College, Middlebury-area schools form partnership on world study

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury College and the Addison Central School District (ACSD) have forged a new partnership through which their respective students will gain knowledge and build career foundations through the International Baccalaureate program.
This past October the ACSD board unanimously agreed to begin a three-year process to become a district of IB World Schools. If successful, the Middlebury-area school district will become one of fewer than 10 IB World Districts in the United States.
The mission of the IB program is “to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect,” according to program literature. The IB program is expected to usher in a more inquiry-based curriculum, as well as hands-on opportunities for students to do more learning outside of the classroom, partnering with Middlebury College, the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, local nonprofits and businesses, among others.
Program boosters believe IB will better prepare students for 21st century jobs and for living in a more global society.
Middlebury College President Laurie Patton and ACSD Superintendent Peter Burrows began discussing possible educational partnerships in 2015. Those conversations coalesced around IB studies in an agreement called the Addison Central Middlebury College Partnership, or ACMCP, which officials formalized on Aug. 24.
“This is a wonderful partnership for Middlebury in several ways,” Patton told the Independent. “We are both a global liberal arts college and an active participant in the local community and this plan will strengthen the school district and the opportunities for our own students who are aspiring teachers. This is an ideal collaboration where both partners are focused on a common educational purpose.”
Specifically, the new partnership will create such things as:
•  A “professional development school,” through which ACSD teachers will receive training from, and with, college officials in the implementation of IB programming.
“As a professional development school, the college and district will provide formal learning opportunities to ACSD faculty to support their professional development as mentor teachers, strengthening the existing teacher preparation program by developing a common understanding of pre-service teacher education,” reads an ACMP narrative provided by Burrows. “Middlebury College professors will learn about IB (at workshops and conferences) alongside ACSD faculty and administrators.
•  Improved opportunities for Middlebury College students to serve as sources of experience for ACSD students building on existing models from the college’s Center for Creativity, Innovation, and Social Entrepreneurship. So aspiring teachers within Middlebury College’s Education Studies program will work with district students immersed in IB studies.
•  Increased availability of college students and alumni to provide learning experiences for ACSD students.
•  Better opportunities for college language faculty to assist ACSD teachers in language integration within IB curricula.
Successful adoption of the IB program in the ACSD would enhance the district’s ability to attract students and the college’s efforts to recruit an “increasingly diverse faculty and staff who seek schools for their children that explicitly embrace diversity throughout the curriculum,” according to the partnership narrative.
Burrows said he believes the collaboration ushers in a new era in the ACSD-college relationship. He explained recent academic associations between the two entities have largely occurred on a case-by-base basis. For example, a district school might have a student whose parent is a member of the college’s music department faculty, and that parent might offer some musical instruction to kids in that school.
The broader association with the college on IB ensures all ACSD schools will share in the educational benefits. The ACSD includes Middlebury Union middle and high schools, along with the elementary schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
“We have over time organically developed a lot of relationships that have really been beneficial for both the college and the district,” Burrows said. “Now, with this formalized collaborative relationship built around the professional development school and IB, it’s going to have an impact on all of our schools, which will be a significant benefit for all students, as opposed to just the ones connected to individual classrooms that are connected to the college.”
Burrows is excited about how the college — with its international focus and global presence — will be able to bring the IB program home for local students.
“Students in IB are going to be grappling with both local and international issues,” Burrows said. “They will be doing projects and community work. Those (college) mentors will be really helpful with that as well.”
Patton, during a recent phone interview, noted the new ACSD partnership allows the town-gown association to push beyond bricks and mortar. The college has helped the town of Middlebury finance its Cross Street Bridge and town office-recreation center projects. While she said contributing to key municipal projects is important, teaching is in the college’s wheelhouse.
“What I think really works and will create an even more vibrant town-gown relationship than the one we already have is partnerships based on long-term, common educational purpose,” Patton said. “This felt like such a no-brainer, given we really support the move to IB and want to help with all the work and commitment that will entail. We’re really excited the schools have taken this decision — which I know was not always an easy one to contemplate.”
No end-date has been prescribed for the new partnership. And that’s OK with Burrows and Patton.
“This is an opportunity to grow something and sustain, and we think this partnership will be a model for others that will come after it in other places where there’s a college and school district together, like we are,” Burrows said.
Addison Central teachers continue to receive training in IB training. Plans call for the ACSD to become fully authorized for IB instruction by the 2019-2020 academic year, according to Burrows.
“We hope this will be long-term, because this will create the kind of relationships that will benefit everybody,” Patton said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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