Flexible schedules, more one-on-one time, breakfast clubs, increasing teacher collaboration time and personalized learning are a few steps Mercury redesign districts are considering to help reshape the face of education in Kansas.
“They have set their why — they’re shared vision,” said Jay Scott, Kansas State Department of Education’s secondary redesign specialist. “The redesign teams are starting to share their plans — what they’ve completed so far — with the rest of the staff. They are asking them (staff members) to help with the how.”
Goal areas are aligned with the five skill areas that define a successful high school graduate — academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skills, employability skills and civic engagement.
Districts have established investigative teams to further define goal areas and establish redesign elements to pilot, Scott said. In January and February, districts will begin piloting the elements they’ve selected.
Some districts, such as McPherson Unified School District 418, already have pilot programs in place. McPherson Middle School has implemented a “breakfast club” to address a social-emotional area.
“They want more students to feel a sense of belonging in the school,” Scott said.
In the past month, the school has been measuring daily attendance of the students who are participating in the pilot, as well as grades of those students. They are seeing an improvement, Scott said.
Other districts are focusing on employability and career preparation as their redesign element by adding mentoring programs and building more one-on-one time in to schedules.
Representatives from the redesign districts met Monday, Nov. 20, at the McPherson Museum, 1111 E. Kansas Ave. in McPherson, to learn about Summit Learning, share ideas and tackle challenges together.
District personnel, including curriculum directors, principals and superintendents, spent the first part of the afternoon discussing Summit Learning, a free online platform for schools that can help students set and track goals, learn content at their own pace and complete projects. Summit was founded in 2003 and operates 11 Summit schools in California and Washington. It also supports more than 100 schools across 27 states, according to summitlearning.org.
Scott and Tammy Mitchell, KSDE’s elementary redesign specialist, told those gathered for the presentation that KSDE isn’t trying to “push” Summit Learning, but instead offer districts another resource.
After the Summit presentation, the group broke into three smaller groups — elementary, secondary and superintendents. Mitchell facilitated the elementary discussion, and Scott facilitated the discussion on secondary redesign. G.A. Buie, executive director of United School Administrators of Kansas, led the discussion for superintendents.
Groups discussed their goal areas; how to get people on board with the redesign concept; schools they have visited; resources around personalized learning; and partnerships.
Attendees said the day was “very helpful” and asked for more work sessions in the future.
Mitchell and Scott on Nov. 27 met with the Redesign Crew — a group comprised of educators, KSDE staff members and representatives from higher education institutions, education organizations and the Kansas State Board of Education. The Crew meets monthly and serves as a think tank for school redesign. The redesign specialists gave the group an update on where schools are at in the redesign process.
At Olathe USD 233’s Westview Elementary, school personnel want to focus on project-based learning and is starting with projects centered around serving those in the community. Twin Valley USD 240’s Tescott Elementary is focusing on family engagement, Mitchell told the Redesign Crew. At Meadowlark Elementary in Liberal USD 480, research teams have established research topics and created a structured protocol for doing the research.
McPherson USD 418’s Eisenhower Elementary School is doing research around technology and personalized learning, Mitchell said, and the school is interested in multi-age learning in reading and math. At Kennedy Elementary School in Wellington USD 353, staff members are focusing on early childhood and also want to partner with a physician or medical facility to offer medical services to students and staff.
Community Elementary School, Coffeyville USD 445, is the largest elementary school in the state with more than 1,000 students, Mitchell said. The school will pilot “Twister Day” once per week. This would be a day for teacher collaboration while students do activities and learn from community members.
Olathe’s Santa Fe Trail Middle School’s overall goal is to have students leave the school ready to explore. The district’s redesign team recently shared its work on visioning and goals with staff members.
Coffeyville USD 445’s Field Kindley High School is working on establishing a mechanism to help determine the effectiveness of redesign. Field Kindley plans to track students’ progress using Individual Plans of Study, and after high school graduation, staff members may follow up with graduates to find out how they are doing.
Wellington USD 353’s high school is considering an academy that would focus on project-based and blended-learning concepts. The district also wants to ramp up its work-based learning and work closely with Cowley County Community College, which recently added a Wellington campus. In October, Wellington High had student-led, parent-teacher conferences. The school had a 90 percent participation rate compared to the previous year’s rate of 38 percent.
At McPherson USD 418, the middle school wants to make sure students enter high school academically, civically and socially prepared. Middle school staff members visited a Big Picture Learning School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which featured all-day career development, job shadows and internships on Tuesdays and Thursdays and traditional courses on the other days of the school week.
Stockton USD 271 already has strong community support and plans to utilize that support during the redesign process. District personnel want to visit Salt Lake City to see a redesigned model in action.
At Liberal USD 480’s high school, there are 22 research teams and every staff member is taking part, Scott said. The high school is looking into a flex-mod schedule and has visited Wisconsin schools that use a similar schedule.
Twin Valley USD 240’s Bennington High School investigative teams are looking at scheduling, mentoring and an online platform tool, such as Summit Learning.
After an update, Crew members broke in to two smaller groups to address staff members who are resistant to change and to discuss what personalized learning entails.
Crew members working in the resistance to change group said it is important to get feedback from those who are reluctant to change and to involve them in the redesign process.
Those working in the personalized learning group said there needs to be strong relationships between teachers, students and family members. There also needs to be peer-to-peer interaction, appropriate technology, and rigorous and challenging material for each student regardless what level he or she is at.
During the afternoon of Nov. 27, Mitchell and Scott met with the School Redesign Policy Advisory group, which is comprised of representatives from various education organizations, higher education institutions, businesses and KSDE. The group meets quarterly to receive updates on redesign work and to assist with policy changes that may come up during the redesign process.
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