League of Innovative Schools taps Mount Abe

MONTPELIER — State officials last week announced that Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School and Champlain Valley Union High School have been inducted into the League of Innovative Schools.
“Mount Abe and CVU are great additions to the league. I am proud of Vermont’s involvement in this consortium of New England schools who are working together to make our schools more relevant and engaging for students,” said Vermont Secretary of Education Armando Vilaseca in a press release. “The league is a platform for discussion, idea sharing, and best practices — focusing on making our schools reflective of the needs of our state and our country in the 21st century.”
The League of Innovative Schools is comprised of 13 secondary schools from across the state (including Vergennes Union High School), and is affiliated with the New England Secondary School Consortium. The consortium includes Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont. The goal of the league is to encourage innovative strategies, establish a network of best practices that is directly linked to 21st century learning, and promote greater educational equity and opportunities for all students. League schools will serve as models for local education agencies around the state, helping to shape the future of Vermont public education.
Mount Abe has been engaged in a school-wide transformation initiative based on a vision with three components:
•  Assessment of proficiency based on standards.
•  Relevant, engaging and student-centered design.
•  Multiple timeframes and pathways to graduation.
The school has created student portfolio development websites for each student that includes guidelines for the competencies and examples of each student’s self-selected “best work.” These electronic portfolios are also used as the basis for semester exhibitions of competency for parents, teachers and peers. All students begin personalized planning in the 7th grade, where they create a personalized learning plan (PLP) that evolves as they learn. In the 8th grade, they can expand their PLP into a personalized pathway to graduation by demonstrating competency gained through other experiences. Students use high school courses, vocational and technical programs, college courses, virtual learning, independent studies, training programs such as firefighting or emergency medicine, service learning and work to generate evidence of their proficiency.
“We have realized that the traditional education model does not work for all of our students and we are working to design a system that is flexible, engaging, and focused on the skills necessary to be successful after leaving high school,” said Mount Abe Principal Andy Kepes. “Membership in the League will provide us with opportunities to network with other schools who share our goals.”
CVU has designed an innovative program called GOAL (Go Out and Learn) to promote personalized learning plans that meet the school’s graduation requirements. GOAL provides a process for students to design learning tailored to their passions and interests. For students, learning opportunities can happen anywhere and at any time, including at community-based learning sites, career technical centers, and CVU. All credit earned by completing a GOAL plan applies toward graduation requirements. The school has piloted the program with several students this year.
“CVU is very excited to become a part of the League of Innovative Schools,” said CVU Principal Sean McMannon. “As CVU moves toward creating more standards-based learning opportunities for students, the League provides a vast learning community of schools, educators, and ideas to foster creative and rigorous learning for all students.” “Congratulations to CVU and Mount Abe for this well-deserved recognition,” Gov. Peter Shumlin said in the press release. “These schools exemplify how innovative programs can improve education for Vermont students. I believe that we can make our education system the best in the nation by following these strategies statewide, using personalized learning that includes internships, career training opportunities, and college-level coursework to create flexible pathways to graduation for all our students.”

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