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Pushing the Boundaries: Positive Youth Development and School Design

As educators, our role is to support young people on their developmental journey toward adulthood. In order to help them grow, we must give them autonomy in their learning. Especially in high school, young people must be able to make real choices and experience the consequences of those choices. By giving them these opportunities, we help them become independent, responsive, discriminating thinkers who bring discipline, fortitude, and curiosity to their work. [click to read more]

How Students Thrive: Positive Youth Development in Practice

Schools are more than just places where young people acquire knowledge and skills for college and career. They are—first and foremost—places where young people form their identities and begin to see themselves as independent adults. Great schools guide young people in this essential effort by creating safe learning environments where students feel known, valued, supported, challenged, and recognized. This approach, known as positive youth development, is the focus of our newest publication. [click to read more]

Iteration in Action: The Urban Assembly Maker Academy

On a recent afternoon at The Urban Assembly Maker Academy, a group of students constructs a miniature car out of a shoebox and detached racecar wheels. The car holds an egg as it rolls down a ramp and two students watch their egg fly out of its cotton-ball harness; another group’s egg is crushed when it hits the bottom. The activity measures students’ mastery of key concepts in physics, like speed and velocity. Using a teacher-designed data tracking form, each group records how effectively their car ferried the egg. Some immediately begin redrafting their designs, taking their cars apart and tweaking the configuration of the components. [click to read more]

Iteration in Action: PACT Academy

If you ask one of the 200 students at PACT High School about grades, one of the first things you’ll hear is “we can’t fail here.” That’s because this high school is designed to foster positive youth development through strong relationships between students and adults.

It’s also because PACT does not give failing grades. Instead of an “F,” students receive the designation “not approaching proficiency.” This remains on a student’s transcript until they master the content in their course, which they can continue to work towards throughout their high school experience. This mastery-based approach means some students can be working to master standards from their first year after they’ve already moved onto their second year coursework. Others are able to skip ahead—in courses like Health, math, and science—using one of several available tech tools and with teacher supports. In the words of one student, “if you don’t get something, you work on it until you master it.” [click to read more]

Iteration in Action: Eagle Academy

At E3agle Academy, a public high school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, students support one another in mastering rigorous, college-ready standards. With a personalized approach and a focus on social justice, students are encouraged to connect classroom content to their experience in the real world, and to move at their own pace along a sequence of clear benchmarks. [click to read more]

Iteration in Action: Denver School of Innovation and Sustainable Design

On a typical day at DSISD, groups of four or five students are reading different novels in ELA class. They discuss the characters and plots of their books, record standards-based observations and respond to questions on their Chromebooks. One group is predicting a protagonist’s next moves, and another is using context clues to infer the definitions of key words. [click to read more]

Notes from the Field: Iteration in Action

If schools are truly built around the needs of young people, they must be living, breathing organizations that—like the young people they serve—never stop growing and adapting. We’ve learned that, in order to be successful, schools must commit to continue learning, designing, refining, improving—in the school’s model design, the practices that evolve around it, both within the classroom and without. [click here to read more]

Teaching the Teachers: How this PD for ELL Instructors Enhances School Community, Curriculum, & Assessments

As the Instructional Coach at INPS, I’ve supported our schools in honing an adaptive and enriching PD approach. Our robust PD sessions have strong content, but what makes these two high schools really special is how our teachers learn. [click here to read more]