You can help create a brighter future for learning in Wenatchee.
We know that if Wenatchee is to thrive in a changing world, we must rewire local learning for a global future. Now we have a chance to do just that – and to do it together. Welcome to a new approach to education – one that brings students, citizens and learning professionals together to design the future of learning in Wenatchee – and to help build and support that future. Welcome to Wenatchee Learns.
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Create a flexible learning model where students learn at the level of their ability – not age or grade – as they work to meet learning standards.
A flexible learning model means the entire educational system is organized around engaging students at their developmental levels and advancing only when they have demonstrated profi ciency or mastery of standards. Students will have more freedom to learn at a faster pace and will receive extra instruction when needed, rather than finding the system moving on without them. Clearly articulated learning targets and a steady progression of learning will be important, and will result in reporting tools that are more accurate and up to date. Positive peer pressure is another advantage for students, as a fl exible learning model emphasizes the potential of each individual to do their best. A fl exible model is not at all unstructured. Such a model requires clear standards and goals – as much or more than the age based model we use today. For parents, this clarity – along with better communication – will keep them informed of student progress. Teachers will be teaching at the appropriate level of competency, and the balancing act of having to “teach to the middle” will no longer be needed.
Increase opportunities for students to explore career paths, to bring relevance to learning and spark interest and personal responsibility.
All students will explore career paths as part of their K-12 education experience. Schools will create opportunities for all students to explore fi rst hand what their future can look like based on their own desires and strengths. Exploration activities will vary at different ages, with an emphasis on exploration, not forcing students to choose careers. Students will have the opportunity to accept responsibility for their future through authentic experiences that can lead them to their career options. The experiences will solidify and bring relevance to their everyday learning. Student career path information will include the academic standards and requirements of all postsecondary options – and schools aligning with career development standards. Relevance of learning to students will increase because they will see how their schoolwork aligns with the needs of their career interests. Career options information will be embedded in all academic areas. Additionally, career and technical programs will provide workplace development skills, customized training and opportunities for continuing education.
Integrate subject areas in ways that allow students to apply what they are learning to projects and real-world challenges.
We all learn better by doing than by simply studying. Hands on project learning, also called project-based learning, means that students will have the opportunity to incorporate multiple subjects in meaningful projects that allow them to demonstrate their learning. Integrating subject areas involves making connections between subject areas instead of teaching them separately. For example, math skills can be used during science lessons; language arts skills can be mastered during social studies. Project learning creates an environment where there are high levels of energy and enthusiasm and where students are given opportunities to develop different interests and strengths. Hands on, collaborative projects will have plenty of opportunities for community partnerships in which students are taught to solve real-world situations. This type of learning has been shown to increase student engagement, provide meaningful learning and problem solving skills, and engage students in a higher-level thinking and deeper understanding of concepts.
Move to year round school at one elementary and middle school in the 2013-2014 school year as a way to eliminate the summer learning gap.
A review of 39 studies reported in Review of Educational Research indicated that achievement test scores decline following summer vacation. Studies reported in Phi Delta Kappan have found that the academic gap widens during the time that students were not in school. The summer learning gap has been found to disproportionately affect students from low-income families. Benefi ts of a year-round model might include continuity of learning, improved retention of material and a more robust culture of learning among students and the community. One model of year-round school maintains the traditional number of school days (180), but instead of having the traditional summer break, distributes shorter and more frequent vacations throughout the year. For students of migrant families, there might be more open gaps for family to follow work, more fl exible access to community services and more opportunities to address areas of concern. Cooperation between existing community services who offer summer programs would be a component of planning any variation in school calendars.
Design a new approach to creating positive learning environments based on healthy relationships and behavior support.
A supportive school environment for teachers and students fosters the resiliency they all need for success. Positive learning environments teach and reinforce positive peer relationships and pro-social behaviors, such as helping, sharing, cooperating, collaborative problem solving, and treating others with respect and courtesy. Not only do these interaction skills improve the learning experience, they mirror the skills students need to be successful in life beyond school – in the workplace, in higher education and in families and communities. The development of good study strategies and self-regulation of academic work are cultivated by an appropriate and positive environment. Such an environment promotes goal setting, good time management strategies, planning and prioritizing activities, using assignment books, breaking large assignments into components, designating a quiet time and place to do homework. Identifying factors that promote positive, caring relationships between and among students and teachers is important in creating positive learning environments.
Provide more citizen volunteering opportunities that tap the particular skills, talents and interests of community members.
