Monday, January 15, 2018

Flexible Pathways v.2: Student Directed Learning

Even before Act 77 required flexible pathways for student learning, U-32 was providing student-directed learning options. Most students start with Branching Out (middle school and high school versions) and they choose one topic of study which usually takes one class in their schedule. That class time is used by the student to develop and carry out their study plan. There have been many great topics from American Sign Language and Italian to Physical Therapy and Law Enforcement. Other students have enjoyed pursuing their passions in Baking, Nutrition, Yoga, Guitar, Beekeeping and Herbalism. Students who excelled in, and enjoyed learning via Branching Out often carry on additional self-directed learning through either the Pilot or Community Based Learning programs.

Alternate Path to Graduation is a bit different. Students are usually completing their requirements for graduation (that might look like one or two credits they need to gather to finish out their program) but in the future the program may allow students to demonstrate skills and knowledge in the proficiency based system in order to graduate. In all cases, student directed learning is a great way for students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge outlined in the Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). 

Photo courtesy of Karen Liebermann

Branching Out
Open to students in grades 9-12
Branching Out is a program for students who want to expand their learning beyond the classroom.
Branching Out is for students who want to:
  • Create individual learning plans based on their own goals and learning styles
  • Spend a portion of each week learning independently, outside of school
  • Get high school elective credit (or transferable skills) for completion of their learning plans
  • Study subjects not currently offered at U-32
  • Work and study with mentors in the community
Branching Out students need to:
  • Demonstrate independent study skills and a strong desire to learn
  • Cooperate, communicate, and keep commitments
  • Ask for and accept support from adults and peers
  • Be dedicated to learning and the development of self-discipline
Credit earned through Branching Out is elective only.  Branching Out studies are full year unless special permission for different timing has been approved. To enroll, students need to complete an application form and interview.  Acceptance is generally first come/first served, with priority given to new applicants or to juniors and seniors.  Interviews are conducted starting in March for the following academic year. For more information and/or an Application for Enrollment, please contact the Branching Out Advisor, Karen Liebermann or Student Services Office.


Photos courtesy of Pilot website (Grae Moriath)

The Pilot
Open to students in grades 9-12
The Pilot is a rigorous program of mentored independent study that allows U-32 students to design their own learning and  incorporate their passions and interests. Working with a committee of teachers and advisors, students create their own learning plans that address standards through project based work, internships, and classes that will be assessed by U-32 teachers. The Pilot seeks motivated, curious learners who are eager to pursue their passions and are looking for a different way to approach and take ownership of their education. Students gain a deeper understanding of who they are as learners in the Pilot, which allows them to take a hands-on approach and explore their interests. See current student work.

Kristina - For the first time in my whole life I have freedom in my learning, but so much responsibility comes along with it. Now I actually need to have awareness of “how” I learn, now I am teaching myself! (from the pilot blog)

To enroll, students need to complete an application with recommendations and an interview. Interviews are conducted in April for the following academic year. For more information please contact the Pilot Program Advisor, Amy Koenigbauer, or Student Services Office.

Photos courtesy of Pilot website (Conor Cooley and Karli Robertson)

Community Based Learning (CBL)
Students obtain experiences that engage the community as an extension of the classroom, for the purpose of career exploration, training, or genuine curiosity and interest in a subject area. Students will map out a learning plan with goals, take action steps, prove / document their learning with artifacts,  and understand all skills developed using the U32 SLO’s.  Time during the semester is spent in class, with the instructor, at an internship, or with a mentor in this student driven course.

Photo Courtesy of George Cook

Alternate Path to Graduation (APG)
The Alternate Path to Graduation is a high school completion program for students over the age of sixteen who are highly skilled and/or at risk of dropping out and/or not enrolled in school. The Alternate Path provides a comparable path to a degree for students over the age of sixteen who face special circumstances in achieving their degree. The Alternate Path to Graduation is in alignment with the Vermont Department of Education’s Flexible Pathways Initiative, created by Act 77

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Clubs - Using Callback to Meet

Callback is a daily 30 minute segment of the U-32 schedule that students have used (Tuesday through Friday) for the last few years to get support from a teacher, re-perform assignments, or makeup missing assignments.  Late last year, a few clubs began to meet during the callback time and students were also invited to participate in a monthly dilemma-solving fishbowl discussion.  This year, callback is booming with options that offer enrichment and empower our students.

What are these options?

While Mondays are still reserved for time with their TA for extended activities, scheduling of callback, and Naviance, the rest of the week provides a variety of offerings for High School students and even a few options for Middle School students.


Bridging the Gap (formerly known as Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST) - A student group who, in the past has surveyed students and faculty, and then worked through that data to determine areas of disconnect.  Bridging the gap recommended that teachers create feedback forms to gather information from students about how classes are going - a reflection form that allows teachers to reflect on their teaching, what's going well and what might benefit from changes.

