Districts of Innovation: DANVILLE 2013
The goal of the Danville Innovation Plan is to ensure that every student is not only ready for college and career, but that each is equipped to be successful in those endeavors. In addition to content knowledge, this plan places priority on essential skills cited as being critical for all postsecondary pathways.
A NEW APPROACH
During the past four years in Danville, we have looked for ways to provide deeper, more meaningful learning experiences for our students in hopes of increasing engagement and ultimately, student success beyond graduation. We have had the opportunity to work closely with High Tech High School in San Diego, New York’s iSchool and the School of One and to attend multiple workshops as guests of the New York Consortium Group. As result of what we have learned from these schools as well as through the implementation of new approaches such as project-based learning, making the shift to competency-based learning where possible, providing opportunities for students to custom-design their own college and career readiness experience through Intersession and incorporating challenge-based experiences through initiatives like X-Factor, we are proposing a new learning experience that takes a different approach, one that we strongly believe will result in students being much better equipped for successful futures.
THE CURRENT SYSTEM AND THE NEED FOR CHANGE
Since the early 90s, schools and districts have been immersed in high stakes accountability systems. Standardized testing has been and continues to be the public measuring stick for our schools. Teachers, along with school and district leaders, feel enormous pressure to make sure students are prepared for the tests they will take. Though we strongly believe in the importance of measuring results and accountability, the current system is not leading to the kinds of learning experiences and outcomes we want for our students.
Although an easy assumption to make is that students will perform well no matter the measure as long as the instruction they receive is high quality, the stakes are simply too high to leave this to chance. Teachers feel they must spend a great deal of time in preparing students for mandated assessments. And, despite our best efforts, quantitative and qualitative data tell us that too many students leave us unprepared for successful futures.
The current assessment system in Kentucky involves three multiple-choice, standardized assessments: KPREP, EPAS (EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT) and End of Course Exams. KPREP is intended to measure the new Common Core Standards in English/Language Arts and Math. The EPAS system measures ACT’s College Readiness standards and the End of Course Exams measure ACT’s Quality Core curriculum. This variety of assessments, each measuring a different set of standards, makes it difficult at best to know where the focus should be. The result is a fragmented experience for students focusing on test-preparation. Our goal is to provide experiences instead that engage students in rich, meaningful work – deeper learning - rather than a race through multiple lists of standards.
THE DANVILLE DIPLOMA
This document specifies 10 essential experiences and competencies that we want to ensure for each student. Each student will collect evidence demonstrating his/her progress toward reaching each of the competencies in a digital portfolio beginning in the early elementary grades. Students will share portfolio contents and present their progress at key transition points through their school career through Transition Presentations of Learning. In addition, the digital portfolio will be an important component of the high school capstone presentation. By 2019, each graduating student will include a link to his/her digital portfolio on applications (college, scholarship, job, etc.) This link will also be included on each student’s transcript.
The student experience will be customized, K-8, according to strengths and areas of need identified through MAP as well as through other less formal but equally valuable formative measures (teacher observations, etc.) In this redesigned competency-based learning experience, learning will become the constant and time the variable.
The Common Core standards as well as the competencies outlined in the Danville Diploma will be combined to create rich, meaningful experiences for students.
Each year, students will be immersed in problem/challenge-based learning experiences emphasizing content application, interdisciplinary connections, and those essential competencies outlined in the Danville Diploma. Day-to-day examples might include activities such as being challenged to construct a means for the little gingerbread man to cross the river for our youngest learners to older students creating carnival games that ultimately benefit the carnival but allow players to win enough to draw them in.
Real world problem-solving and service learning are priorities. We will emphasize an entrepreneurial mindset, placing students in the role of producing rather than simply consuming.
Alignment will occur intentionally beginning in grade 6 to ensure EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT benchmarks are met. It is also important to note that the benchmarks are the minimum standard each student should achieve.
The 11th and 12th grade years will provide increased, intensified opportunity for experiences designed to ensure college and career success. The goal is for each student to graduate with at least one viable plan solidly in place for his/her next step.
