The first round of visits to the seven school districts taking part in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project was a success, and districts are excited about the upcoming year, redesign specialists Jay Scott and Tammy Mitchell said.
“They are so excited,” said Mitchell, who is leading the elementary school redesigns. “There are some nerves, but that’s good because it means they are taking it seriously.”
The visits started Aug. 14 in Coffeyville Unified School District 445, followed by Stockton USD 271 on Aug. 15 and Twin Valley USD 240 on Aug. 16. The redesign specialists were in McPherson USD 418 on Aug. 18, followed by Wellington USD 353 on Aug. 21 and Liberal USD 480 on Aug. 23. The visits rounded out with Olathe USD 233 on Aug. 25.
During the first meeting, Scott and Mitchell met with building leadership teams and had in-depth discussions as to why the schools wanted to take part in the redesign project.
“We also talked about what the bedrock principles are,” said Scott, who is leading the secondary school redesigns.
Under elementary school redesign, the principles are early childhood (birth to age 8) and kindergarten readiness, along with art and music being important to the development of each child.
Under secondary school redesign, the principles are having an Individual Plan of Study (IPS) for each student, along with an intense focus on high school graduation and postsecondary success.
The system principles include social-emotional learning; student and family relationships; business, industry and community relationships; and schools being organized around students (student choice in learning activities, long-term projects part of daily learning and extracurricular activities).
Scott and Mitchell assigned the districts and schools tasks to complete, such as developing a redesign team at the building level. This may or may not include leadership, the specialists said. The teams will be comprised of between eight and 10 people.
“This needs to be teacher-led,” Scott said. “There also has to be a strong emphasis on community involvement.”
The districts also were asked to develop or revisit a shared vision for the redesign effort, Scott said.
The redesign specialists, along with Deputy Commissioner of Education Brad Neuenswander, visited Wilder, Idaho, and Evanston, Wyoming, to see what these towns are doing in their school districts.
Uinta County School District No. 1, is in Evanston, Wyoming, which is located in the far southwest corner of Wyoming. The district serves about 3,000 students with 500 staff members spread out across eight schools. The district wanted to better prepare students for college and careers by helping them become lifelong, self-directed learners, according to the Education Elements website. Uinta uses blended learning to help create an environment where students can develop skills to be better prepared for the future.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Uinta partnered with Education Elements to provide Blended Learning Fellowship to 54 teachers across the district. Education Elements worked with the teachers to develop instructional models and refine instructional practices around the elements of personalized learning.
Last school year, Uinta offered a second fellowship, and 65 teachers volunteered to take part.
Since beginning the project, Uinta has had a 146 percent growth in Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) math and a 140 percent growth in NWEA reading during the 2015-2016 school year; and an increase of 23 percent in average math growth and a 5 percent increase in average reading growth during the past three years.
The Wilder School District is in Wilder, Idaho. The small district, which serves under 500 students, is located about 40 miles west of Boise, Idaho. Wilder last year began teaching students using a personalized learning program that gives students in all grade levels an iPad and the time to work at their own pace, according to the EdTech Update website.
There are no grade levels at Wilder, and the district has been awarded a state waiver to avoid seat-time requirements. Because the district is only a year into the program, there aren’t any concrete results to show if the new way of learning is beneficial. However, according to the article appearing on the EdTech website, the district is hopeful and there are several stories of students showing improvement.
Scott, Mitchell and Neuenswander are visiting the out-of-state districts to gather information and ideas.
The next Mercury Redesign support cycle kicked off Tuesday, Sept. 12.
The following is their schedule for Sept. 11-Sept. 22:
Monday, Sept. 11: In office
Tuesday, Sept. 12: Coffeyville
Wednesday, Sept. 13: Wellington
Thursday, Sept. 14: McPherson
Friday, Sept. 15: Olathe
Monday, Sept. 18: In Office
Tuesday, Sept. 19: Twin Valley
Wednesday, Sept. 20: Stockton
Thursday, Sept. 21: Liberal
Friday, Sept. 22: In office
Mitchell and Scott also had a Zoom meeting with the 21 Gemini Project districts. While the districts participating in the Gemini Project won’t receive onsite coaching from Mitchell and Scott, they will participate in video Professional Learning Community sessions together and periodic Zoom meetings with the redesign specialists.