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robertogreco : communityservice   7

School Without Walls' low-test approach could be model
"It only took about an hour for teacher Mariana Barry and her School Without Walls students to break just about every taboo in education.

The students ate snacks, wore hats and got up and walked around when they needed to. Barry, meanwhile, divided her attention between them and the pot of coffee she was brewing. She only spoke when a student called on her — by her first name.

They weren't working on math or English, but rather planning an Amazing Race-style competition in the school. They had learned from experience that some ground rules were needed for the extreme eating portion of the contest.

"If anyone throws up, you have to keep it a secret," Barry warned. "I don't want to get in trouble."

It didn't look much like a traditional classroom. But of course, traditional classrooms in the Rochester City School District haven't always worked very well.

School Without Walls, a high school on Broadway Street, is the highest-performing high school in the district, graduating 94 percent of its students in 2015. It is also part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of 27 schools across the state that have used a testing waiver over the last 20 years to demonstrate an alternate model of teaching and learning.

With parents and educators across the state up in arms over student and teacher evaluations, New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia has pointed to the consortium model as worth further investigating and said she hopes to expand it through a pilot program in the new federal education legislation.

The consortium schools, most of which are downstate, vary in particulars but all follow a few core principles.

First, their students do not take most Regents exams, but rather Performance-Based Assessment Tasks (PBATs). They can be research projects, science experiments or practical applications of academic concepts in math or history. The students spend most of the school year working on them, then present them to a panel that includes teachers as well as their peers.

"When you take a test, you can kind of blow it off, but you can’t do that when you have to present in front of people," said Haley Vega, a School Without Walls 12th-grader. "This is more like the real world. We get to talk to people and interact."

The PBATs follow from a dedication to inquiry-based learning, where students learn through questioning and experimentation rather than having a teacher deliver a lesson. The consortium schools are nearly all small — School Without Walls has fewer than 250 students in grades 9-12 — and their teachers get extensive, and expensive, professional development.

Part of the trade-off in not having annual state testing is that there is less data to analyze regarding students' performance. Graduation rates in consortium schools, though, are consistently higher than those in their home school districts. A recent report showed those graduates are more likely to enroll in college and more likely to complete a two- or four-year degree.

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, allows more local control of a variety of education measures. One little-noticed provision will give five-year testing waivers to seven states that propose an alternate model of assessing students.

The provision seems tailor-made for an expansion of New York's consortium model, and Elia, the new state education commissioner, has expressed interest in applying for one of the waivers.

"Any way we can still keep the rigor in our graduation requirements but open up opportunities for different people to do things in different ways … can only strengthen our approach to supporting students who, I would venture to say, don’t all walk to the same drummer," she said at a Jan. 11 Board of Regents meeting. "I think it’s important for us to look at small ways we could start to introduce (PBATs) … so we get kind of a working knowledge of how much it will require from the districts and the state in terms of resources."

The state is still waiting to learn how the federal approval process will work, and Elia didn't have full details of what an expansion would look like. She mentioned the PBATs could be an option only for students who have already failed traditional Regents exams; she also said she'd like to find a district willing to experiment with them on a wider scale.

Martha Foote, who served as the consortium's director of research until 2014 and now works with them as a consultant, said any sort of expansion would require careful planning.

"You can’t just throw schools into the consortium — it's hard work, and it's not for everybody," she said. "But it’s incumbent on our education system to have these programs available for teachers and students who really want and need something like this."

Even beyond the PBATs, School Without Walls bucks a number of educational trends. Its students are required to perform 75 hours of community service each year and are expected to do much of their research independently, outside the classroom.

For that reason, they have the shortest school day in the city: from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. most days, including an hour of "personal needs time" that allows for lunch as well as short research trips to the downtown library or other community destinations. On Thursdays, they're out by noon.

"It’s a very powerful model to get students to take ownership of their learning," principal Idonia Owens said. "The students are taught to be critical thinkers. The work they’re doing is real ... and it tells a lot more about (them) than a test score does."

Most days also include 90 minutes for "extended class," a kind of thematic home room where students in all four grades come up with a broad subject — race and culture, or gastronomy, or teen issues — then spend the entire school year immersed in it.

That's what Mariana Barry's students were doing, in their own way. Their discussion wasn't exactly linear. There were digressions, distractions and jokes, but the hour was seeded with serious debate.

They signed up to attend a musical at the Auditorium Theatre and debated which charities should benefit from an upcoming fundraiser. A boy recommended a mental health organization; a girl said she wanted one for premature babies.

“I don’t want to say why," she said. They decided to give to several.

Several students and faculty agreed the model wouldn't work for every student, or for every teacher. But they agreed an approach that focuses less on testing is worth expanding in some way.