It is critical that intentional measures are implemented beginning in 6th grade to ensure student connection to the school and the learning experience. Goal conferences will be held initially with each student to explain the EPAS benchmarks, crucial MAP achievement milestones necessary to reach those benchmarks and to create an individual plan for reaching these goals. In addition, year one conferences will need to include an introduction to the digital portfolio. After this initial year, students will have started their digital portfolios during the elementary years, before entering middle school.
Maximum flexibility with instructional approaches, curriculum access and the school day is essential in order to customize and maximize the experience for each student.
To achieve an experience customized for each student, use of technology is crucial. A blended learning approach must be used when possible and appropriate. Adaptive instructional tools such as ALEKS and COMPASS LEARNING/ODYSSEY are essential. Not only will these kinds of resources help us to better meet students’ individual needs on-the-spot, they also help to free teachers to design the kinds of rich, meaningful, highly engaging problem/challenge-based experiences for students that only teachers can design.
As curriculum is developed and instructional experiences are planned, we will continually ask, “How can we provide students with something unique - an experience they can only get because they are here?”
WHAT INNOVATION MEANS FOR OUR PARENTS AND OUR COMMUNITY
We are raising the bar. Under our innovation plan, demonstrating college- and career-readiness will go hand-in-hand with earning a diploma in Danville. In an information economy, we can't settle for anything less. Under our plan, each student will get support from teachers and the school so that all can reach college- and/or career-readiness benchmarks and then design a plan for developing advanced skills and academic preparation that will give them an edge on their path after high school. This expands our focus on AP and college-level learning and career and industry pathways while building up our interdisciplinary project-based approach to make learning more relevant and challenging. Along the way, our students will get a new range of experiences: personal and team challenges, research and design opportunities, chances to work on real community issues, opportunities to gain arts and expression skills, and updated practical skills including public speaking, fitness and wellness options, and a course to prepare for adult life.
We are committed to helping every student know their strengths, build on them, know how to deal with setbacks, gain from real-world learning experiences, and have an advantage in succeeding beyond high school. We also want to tap the strengths and talents of our teachers to the fullest extent. Our plan also asks for a customized assessment system that will produce results that are meaningful to students and families and help our teachers focus on deeper and more engaging learning experiences for all students.
WHAT INNOVATION MEANS FOR OUR STUDENTS
Your time in the Danville Schools will focus on proving your readiness for college and/or career, then moving on to define a path of learning that will be most interesting and most useful to you as you target your next step after high school. Engaging learning experiences customized for each student begin in Kindergarten. This is the first step in a learning system built to meet individual needs. In addition, throughout the time spent in our schools, students will face a series of learning challenges created to meet individual interests and build in competencies listed in the Danville Diploma like teamwork, creativity, and analyzing numbers and information to find answers.
Starting in middle school, you will get a head start on learning the English, math, science and social studies you need to know to be considered college- and/or career-ready by our state. We are building a five-year plan that will help you prove readiness at the end of 10th grade. From there, you will map out a customized pathway that will give you an edge toward your goals for learning after high school.
In addition, our schools will offer interesting new classes where you and your classmates will think of thought-provoking questions that can be answered with research. You will learn to find information, get answers, and decide what the information really means. We will offer design classes where you will use your creativity to come up with solutions and then test them to find ways to improve or rethink your work. We will also offer new "action" courses where you can help create solutions to community problems or get credit for working as an intern or shadowing people on a job that interests you.
We want to create a system that prepares you for an exciting future filled with information, challenges, and possibilities. With the resources and technology available, we think every student is a success story. We want to help you imagine and write the first chapter of yours!
What will change: Ideally, to earn a diploma, students must meet college- or career-readiness benchmarks as defined by the state of Kentucky. Our requirements also promise to give students stronger learning and problem solving skills and create more engaging class offerings, including those that get students involved in the community. Our goal is to give students not only academics and skills that promise success after high school, but learning experiences that will give Danville students an advantage on any pathway they choose or design for life after high school.
