An Alternative Policy of Academic Progression

Students at SWN and ResulTech schools learn standards-based content primarily through working on real world projects and problems. The products of their work provide the evidence of their learning. These schools do not organize the delivery of its curriculum through traditional courses. Since this is a non-traditional organization to the curriculum, the ResulTech schools need “flexibility of when; not flexibility of what” (ie, students will meet state requirements, but perhaps not along traditional sequences or time lines).

Therefore, ResulTech schools award credit based on “hours logged” and “standards met.” Students receive one Project Credit for each 100 hours they log (approved by their teachers). Using an assessment rubric, teachers may add or subtract hours based on the quality of the student work (great project, a little more credit; lax project, a little less credit). Content area grades are awarded based on the number and quality of Learning Targets (standards) mastered for that discipline during that grading period. Students must accumulate 10 Project credits and have mastered a certain number of Learning Targets in order to be promoted to the next grade level. Additionally, students must master all required Learning Targets in order to graduate.

This draft policy is based on the Policy for Academic Progress at the Minnesota New Country School, a very successful, and nationally recognized, project-based learning school.

Documentation is the backbone of this policy. Project Foundry, a web-based project and learning management tool, provides much of that documentation. Project Foundry allows both teachers and students to design projects, including correlating the work to Learning Targets. Teachers then use the system to communicate with students; assign projects, reflective prompts, and assessments; review work; and rate the students’ level of proficiency in the relevant Learning Targets. Students can post their work (providing the evidence of learning), and log their hours worked.

Further, an online learning system, provides support in the learning of content. Its time logged feature, diagnostic tools, online lessons, and assessments provide additional concrete documentation of student learning, even when students are working beyond typical school hours and/or at locations other than school.

This system can help students who have to retake classes because of course failures. By taking diagnostic tests, they can receive credit for course content (standards) they have already mastered, and then focus only on the content not yet mastered. This compares favorably with the conventional system of having to repeat the entire course, whether they know the material or not.

By defining courses by the standards they represent, transfer students can easily be awarded credit for meeting standards from courses they have already passed.

Life experiences, such as internships, are also easily integrated into this system. Students log their hours and supervisors or teachers rate their acquisition of knowledge and skill relative to the Learning Targets using rubrics that clearly identify quality of work.

The Schools We Need Project

Because some students need more than direct instruction.

The Schools We Need Project is a joint project of the Maine Center for Meaningful Engaged Learning at the University of Maine at Farmington
and ResulTech Educational Services