"When you’re taking a test, you just learn what they want you to learn," 12th-grader Larry Williams said. "(Here), you learn how to learn by yourself.""
schoolwithoutwalls  education  schools  lcproject  openstudioproject  2016  rochester  communityservice  debate  learning  howwelearn  inquiry  sfsh 
february 2016 by robertogreco
‘An African’s Message for America’ -
"A volunteer trip abroad has become almost a rite of passage for a certain set of Americans, particularly students. This Op-Doc video profiles a Kenyan activist who has one simple question for them: “Why?”

Nearly one million people from America volunteer abroad each year. They are mostly young, mostly affluent and overwhelmingly white. It made me wonder: when we look to do community service, why do so many — particularly the privileged among us — look to places so far from home?

I followed the Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi as he spoke with American college students to get to the core of why it can be more appealing to “save” Africans like him than to address social inequalities on their own soil.

As Americans, we’re inundated with images of hungry African children, but what about the plight of children in this country? Our child poverty rate is at its highest level in 20 years, with nearly one in four children living in homes without enough food. Among our homeless population, there are nearly 2.5 million children. Mr. Mwangi points particularly to the racial inequality in this country, highlighting the staggering rate of incarceration for African-American men, which is nearly six times the rate for white men.

Mr. Mwangi and his peers are not suggesting that Westerners simply stay home or disengage with Africans. They are pushing them to take an honest look at their motives for helping overseas versus at home, think about how their efforts could potentially diminish or supplant African-grown initiatives and consider a more respectful connection between equals.

As Mr. Mwangi said to a group of students at Duke University: “If you want to come and help me, first ask me what I want… Then we can work together.”"

"A Kenyan activist asks American student volunteers: "Why do you want to help us? Help your own country." @nytimes …"]

[See also: ]
africa  us  poverty  activism  bonifacemwangi  inequality  society  humanitarianism  servicelearning  race  volunteers  india  volunteering  interventionism  cassandraherrman  international  oversees  pawa254  communityservice  whitesaviors  imperialism  canon  cv  hypocrisy  voluntourism  savingafrica 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Factory School

"Factory School is a learning and production collective engaged in action research, publishing, media display, and community service. Concerned with public education as much as education in public, Factory School emphasizes the social and cultural reproductive function of the multiple media arts. As a network of audio and video presentations, books, artwork, web-based installations, posters and pamphlets, we encourage use of all distributed materials for purposes of education in the broadest sense: in or out of the classroom, as prompts or models, as means or ends. We also sponsor research and design studios, provide teaching resources, and offer community-based mentoring and consulting. Factory School seeks to engage with others operating in the areas of education, publication, distribution, and civic action. We consider today's artists, educators and activists to be the vanguard of a new generation of culture workers striving to transcend borders of nation, language, class, race, gender, institutional status, and other divides."
factoryschool  actionresearch  mediadisplay  communityservice  publiceducation  education  learning  publication  publishing  publsihers  art  activists  activism  cultureworkers  mediaarts  mentoring  counsulting  lcproject  openstudioproject 
february 2013 by robertogreco
"Canstruction is using one can of food as a catalyst for change. One can to represent the building blocks of massive sculptures. One can to prove that every act of kindness makes a difference. Since 1992, Canstruction has contributed over 15 million pounds of food to community food banks demonstrating that we can win the fight against hunger."
design  art  architecture  activism  food  communityservice  csl  tcsnmy  fooddrives  building  construction 
august 2011 by robertogreco
P R O J E C T  M  :  T H I N K  W R O N G
"Sure, we may not be known in the in circles. We may not fill the pages of design annuals. And we may never see our names in lights. But, we do know how to save the rain forest with a waterproof book. We do know how to build a park with a postcard. And we know how to bring water to a community with a few pages of newsprint.

We are part of a design movement. We believe that ability equals responsibility. And we are not the only ones. So, we built a lab where designers like you can make a difference. We are building the tools that will build the future. And this is where you come in."

"The human brain tends to think along pre-determined linear thought pathways. Such linear thinking can inhibit true innovation and creative exploration. Project M will encourage, and provide techniques for, “thinking wrong” to generate new ideas and design directions to challenge the status-quo."
maine  design  architecture  change  social  johnbielenberg  alabama  california  activism  humanitariandesign  gamechanging  poptech  sanfrancisco  projectm  projectmlab  lcproject  openstudio  communityservice  halecounty 
may 2011 by robertogreco
The Statue of Responsibility « Re-educate Seattle
"Any definition of progressive education has to include, in addition to students having the freedom to direct their own education, some discussion of individual’s responsibility to a larger community."
progressive  education  learning  stevemiranda  pscs  pugetsoundcommunityschool  andysmallman  viktorfrankl  community  communityservice  activism  responsibility  tcsnmy  self-directed  society  self-directedlearning 
september 2010 by robertogreco
Mandated volunteerism |
"Schools today require students to log countless hours of community service. It's gotten out of hand."
opinion  communityservice  schools  curriculum  education  learning  criticism 
july 2007 by robertogreco

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