The Kansas State Department of Education began the school redesign initiative three years ago. As the redesign specialists worked with the first schools they developed four areas they felt needed to be addressed in order to truly drive fundamental change in our schools.
Remember, as we are not an official KSDE redesign school we have freedom over the path we are on, but these principles are incredibly helpful to keep in mind. Many of our investigative teams are focusing on one of these core principles. I’ll outline them below with some examples we have seen from other schools, some ways we already practice them, and some questions to guide further research in these areas.
Student Success Skills
Student success skills are essentially what students need to possess in order to navigate the world well. For example, students need problem solving skills and perseverance so that they don’t fold when life gets hard. What skills can we give our students that will serve them no matter the career path they choose, and even give them success in their own personal lives?
A few ways we have seen these skills practiced
- Homeroom or School Family Time-Often mixed age small groups practice leadership, conflict management, digital citizenship, SEL lessons, and more during this time.
- Our very own Cru time at the high school and TA time at the middle school does some of this
- Some high schools are implementing “Adulting 101” classes. These cover everything from personal finance, to basic cooking, to how to change a tire, and more. (I wonder if teachers with different areas of expertise co-teach these courses?)
- Flexible schedules give students the opportunity to practice time management, self-discipline, advocating for themselves, and more
- We have a list of skills and character traits nailed down as well as how we touch on them already.
Questions to guide us:
- How can we be more intentional about these skills? Business leaders tell us they are as important as academics!
- What opportunities do we already offer and how can we expand or combine those?
- How can our students demonstrate mastery of these skills?
Real World Applications
Real World Applications is a HUGE category. Obviously we always try to make learning relevant to the real world, but the goal is to take that to the next step and instead of just helping our students understand the relevance, actually make it relevant here and now. Kids will do amazing things if it actually means something more than a grade.
A few ways we have seen real world applications in other schools:
- Classes such as:
- The Geometry of Construction
- Physics of Sports
- 21st Century Writing (Shoutout Buhler ELA department)
- Project-Based Learning
- Students solve real problems and present their findings while learning core content along the way either through direct instruction or their own research
- Internships and job shadowing
- Community mentors
- Class and community/business partnerships
Questions to guide us:
- What is life really like in the real world or business world?
- How can we help students connect with a more diverse range of peers and adults?
- What is it that makes learning truly relevant to our students?
KSDE has defined personalized learning as “Teachers support students to have choice over the time, pace, place, and path.” I would add in, “with consideration to student learning style, appropriate scaffolding, and quality teacher-student relationships.
A few ways we have seen personalized learning implemented:
- 100% online and self-paced learning with weekly “mentoring” from the teacher
- Opportunity to earn credits through a project-based learning room or academy within the school.
- Opportunity to earn credits through a virtual or online school
- Individual Plans of Study (Shoutout to BHS!)
- Deeply embedded pathways or even separate schools for different pathways. (Check out Olathe’s 21st Century Acadmies)
- Dedicated personalized learning time. (We use Lexia for this K-5)
Questions to guide us:
- How can we engage EVERY one of our students by personalizing their learning?
- What do our students want school to be like?
- What is an appropriate mix of online and adaptive learning vs. working directly with teachers and peers?
- Is this different for each student?
During Dr. Watson’s listening tour he learned that our businesses and communities want to be involved in what we are doing. They see tremendous value in helping to prepare their future workforce and are counting on us to have them ready.
A few community partnerships we have seen:
- A local bank has a branch in the high school, run by students
- A car dealership purchased the lift and equipment for a school to run a legitimate auto shop. (The dealership received naming rights to the shop)
- Local construction companies visiting math classes to share the relevance to their work
- Internships and job shadowing at local businesses for credit and actual pay in some cases
Questions to guide us
- What experts would be willing to judge student presentations?
- What is the next step for something that we already do in this area?
- Which businesses are willing to help us?
- How can we best involve our community in this work?
These principles are not mind-blowing, and in many cases we already practice them and may have been for awhile. Consider how our students’ worlds continue to change. We are teaching students who have never known a world without Google. What are the next steps in these areas for us and how can we focus on designing a school for the future that also solves problems in the present?