WHAT INNOVATION MEANS FOR TEACHERS
We are focusing our efforts on what matters most: Preparing all students to be college- and career-ready as defined by the current accountability system, and developing a plan for students to be successful in the next chapter beyond high school, whether at college, at work, in the military, or toward a target a student designs for themselves. Our schools will seek to invent an array of engaging new learning experiences for students: Elementary experiences that prepare students for blended learning, problem solving and taking an active role in their learning, and challenges that help middle school students learn about themselves and the world around them, gaining practice at what it means to be a self-directed learner. At the high school, interdisciplinary explorations in Research & Analysis, Design, and Community Action will inform students beyond core subjects and advanced academics and skills.
In addition to offering and teaching specific subject-area courses, we will become leaders in finding ways to build language arts, math, science and social studies skills in courses focused on real-world issues and problems. Arts and expression will also become an umbrella that stretches across all areas of study in addition to working as a discipline on its own. In the end, we want to prepare students with experiences and a plan that will lead to success beyond high school.
WHAT WILL CHANGE?
First, what will not: The plan does NOT seek any modifications to the teacher tenure system.
AT DANVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
ASSESSMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY
We are requesting to eliminate End-of-Course testing in order to focus more diligently on meeting ACT benchmarks. All students would take the EXPLORE test in 8th grade, PLAN in 9th grade, and ACT in 10th grade. Capstone Presentations, where students demonstrate deeper learning on a topic of their choice, would also become part of state accountability developed and scored using rubrics and materials developed by a New York consortium that uses the assessments in place of state end-of-course tests. In addition, students will present their digital portfolio as part of the Capstone Presentation.
CORE: The curriculum in core subjects designed to meet ACT benchmarks will be primarily delivered in grades 6-10. Students needing extra time to reach benchmarks will have time beyond 10th grade.
BEYOND CORE: After meeting benchmarks, students will be expected to develop an Area of Focus that will incorporate advanced academics (as currently required by the Danville Diploma). For students interested in career preparation, building skills to meet career-ready benchmarks, acquiring key vocational and technical skills and earning industry certifications will become a focus.
APPLYING ACADEMICS: Beyond the core subjects and advanced academics/skills, the school will develop interdisciplinary modules in the areas of Research & Analysis, Design, and Action. The courses will draw from various academic disciplines and focus on topics with real-world connections designed to engage students. Students will also be able to propose their own options in these areas as a structured independent or team study. Structured internships and job shadowing would be part of the Action area. The school's interdisciplinary options will be designed at Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced levels and will be available for students to take throughout their high school years, though covering core subjects and meeting benchmarks will occupy most students' time in grades 9 and 10.
OTHER REQUIREMENTS: Students will be required to earn a credit in public speaking, targeted for first-year students; one year in arts courses; a semester of a new Adult Life Boot Camp, targeted for seniors; and credits in P.E./wellness and electives. The school will look at ways to award credits for these and other requirements for students who can demonstrate proficiency through non-traditional, customized routes. Flexibility here is a key component of the plan. For example, students will be able to earn required P.E. credit for satisfactory participation in extracurricular athletics or marching band and the school will design new fitness, wellness, and recreation options for P.E. credit.
The changes are designed to ensure all graduates are college- or career-ready, develop an Area of Focus that will deepen their experience toward a postsecondary pathway, and have a variety of applied learning experiences that teach students how to meet those competencies specified in the Danville Diploma such
as asking questions, finding information, drawing conclusions, designing solutions, and organizing to reach goals.
The plan asks for state approval for the school to approve teachers with subject-area certification to teach interdisciplinary courses in content outside their specialty. The plan also seeks approval for some traditional high school content to be covered in middle school.
The expectations for students outlined in this plan will take effect for the Class of 2019, who will enter DHS in the fall of 2015. That schedule allows a three- to five-year window for full implementation at DHS. Linking elementary, middle school and high school experiences seeks to create more students prepared for higher-level work.