GLAMM (Gay, Lesbian, and many more)- uses callback in a variety of ways.  Students spend the time planning educational activities for the school such as presentations and lunch tables w/ info to hand out.  Students also plan fun events for the club members like movie nights, field trips, and other leadership experiences.  Most importantly, this callback time offers students a safe space to join together to talk about current events and personal experiences. (Cairsten Keese - Advisor)

Student Activists - Seeking Social Justice, this group uses callback for planning how to combat prejudice speech and actions within our school.  They are currently working on some professional development for U-32 faculty and staff and sharing with students ways to stand up against prejudice.  (Meg Allison and Amy Koenigbauer - Advisors)


Peer Mentoring - Allows high school students to mentor a middle school student in a big brother/big sister fashion with weekly meetings, game playing and discussion. (Nate Lovitz - Advisor)

BLAMM (Blacks, Latinos, and many more) - Modeled after GLAMM, this new group started last month by setting their norms and determining goals for the year.  The group seeks to develop a safe community to talk about race, ethnicity, and culture. (Krista Dy - Advisor)


Book group - there is a book group meeting every Thursday in the library during callback.  MS and HS participants meet every other week to respond to analysis questions and discuss the book they've been reading. (Laura Abbene and Meg Allison - Advisors)

Middle School Book Group (Courtesy of U-32 Library Commons)

Green Team - Green Team is working to reduce our school's environmental footprint.  We are working on several projects including:  solar installations, bulk milk machine (to reduce milk cartons), and composting.  Green team is also doing a school wide trash audit to study U-32's waste production and determine how to reduce it. (Ellen Cooke and Karen Liebermann - Advisors)


"Are You Into It?" - AYII is a student-led callback that encourages a culture of respect by promoting healthy, consensual relationships. The first few meetings have focused on the question: What IS the relationship/dating/hook up culture like at U-32? Members seek to normalize the conversation around healthy relationships as well as set up a support system for students in need. Long-term goals include educating peers on healthy sexual decision-making and focusing on solutions through possible student-led assemblies. (Meg Falby - Advisor)

Student Advisory Group - Our principal, has invited freshman and sophomore students to join him in addressing issues associated with the proficiency system.  Students will help to identify areas of confusion, misunderstandings or concerns and then address them with faculty, students and parents. (Steven Dellinger-Pate - Advisor)

Other groups meet monthly or as needed:  

Student Council subcommittees regularly use callback for their meetings. Examples include subcommittees on the Food Drive, public relations, and student outreach. Student Council will also host a monthly callback for students to attend to share their concerns.
(Deb Stevens and Kit Walker - Advisors)

Photo courtesy of U-32 Student Council

Our food service director, Brian, has been reaching out to learn more about what students would like to see in the cafeteria. At the request of some of our vegan students, he has made some changes. They will meet again soon to follow up and gather more recommendations.  He is also meeting regularly with Junior Iron Chef competitors to discuss the competition and plan their recipes.

The Executive Council, which includes student reps from all of the above groups, meets monthly to discuss the big picture of what is going on and determine what supports might be necessary for groups to move forward with their ideas. (Lisa Laplante - Advisor)

Other groups that meet regularly are the Acting Up, Branching Out, Middle School Leadership, Prom Committee, Robotics advisors, Senior TA reps, and Student Reps to the School Board.

Interested in potentially joining one of these groups?  A club fair will be held on Tuesday, December 19th during A and C lunches!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Flexible Pathways v.1: Tech Center Programs

Central Vermont Career Center (CVCC), formally known as the Barre Tech Center, is our local tech center.  They currently have some great programs including:  Automotive Technology, Baking Arts, Building Trades, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Digital Media Arts, Electrical Technology, Emergency Services, Exploratory Tech., Human Services, Natural Resources and Sustainability, Plumbing and Heating, Cooperative Education.  Our students have been enjoying these programs for years and doing well as evidenced by the quarter 1 awards!

In addition, CVCC will be adding a Medical Professions Program that will be taking applications this spring for Fall 2018.  This program will offer dual enrollment opportunities in Human Biology with opportunities for clinical shadowing.  It will introduce students to a variety of careers including:  nursing, radiography, physical and occupational therapy, emergency services, home health, phlebotomy, dental assisting, surgical services, and acute care!

Did you know students may attend other tech or career centers?  If our local tech center does not have the career path you or your student is seeking to follow - another center might.  A student may apply to another tech center only after determining that the program is not offered at their local center or if they have been denied access to their choice program at CVCC.  What's the catch?  Well, transportation.  Although the programming will be paid for, you need to find your own way to programs outside of CVCC.  If you do have a method of transportation, it's a great idea to check out all of your options!

Here are some of those centers most accessible to our students in alphabetical order:

Burlington Technical Center has Aviation, Criminal Justice, and Medical and Sports Sciences.
Center for Technology Essex has Dentistry.
Green Mountain Technology & Career Center has Power Sport Technology.
Randolph Technical Career Center has Agricultural Tech, Criminal Justice, Diesel Tech and Education/Social Services.
River Bend Career and Tech Center has Criminal Justice, Heavy Equipment, and Small Engines.

