designing New School Models – A Practical Guide.) (more…)

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