Tuesday April 23, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Representatives from the Agency of Education will be in Brattleboro this week to continue a statewide discussion on developing and promoting innovative practices in high school learning.

The agency is offering a free dinner, and community forum, on Thursday, April 25, from 6 to 8 p.m. in the multi purpose room at Brattleboro Union High School.

The meeting Thursday is the seventh that the Agency of Education has hosted across Vermont to share ideas the agency has been exploring to change how high school students receive credits, and also to talk with business and community members about what they want to see from a redesigned 21st century high school system.

Education Secretary Armando Vilaseca said the agency wants to make high school more meaningful for all students.

"We want communities and families to talk about what they think high school education should look like in the 21st century," Vilaseca said.

The House Education Committee has passed a bill that would give high schools more flexibility in determining how students meet the standards.

The bill also would help schools fund dual enrollment programs which allow high school students to get college credits while taking classes at secondary school.

"We want high school to more meaningful for all students," Vilaseca said. "That might mean getting kids involved with internships or community-based learning.


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This is not watered down education. It is a way to get every student more engaged and motivated to learn."

"It's been a while since the agency has been engaged in a conversation across the state and we are really interested to hear what people are thinking about this," said Meg Powden, the agency's School Effectiveness Coordinator and Co-Lead to the League of Innovative Schools, a regional group that is working on changes in secondary education. "Eventually this could lead to very big changes in how students receive their high school credits."

Powden points out that some of these changes, which include having high school students receive college credit for their work, is already happening at BUHS, so the information session Thursday is a chance for the agency to hear from students, parents, teachers and administrators on how that program is working.

Generally students in public high schools receive credits for the time they spend in the classroom, and each student has to receive a certain number of credits to graduate and receive a diploma.

Powden said the Agency of Education wants to give students options, and have them design the programs that make the most sense to them.

Along with the collegiate high school that is being offered at BUHS, Vermont high schools might offer more online learning, or get credit for work-based learning.

She also said the agency is encouraging business leaders to come out and talk about their needs, and how they want Vermont's high school students to be prepared for life beyond secondary school.

The agency has been gathering information from the sessions it has hosted around the state.

Powden says a report will eventually be put together for legislators and the State Board of Education to help implement changes that can be adopted at all of the high schools across Vermont.

"These dinners have been a way of bringing people together," said Powden. "We want to find out what educational needs are not being met and push this conversation to the forefront."

Agency of Education Spokeswoman Angela Ross stressed that she is hoping that high school students come out to the information session Thursday.

One of the proposed changes would have high school students be more engaged in what is required to graduate and Ross said it is important to hear from high school aged students.

"The community dinners have sparked conversations around forming educational partners, specifically the connection of early college programs, dual enrollment, career pathways and the concept of personal learning plans," Ross said. "Participants spoke to the importance of students being able to make choices, to take charge of their learning, to self advocate, to ask meaningful questions, to ask for help, to understand what their support channels are, and to have a sense of place and community."

Thursday's event is free but the state is asking participants to register so food can be ordered for the dinner.

Register at http://education.vermont.gov/community-dinners/ or call Powden at 802-828-0262.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.