AT BATE MIDDLE SCHOOL
ASSESSMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY
We are requesting to eliminate K-PREP testing in order to focus more diligently on meeting ACT benchmarks, specifically having all 8th graders reach benchmark on EXPLORE subject-area tests. Bate will also give Performance-Based Assessment Tasks each year toward state accountability to demonstrate deeper understanding and the ability to apply learning. The school will continue to use various formative measures to ensure progress including the MAP assessment to ensure progress is on target – at a minimum – for meeting EXPLORE benchmarks.
CORE: Bate will develop core subjects in 6th, 7th and 8th grade as part of a continuum that will continue in 9th and 10th grade to help all students achieve ACT readiness benchmarks in language arts, math, and science by that time. A similar sequence will be developed for social studies. At Bate, assuring that all students are on pace or ahead of pace for reaching EXPLORE benchmarks will be a key to making the innovation plan work, as students will need to reach ACT benchmark by 10th grade to be able to take full advantage of deeper interdisciplinary high school modules and work toward developing an Area of Focus that will prepare them for success beyond high school.
The plan also seeks approval for some traditional high school content to be covered by middle school teachers.
Expectations for students in this plan will take effect for the Class of 2019, who will be 7th graders at Bate in the fall of 2013 and enter DHS in the fall of 2015. That schedule means full implementation at Bate should target 2014-15. Linking middle school and high school experiences seeks to create more students prepared for higher-level work.
AT THE ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
ASSESSMENT & ACCOUNTABILITY
The plan will propose replacing K-PREP state assessments with MAP results for accountability purposes in order to allow elementary teachers a single academic target that links with middle school success. The plan asks that the school board be allowed to approve elementary school plans that agree to the accountability change in exchange for a plan that explains how the school will incorporate opportunities for deeper learning and more engaging learning experiences.
The plan asks the state to allow Danville to create three new roles, in addition to those already established, detailed below:
SUCCESS COACHES: Designed to work in concert with existing guidance counselors and family resource/youth service center providers to serve as experts on meeting the college- and career-readiness needs of area colleges, selective colleges and universities, area employers, and military branches. The Success Coaches would also work with individual students and groups of students to identify personal strengths, set goals, and draft success plans beginning in sixth grade. Success Coaches would serve as a resource to teachers and administrators in making decisions about curriculum that would address college- and career-readiness skills while also being a liaison to families about helping students reach postsecondary goals. This is proposed as a classified position well suited for individuals who might otherwise seek employment in human resource development or college admissions offices.
INTERDISCIPLINARY LEARNING DESIGNERS: This position is seen as a way to cultivate educators who can mix a variety of information resources, real-world events and opportunities, and content from a variety of academic disciplines to create high-interest, one-of-a-kind learning experiences for students. The position would be open to certified teachers who would be nominated by the district for a unique training experience designed by a college partner (likely UK/Centre) to build new skills while developing rich interdisciplinary courses. The designation would be conferred as a three-year appointment with a stipend beyond regular teacher pay.
TEACHING ASSISTANTS: The position is envisioned to work much the way graduate teaching assistants work in colleges: Supervising labs or classrooms when students are doing in-class work, monitoring rooms during testing, and doing routine work like grading papers with answer keys. This is planned to be a classified position with a limited time period for salary step increases to keep this from being a long-term position for any individual. Candidates for this position might be newly certified teachers or bright recent college graduates interested in public service or exploring education as a career choice. Pay would be about half of the average teacher salary. The position is seen as a way to give certified teachers more free time during the day and a greater opportunity to focus on planning, individual work with students, or other tasks that require teachers' expertise.
The district would target some seed funding to pilot the positions above and would use the Districts of Innovation opportunity and the strategic innovation plan as a way to seek outside funding to help fund the positions listed.
In addition, it will be important for each school to have an innovation team that helps to guide implementation and plan for next steps. The district will also establish an innovation team that will help to oversee and monitor the effectiveness of the implementation of the innovation plan.
FOR ALL IDEAS IN THE PLAN
The district will actively seek foundation and other outside support to realize needs for implementing goals and needs identified for achieving the plan.