Category: School Models

Starting the Journey to CBE at Otken Elementary School

April 16, 2018 by

Dr. Cynthia Lamkin, Lead Learner at Otken Elementary

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

Otken Elementary, serving 500 students in grades 1-3, is in the first year of the the transition to personalized learning. They began the roll-up in 2017 with conversion to personalized learning in first grade followed by second year, next year, and so on.

Dr. Cynthia Lamkin, Principal or Lead Learner, described the early steps to implementation. Otken started by organizing a site visit for their first grade teachers to visit Kennedy Early Childhood Center to learn about student-centered learning and the blended learning rotation model. In amazement, they asked their Kennedy colleagues how they were able to get kindergarteners to all be working on task and to take responsibility even when the teacher was out of the line of vision. The teacher practitioners at Kennedy explained that it wasn’t magic. It started with a series of everyday practices such as creating a shared vision, goal-setting, and target trackers. Kennedy is finding that it takes about eleven days to introduce scholars to the routines of student-centered learning and station rotation. They all affirmed, “There is no excuse that first graders can’t learn to do this.”

Reflections of the Lead Learner

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Starting with the Kindergarteners in McComb

April 9, 2018 by

Felicia Thomas, Lead Learner at Kennedy Early Childhood Center

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

The next stop in my visit to McComb School District was the Kennedy Early Childhood Center.  We met with Lead Learner (Principal) Felicia Thomas; Dr. Alicia Walker, Site Based Curriculum Coordinator; and Angel McMillian, Literacy Specialist. Kennedy is designed to have all the kindergarteners in McComb introduced to personalized learning. They currently have over 200 kindergarteners as well as fifty younger scholars in preschool. The school day is organized into blocks around the academic domains of social studies, science, literacy, and math. (more…)

Empowering Scholars at McComb’s Summit Elementary

April 2, 2018 by

Lakya Washington, Lead Learner at Summit Elementary School

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

Lakya Washington, previously assistant principal at Higgins Middle School, is the Lead Learner at Summit Elementary School. In the language of yesteryear, she is the principal. Full of passion, compassion, and a deep commitment to building better lives for her scholars, Washington has led the introduction to personalized learning at Summit. She had never experienced personalized learning before, so her own learning trajectory has been steep. One of the steps that helped was visiting Red Bank Elementary in South Carolina. (more…)

Piloting Change in McComb

March 26, 2018 by

Image from the McComb website.

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

Roll-Out Strategy

Sometimes enthusiasm for an idea can create unexpected terrain to navigate. For example, several of the McComb board members’ enthusiasm resulted in expectations for immediate roll out to everyone. Why not? If it is good for children, let’s do it now.

Drawing on his experience in previous improvement efforts, Superintendent Cederick Ellis believed that a roll-out strategy was needed. He was hesitant to begin with high school, having seen so many high school reforms come and go without taking hold. He explained, “It was going to create extra pressure if we had to change the mindset of scholars as they entered ninth grade. And as soon as we would help them fully build up the independent learning skills, they leave us – we don’t have opportunity to reap the benefits.” Thus, McComb began with an elementary school roll-out and -up strategy, with the knowledge that high schools would be enrolling a different type of scholar – one who owns their own education.  (more…)

McComb’s Strategic Planning Begins with the Community

March 19, 2018 by

Multiple stakeholders involved in strategic planning. Image from McComb website.

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

In 2014, McComb developed a strategic plan that would guide them toward a personalized system. This article has three sections: engaging the community, developing the strategic plan, and highlights of the strategic plan.

Engaging the Community (more…)

McComb’s Six Pillars of Student-Centered Learning

March 16, 2018 by

Stephen Johnson, Data Analyst and Personalized Learning Coach

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

Superintendent Cederick Ellis didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. As the district began to think about how they could improve schools in McComb School District, they knew they needed to learn from other districts and schools around the country. So they began to read about and talk to other districts.

In 2013, Ellis, the finance director, curriculum director, and other district leadership visited the Education Achievement Authority to understand their personalized approach. (Please note: The EAA no longer exists, but you can find articles about it at CompetencyWorks while it was under the leadership of Dr. John Covington and Dr. Mary Esselman.) Ellis remembered, “It is rare for a finance director to get excited about anything about teaching and learning. It was the children themselves and the conversations she had with them that lit her enthusiasm. She told me, ‘We have to find a way to make this work for our children.’” (more…)

Personalizing the Learning in McComb, Mississippi

March 15, 2018 by

Dr. Cederick Ellis, Superintendent

McComb is a town of about 5,000 households located an hour south of Jackson in the land that was originally cared for by the Choctaw. Getting there was a bit of an adventure, as I flew into New Orleans on the day of a freezing rain that closed all the highways in the region. Thus, I approached McComb through the backroads of Louisiana, which once again reminded me that although the majority of the American people live in urban and suburban areas, the country continues to be deeply rural.