Each tech center has it's own spring application process, all of which can be found on their websites.  Check out these options for flexible pathways in your education!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Supporting the Development of a New Student Group

In a recent middle school student anti-bias training, several students requested the opportunity to meet as a group, similar to the already existing GLAMM (Gay, Lesbian and Many More) group.  This group self-identified as students of color or minority and expressed a concern that there weren't opportunities for them to regularly meet as a group, share issues and offer support.  

In response to that request, I've invited a former parent and UVM Professor, Shelley Vermilya, and a current U-32 parent, Karyn Montague, to facilitate a fishbowl discussion this Wednesday, May 24, 2017 during callback.  This discussion will be with students who self-identify as students of color or minority and is meant to determine the goals of the group, the qualities the group hopes their eventual advisor will have, and provide a safe and inclusive environment.  Shelley and Karyn will then support the development of this group by helping to identify an appropriate advisor.

If this sounds like a group that would support your student, please encourage them to attend the fishbowl by signing up for callback in enriching students this Wednesday with Jody Emerson!  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Faculty & Staff Appreciation

It's Teacher Appreciation Week and here at U-32 that means we celebrate all of our faculty and staff!

It is wonderful to work here at U-32 and it's great to take an opportunity to thank all of the people who really make this school work.

One of the things we also do during this week is to collect nominations and positive information about our faculty and staff.  Our faculty, staff and students receive the following e-mail:

Hello Faculty, Staff and Students,

It is faculty and staff appreciation week and that means it is also time to nominate teachers for the 2017 Outstanding Educator Award and staff for the 2017 Outstanding Staff Member Award.

We are again using an online nomination form.  Please fill out the form to nominate U-32 faculty and staff for these awards.  We are providing the opportunity for you to nominate an individual and acknowledge additional faculty and staff.  Please note comments received here may be used in an end of the year celebration luncheon in recognition of all the good work that occurs at U-32. These have become a wonderful way to close out the school year

Please complete and submit this form online by Monday, May 22nd

This allows us to collect wonderful information about our faculty and staff and gives us the opportunity to celebrate, not only by announcing the winner but also sharing the quotes with faculty and staff at our end of year luncheon.

So why have I added this to my blog?  I'm hoping to get some parents out there who either read this on facebook, twitter or our website to also contribute some kudos to our faculty and staff!  We take this very seriously and really appreciate all of the feedback we receive; please consider taking part in this year's "Educator of the Year" and "Staff Member of the Year" nomination process by filling out the form attached above.

Thank you for your continued support of our school!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Honoring Difference and Confronting Bias at U-32

The following are pages from a handout that Amy Koenigbauer created and shared with Teacher Advisors (TAs) and Student TA Representatives to discuss with their TA groups in the hopes of strengthening our community and supporting all students.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Who owns conflict?

U-32 has been working to allow for members of the school community to resolve their own conflicts, with support, through use of restorative practices.  Much of the work of restorative practices is based in building community through proactive circles in TAs and classrooms. When there is a conflict, however, restorative circles are used to allow participants the opportunity to resolve the conflict and repair the harm.

Recently, as part of a class I am taking in Restorative Practices, I read an article from The British Journal of Criminology on Conflict (Christie, 1977).  The article discussed the social consequences of criminology - indicating that the justice system has taken on the ownership of conflict.  Unfortunately, the consequence of having a legal system with lawyers that take on conflicts on behalf of clients means that the clients themselves may never truly have resolution, the perpetrator may never have to actually take responsibility for their actions, and the victim may never feel they had closure.

For students at U-32, conflict is often mislabeled as bullying or harassment by parents, staff and students. There are many reasons for this, however, by seeking to avoid that conflict, administrators have been asked to take conflict off the hands of their students.  What has been lost in a system where conflict is taken on by others?  The opportunity to resolve the conflict.  Yes, our system allows for punishment, but it doesn't always allow for those involved in the conflict to learn either strategies for resolution or reasons to avoid making the same mistake again.  Part of the goal of bringing restorative practices to U-32 has been to provide a facilitated process through which students can learn conflict resolution.

There is a reason for every action and it is important that the reasoning is heard, just as the impact of those actions are made clear.  This can’t be accomplished in a system that does not allow the voices from both sides of the conflict to be involved in its resolution.  Ensuring that all voices is heard is based on the "belief that a more personalised meeting between offender and victim would lead to reduced recidivism." (Christie, 1977, p.9)  If the victim and offender are not given the opportunity to resolve the conflict, a few things happen, the offender, has lost both the opportunity to take responsibility and to be forgiven.  In cases where a victim does not have the opportunity to face the offender, the victim is often removed from the case, sometimes in an attempt at protecting them and they rarely come to know the offender or have the opportunity to understand what happened or to hear that person to take responsibility for their actions, which often results in the victim going "away more frightened than ever." (Christie, 1977, p8).