Our community has a wealth of individuals with expertise in specifi c areas. Bringing together the expertise of community members with public education has already proven to be hugely benefi cial in Wenatchee, and should be expanded. A structured study of volunteers in schools in New York reported that volunteers improve climate, individual student achievement, and school-community relations. The study found that poorer schools lack sufficient volunteers, and it concluded that the benefi ts of volunteers outweigh the administrative, recruitment, and training costs of engaging them. One example of a skilled volunteer opportunity is the Wenatchee High School Sports Medicine Program: physicians work with students on real life case studies; a Certifi ed Physician Assistant visits the Athletic Treatment Center weekly to evaluate athletic injuries and assist the students with their injury evaluation skills; the Medical Director at a local medical center teaches suturing techniques; a fi tness center owner speaks to the students about improving the customer experience.
Expand the number of citizen-student mentoring relationships to support students in making smart learning and life choices.
Students can greatly benefi t from working with skilled community mentors, whose expert help and personal encouragement can cultivate success traits and add relevance to education. Professionals are looking for ways to better connect with students, particularly those at risk, and mentoring programs are one way to do so. A Mentor Program at Wenatchee and WestSide High Schools partners seniors with community volunteers to work together through the college and scholarship application process. The program has proven highly successful, having grown from fi fteen students to over fifty seniors in the eight years of its existence. About ninety percent of program participants receive some type of financial aid as a result of the mentor/student relationship and work. Mentor Program kids have been accepted into every four-year public university in Washington, and some private universities. An expanded adult-student mentoring program based on emerging best practice (education research) holds promise of increasing the likelihood of student success both in school and beyond.
Form partnerships with businesses to provide students with opportunities to gain career experience and jump-start their futures.
Making meaningful connections between students and businesses can help build a sense of ownership beneficial to everyone: students, businesses, and educational institutions. Partnerships may include business and industry, local workforce investment boards, secondary schools, post secondary institutions, baccalaureate degree granting institutions, and area career and technical education schools. For students, the opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, and experience in conjunction with businesses and other education and training programs will facilitate career decision-making. Among existing school programs and extra-curricular activities that partner with business are Career and Technical Education classes (which have business advisory boards) and DECA, an organization for preparing emerging leaders and entrepreneurs. Curriculum, which utilizes career survey inventory training like WOIS Career Information System, will help students choose partnerships and future careers. Developing structure and sustainability will be important to creating successful learning partnerships.
Increase parent engagement by providing opportunities for parents and schools to work together collaboratively.
Parents are the number one teachers and the primary “navigator” for the student fl ying through our education system. From a structured learning environment supported by a culture of academia in the home, to informed guidance on test preparation and selection of classes, to advocacy with system educators, the parents’ ability to fulfi ll these roles is a major determinant of success. Studies show that students achieve greater academic success when parents are actively involved in their education. Numerous approaches for improving the school-home partnership are available, and each family and student may need a customized approach. It starts with establishing a value system and commitment to do what works best for each student – and can be augmented with community partnerships and professionally led activities. A successful local program we can build on is PASSport (Parent Assuring Student Success), which has an academic focus with practical strategies to be implemented from home. Curriculum is parent-friendly, available in Spanish & English, and for K-12 students.
Begin using electronic tablets as a tool to make learning more interesting, relevant and interactive and improve access to up-to-date content.
Excellence in education requires that technology be integrated with learning throughout the educational program – not merely added on. Increasing access to technology is essential for the future, and one of the learning tools of 21st Century students is the iPad, an electronic tablet. The individual use of iPads is a way to empower students to learn at their full potential and to prepare them for college and the workplace. According to studies and school reports, students who use a computing device (in a one-device-per-student setting) are more organized and engaged learners, attend school more regularly, advance their knowledge and understanding of technology, and become constructors and designers of information and ideas. The iPad is a next generation device that makes learning more engaging and accessible. In addition, the iPad is an interactive, light weight and always up-to-date digital alternative to traditional textbooks. This technology will make many of our goals possible, including higher levels of individualization, inclusion, relevance, academic achievement, well-rounded growth and preparation.
Provide internet-based instruction that moves at the ideal pace for each student and allows teachers to track and support progress.
A key element of a more flexible learning model is to adapt curriculum delivery and storage to accommodate the varied needs of students, families, and staff. The internet allows for the delivery of engaging instructional content, learning activities and assessment tools to each student in a more customized, just-in-time fashion – making it possible for each student to pause and spend extra time or move ahead more quickly. Educators and parents are able to to monitor progress and know when a student needs extra help, and what kind. With our learning system stored digitally – in the “cloud” – we would enable any time access to the learning and teaching resources that have been created or acquired by the school district. Students are empowered when they can see their progress, set their own goals, and track themselves toward the accomplishment of those goals. A digital learning system would enable students and families to work collaboratively with learning professionals to improve, accelerate, enhance, remediate, or track student learning progress and achievement.