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Regional Network Selects Twenty New England Public Schools to Participate in New Personalized Learning Initiative

Twenty New England public schools in the League of Innovative Schools have been selected by the New England Secondary School Consortium and the Great Schools Partnership to participate in a new initiative that will help them develop personalized learning experiences that address the distinct learning needs, interests, and aspirations of individual students. The initiative’s goal is to help the schools remodel their academic programs to ensure that every graduate is prepared to succeed in postsecondary education, modern workplaces, and adult life.

Twelve of the selected schools will begin the implementation phase of their work at the beginning of the 2015–2016 school year, while eight schools will begin implementation in 2016–2017, following another year of planning and preparation. The NH schools that will begin implementation in 2015 are Great Bay Charter School and Pittsfield Middle and High School. Manchester School of Technology will begin in 2016.

“I’m incredibly energized by the work of all of our League members, and even more so by the extraordinary commitment these twenty schools have made,” said David Ruff, executive director of the Great Schools Partnership. “After more than a year of intensive work and planning, the educators in these schools are developing an inspiring array of learning opportunities that will challenge their highest-achieving students and accelerate learning and preparation for young adults who have historically struggled in school.”

“We are proud to have been selected by the Great Schools Partnership and New England Secondary Schools Consortium for our project to enhance the personalization of learning for each of our students. Committed to a school culture based upon positive relationships, flexibility, and extended learning opportunities, the Great Bay Charter School staff seeks to develop and implement formal personalized learning plans for each student beginning this spring,” said Peter Stackhouse, Executive Director, Great Bay Charter School. “We anticipate that these plans will help to form even stronger educational partnerships among students, families, and their teachers to facilitate goal setting and assist students in navigating unique educational opportunities. We are also thankful for the resources that this opportunity brings and look forward to the positive impact that this initiative will have on the students and staff at our school.”

In 2009, the New England Secondary School Consortium—which includes Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—created the League of Innovative Schools, a grassroots network of middle schools and high schools committed to educational innovation and ongoing improvement. The new initiative not only recognizes the longstanding commitment each school has made, but it will build on and accelerate their progress as the schools continue to strengthen their academic programs, share professional expertise, and create more inventive, motivating, and effective learning opportunities for students. The regional network currently has eighty-six members throughout New England.

While each school will pursue its own improvement plan, all twenty will work to ensure that every student achieves challenging learning standards by utilizing instructional strategies such as proficiency-based learning, exhibitions, capstone projects, portfolios, and personal learning plans. The schools will also create new opportunities for students to pursue a variety of real-world learning experiences—including collegiate courses, on-the-job internships, and student-designed projects—that connect what they are learning in school to the practical issues, problems, and applications that impact their communities and society.

The five chief education officers from the NESSC member states (Commissioner Virginia Barry from New Hampshire, Commissioner Tom Desjardin from Maine, Commissioner Deborah A. Gist from Rhode Island, Secretary Rebecca Holcombe from Vermont, and Acting Commissioner Dianna Roberge-Wentzell from Connecticut) jointly noted that “As members of the New England Secondary School Consortium, we have long recognized the vital importance of supporting the teachers and administrators who are leading this challenging work in our schools every day. This new initiative builds on the work that has been underway in our states for several years, and we know it will empower our young adults to become the lifelong learners and skilled workers that our communities will need to thrive and prosper in the coming decades. Releasing the creative energy of our educators and students will make our schools even better.”

Over the coming years, the Great Schools Partnership will provide each school with a team of school-improvement specialists—commonly called “school coaches” in the education community—who will help school leaders and teachers implement their plans. The Great Schools Partnership will also increase the level of support it provides to all members of the League of Innovative Schools, which will include additional training opportunities for teachers and school leaders, and new school-improvement resources created by project leaders and participating educators. All resources produced through the project will be published on the New England Secondary School Consortium website and will be available—at no cost—to educators across New England and the country.

“As we prepare our communities and our nation for a future that is increasingly complex and global, our education system must shift dramatically to ensure that all of our students can thrive in the 21st century,” said Nicholas Donohue, president and CEO of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. “These twenty schools are at the forefront of educational progress in this country, shaping learning opportunities for students that are more tailored and personalized, ensuring that each student will be equipped to succeed in life after high school and become contributing participants in civic life.”

The improvement strategies being pursued by members of the League of Innovative Schools are also directly connected to a variety of policies passed in recent years by state legislatures, state boards of education, and state education agencies that require or encourage schools to offer more personalized learning opportunities to students.


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