McComb School District came to my attention through the Education Reimagined network. McComb is on a path toward personalized learning (they also use the term student-centered learning synonymously). They have established six pillars of student-centered learning: (more…)

Our Quest to Personalize Competency-Based Learning in New Hampshire

February 27, 2018 by

This article was was originally posted on January 9, 2018 at Education Week in the Next Generation for Learning blog

Photo from Parker Varney Elementary School in Manchester School District.

New Hampshire’s Assessment for Learning Project (ALP) has been a quest to deepen and personalize competency-based learning for all students. During the 2016-2017 school year, we attempted to confront two significant barriers hindering the advancement of competency-based learning, namely age-based grade level configurations in schools and traditional assessment and grading practices that restrict students from “moving on when ready,” a key tenant of competency-based learning.

Our five pilot elementary schools intentionally implemented innovative practices that blurred the lines between grade levels by moving to multi-grade bands.  Teachers developed learning progressions that guided learning for individual students within these bands and helped to foster assessment practices as integral components of the learning process, rather than as strictly summative measures of learning. (more…)

Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 2)

January 16, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on January 2, 2018. Read Part 1 here.

Mary Bellavance

In part I of this three-part series, I wrote about how Maine’s Biddeford School District created a peer coaching program to support our teachers as they spread a student-centered learning model across the district. Part II shares three of the most important lessons from the experience.

Develop a plan that is closely aligned to your district’s goals

  • Does your district have a strategic plan (or even just a set of well-defined goals) to help implement student-centered learning over a five-to seven-year timeframe? If so, it will help all stakeholders stay focused on the peer coaching steps necessary to help reach this goal. If not, Douglas Reeves offers recommendations in his book Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results. Reeves addresses how to create the conditions for change, then plan, implement and sustain it.
  • Also, make sure you are clear about your goals for a peer coaching initiative and how those goals connect with the district’s ambitions for student-centered learning.

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Creating a Peer Coaching Program to Grow Student-Centered Learning (Part 1)

January 9, 2018 by

This post originally appeared at Students at the Center on December 15, 2017.

Mary Bellavance

In southern Maine, the little corner of the world where I teach, coach and learn, we are in the midst of transitioning to a student-centered learning (SCL) model. The Biddeford School Department is a public, K-12 system serving 2,425 students. I am an instructional coach at the middle school and am in my second year serving as the coordinator of the K-12 peer coaching program, a program that we created as a way to support our staff in building and sustaining a student-centered learning system.

Since our journey began, district leadership has encouraged collaboration among all stakeholders. School leaders engaged staff, students and parents in conversations about what our students need to be college- and career-ready in the 21st century. With the support of our school board, Superintendent Jeremy Ray made sure the message was clear: we were engaging in this transformative work because it’s what is best for children.

Part of our student-centered approach is that it is proficiency-based (also called competency-based). Maine passed a law in 2012 requiring that every school district determine standards for proficiency in eight areas and award diplomas, beginning in 2021, based on those standards being met.

Our SCL Road Map

The state has left it up to educators in each district to collaborate, plan and implement their version of proficiency-based education. The district must provide students with timely, differentiated support based on their individual learning needs. It became apparent that supports would be as necessary for the educators —who are also new to student-centered, proficiency-based learning—  as they are for the students. For help conceptualizing an SCL implementation plan, we reached out to Reinventing Schools, and they provided training and coaching. Reinventing Schools is a division of Marzano Research — one of the most well-known proponents of proficiency-based education.

The Launch Training

Teachers were invited—not mandated—to participate in a training session with an educational consultant from Reinventing Schools. The first group of enthusiastic staff members, about 25 in all, learned how to transform their classrooms to more learner-centered environments, including how to use the Affinity Diagram process with students to create a shared vision and code of cooperation—critical to the infrastructure of the new approach. They also spent time considering how they would build collegiality in their schools to pave the way for the acquisition of new skills among colleagues who did not attend the training session. These early activities were necessary to lay the foundation for our continued work with essential standards and to build a transparent, rigorous curriculum for our learners.

Using the skills acquired at the training, teachers worked with their students to develop shared visionscodes of cooperation and standard operating procedures for their classrooms.  These exercises provided the opportunity for students to take ownership of their learning, one of the four research-based tenets of Jobs for the Future’s (JFF) Student-Centered Learning Model. (more…)

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