Personalizing Learning

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How daily flex time and innovative scheduling software are helping New England schools meet personalization needs

Contoocook Valley (ConVal) Regional High School - Peterborough, NH

When ConVal Regional High School Principal Brian Pickering and his staff set out to answer the question, “How can we fit Response to Intervention (RTI) and relearning, mentoring and advising, and enrichments and extensions all effectively into the school day?” they determined that what they needed was a daily flex block for students. The goal was to give students and teachers in their New Hampshire school guaranteed time to plan for and support academic progress. What they’ve achieved with their Teams in Academic Service Centers (TASC) program is so much more. “We have seen improvements in grades, attendance, and behavior,” says Pickering, who attributes these successes to a personalized approach that helps meet students’ needs and allows them to pursue their passions.

With the guidance of homeroom teacher mentors, all ConVal students kick off the week by creating a TASC plan based on their academic progress. Teachers can “pre-book” appointments during TASC time with students that need extra coaching. Students can also schedule time for skill building and – if they are meeting academic goals – for extended learning opportunities. This personalization is made possible by a software program called Enriching Students that was developed for TASC scheduling and tracking purposes.

Pickering reports that teachers love the TASC model because it takes pressure off after-school time and allows them to meet individual student needs without slowing down their lesson plans. Students also rate the program highly – nearly 90% of students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that TASC offered them the opportunity to improve their learning. And, student performance outcomes demonstrate significant wins: following the first full year of TASC implementation, there was a 31% decline in D and F grades.

Amy Minor, Principal of Colchester High School in Colchester, VT, is seeing similarly positive results from a program based on ConVal’s TASC model at her school. Students and teachers were involved from the beginning as part of a committee that visited ConVal and helped create what they call “AT” at Colchester. Minor reports that they started with four days of flex blocks per week but “at the end of the first year we expanded it to five days because it was so wildly popular.”

Minor says teachers report that homework completion has gone up tremendously and that students feel more supported, more accepted, and more willing to talk to a teacher about what they don’t understand. She says, “Staying after school for help had a negative connotation. There’s now a setting where it’s okay to say, ‘I need support.’”

Students at Colchester are also utilizing AT time to write their own Personal Learning Plans (PLP) to focus on what they want to do post-high school. “On Mondays when [students] work with their Home Base Teacher they are working on that PLP,” says Minor. She adds, “They look at colleges and do some career inventory work, so they’re exploring college and beyond and figuring out how high school is relevant to their lives.”

Approximately 30 schools in New England have adopted the TASC model and the corresponding software since it was developed, and it is spreading through the country as more schools move to differentiated instruction. Pickering says, “If we ever suggested taking this away, my parents, teachers, and students would kill me.”

To learn more about the TASC model, please visit the ConVal website or view the TASC slideshow presented at the 2015 Showcase of Model School Programs.

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NEASC 2015-10