This is the Drafting Page

A Policy of Academic Progression

Project Foundry

One of the challenges of doing project-based curriculum is keeping track of what students are learning. We're exploring how we might keep track of standards introduced and mastered while working on the projects.

Today I came across a resource that might help. Either one of the Edutopia newsletters I get or one of the listservs or RSS feeds I subscribe to had a video called "My Kind of High School." It shows two students in a school where they learn through projects.

They're using a system called Project Foundry to manage their work. It looks like it is designed to help facilitate independently (student) designed projects, but might be adapted to our program of projects designed for the class by students and teachers . It looks like Project Foundry has a couple important features that would help us with project design: connecting standards to projects, keeping track of which standards students have met over time, and
a portfolio system.

Prof Dev

During the initial start-up phase, faculty from both schools will participate in intensive professional development designed to ensure that all teachers have the skills and expertise to effectively implement the instructional program. Particular attention will be paid to the theory and practice of project-based instructional methodologies, collaborative teaching and learning, and differentiating instruction to meet the needs of diverse students. The professional development will be designed and conducted collaboratively by staff from the District’s Office of Curriculum and Instruction and ResulTech, Inc., with support from other District offices – e.g., the Office of Specialized Services (providing training on special educational services for students with IEPs) and the Office of Language, Culture and the Arts (providing training on engaging English language learners). In accordance with current research on adult learning and best practices in professional development, the sessions will present information to participants in multiple formats and will feature ample opportunities for “applied learning.” Teachers will have the chance to actually practice using the skills and techniques they are being taught. The professional development provided during this initial phase will be reinforced through follow-up sessions and on-site coaching/demonstration once the magnet schools are up and running.
Professional development is a critical and therefore priority component of any school’s success. The professional development must help instill a positive instructional culture, acclimate teachers to the curricular model and its specific project-based/problem-based learning modules, detail and explain measures of success and performance benchmarks, and generate the sense of “can-do” and camaraderie necessary to meet the goals of any major reform effort. We know that developing a new conventional program is somewhat prescribed, since it is well-established territory; but breaking conventions, developing a school program designed to apply and contextualize learning while creating an engaging and meaningful learning environment, is more complex. The territory we face is not completely foreign. A few pioneers have blazed the trail before this project, and our partner, ResulTech, has learned from its experiences in creating schools such as Central Park East Secondary School, The MET, and CART in Fresno, California.
The major difference between professional development for a conventional school program versus a school program with the innovative methods described in our proposed educational program is that a conventional school can provide teachers with technical training – simply sharing information and resources. A school with an innovative program must focus its professional development on helping teachers navigate a paradigm shift as they move from conventional practice to more innovative methods. Trainers will not be simply storytellers or inspirational speakers – they must be skilled at the task of transferring skills and shifting paradigms to other adults who can then acquire and use those skills to enhance their work. The trainers must understand this process, first raising awareness, then providing a series of experiences so that teachers expand their own knowledge base, followed by opportunities to practice their new skills with the support of expert coaches.
We believe that mastery leads to confidence. By this we mean that we prefer to train teachers in relatively narrow paths – not to restrict what they do, but to ensure that they can do something very well before proceeding to other challenges. From that success comes the professional confidence to continue to improve. What we will not do is provide an unfocused program by which teachers gain access to a menu of ideas but mastery of none. Teachers will focus on the following knowledge and skills:
• Building positive relationships, which fosters positive school climate
• Creating engaging projects, problems, activities, and work for students
• Effectively teaching through high-interest, community-based projects and problems
• Leveraging community assets to strengthen the context of learning for students
• Creating and fostering partnerships with local, national, and global businesses, organizations, and institutions of higher learning
• Effectively designing and implementing high-interest, community-based projects and problems
• Assessing student work for evidence of learning content from the standards
• Using data to customize instruction and improve student progress and achievement
• Effectively integrating technology to improve motivation, access to resources and information, and to facilitate the collection and analysis of student data.
The end goal is to have students learn quality content from the disciplines of knowledge consistent with the District’s Core Curriculum and Pennsylvania’s Academic Standards. But to create a school program that is attractive enough to inspire parents to send their students to these magnet schools instead of other school choices, the magnet school staff must first connect with their students, engage their interest in the content, and then show them how it relates to their lives and the world around them. The professional development is designed to provide both the initial and ongoing training and support necessary to be successful with this approach.
The magnet schools will address staffing issues as soon as possible, so that professional development opportunities can be leveraged well in advance of the opening of the school. The recruiting and hiring process will also allow the leadership of these magnet schools to inventory the skills and abilities of the new staff through application material analysis, interviews and surveys, so that they can tailor professional development to the staff’s needs.
Beginning in the summer of 2008, full-day training will be provided in June, July, and August. Summer training will focus on establishing a clear and shared vision for the magnet schools, generating a culture of ongoing learning, introducing staff to these magnet schools methodology (including motivating and engaging instructional methods; teaching through projects & problems; and technology integration), enhancing instructional skills (particularly in project-based & problem-based methods), and delineating performance measures and expectations.