Our Renaissance Program has been in existence for nineteen years, but we transitioned to proficiency-based course credit five years ago, when we got involved with the Vermont League of Innovative Schools. At that time, we received the Vermont League of Innovative Schools Great Schools Partnerships Second Generation Grant to jumpstart our work with multiple flexible pathways to graduation. Vermont has a plan for all schools in the state to be proficiency-based by 2020. With a small school like ours, we thought it made more sense to go for the transition at once, rather than to phase in proficiency-based work. Over the past five years, we have worked closely with the Vermont League of Innovative Schools, the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative, and Bill Rich, who was our Higher Education Collaborative school coach and who has since founded Redhouse Learning. Our first guiding question was: What are the proficiencies that students need to achieve? Then we asked: What does a proficiency-based classroom look like? How do we have multiple units or learning experiences occurring simultaneously in a classroom? How do we put kids in charge of their own learning? A group from the Vermont League of Innovative Schools has met twice monthly to address essential questions, iterate, and reflect on change. We have been fortunate to work collaboratively to bring this model to Twinfield.
Because our proficiency-based system is new, we're still struggling with our kids really owning it. We have some kids saying, "I'll just take the traditional course," rather than working to find an online course or to design a course that fulfills a particular proficiency. We have also received some pushback from families and worked on communicating how students can measure and track their progress toward graduation. We spent time showing families: not only can you build a solid transcript in a proficiency-based system, but you can actually build a better transcript, customized to your learning needs and passions.
I would give the same advice we received when we were first starting: get the word out in your community as early in the process as possible. Be open and honest. Organize community engagement and invite people to enter into dialogue. We had a great turnout at discussions of the proficiency-based program, and we were able to win over a number of initial naysayers by presenting research-backed evidence.
Twinfield Union School is a unique Pre-K to 12 school serving about 350 students from the communities of Plainfield and Marshfield, Vermont. Our school sits on over 60 pristine acres that support hands-on outdoor learning experiences for students of all grade levels. Perhaps the greatest benefit of our small size manifests in the strong relationships formed here. Twinfield has a long history of embracing multiple flexible pathways towards graduation to meet the diverse needs of our student body.
Twinfield Union School
5667 United States
In 2014-2015 Vermont used the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) to test students in grades 3 through 8 and 11 in reading and math, grades 5, 8 and 11 in writing and grades 4, 8 and 11 in science. The NECAP reading, math, and writing tests are given in the fall and test students on content taught in the previous year. The science portion of the NECAP is administered in the Spring each year and has its results released the following Fall. As a result, GreatSchools' ratings for Vermont currently reflect 2012-13 test results, the most recent year with data for all subjects. 2013-14 state-level results are not available for the Vermont NECAP; please see http://education.vermont.gov/assessment/data#necap for more information. The NECAP is a standards-based test, which means it measures specific skills defined for each grade by the state of Vermont. The goal is for all students to score at or above the proficient level on the test.
The new assessment replaces Vermont's previous tests in English language arts and mathematics, known as the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program). The Smarter Balanced test asks students to demonstrate and apply their knowledge and skills in areas such as critical thinking, analytical writing, and problem solving.
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