12423 BB: School-Driven Designs for Youth-Centered Learning: Changing Mindsets and Practices through Partnerships, New Models, & Active Community

06/11/2015 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
The Palace

Organizers: Joy Nolan, Jeremy Kraushar, Rob DiRenzo,
Presenters: Richard Haynes
Moderator: Leah Gilliam

Youth-centered learning benefits users most equitably when it meets young people where they already are: in public schools. This panel offers participants an active role in thinking through the design and implementation of effective, enduring youth-centered programming in public middle and high schools.

Panelists from NYC DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness and program partner Leah Gilliam from Mozilla’s Hive NYC Learning Network will discuss their approach to supporting schools in articulating and designing around youth-centered goals in the service of equity. Panelists represent two innovative programs at NYC public schools:  

  • Digital Ready (DR) fosters student-centered, technology-driven innovations in middle schools and high schools, using four levers of change: teaching, curriculum, mastery-based assessment, and expanded learning opportunities.
  • The Expanded Success Initiative (ESI) uses creative solutions to tackle the educational achievement gap and increase the number of Black and Latino young men who graduate high school prepared to succeed in college and careers.

Attendees will be invited and encouraged to be an active part of a conversation with the panel.

Expected content/discussion points:

Our shared problem of practice: Well-meaning adults who set out to collaborate on innovations with schools soon discover that it can be difficult to get traction for a host of reasons.

  • Educators need models, training, technology, resources, and community to design and implement effective youth-centered programming.
  • Schools are relentlessly busy and often underfunded. Many lack technology and/or are strongly focused on the latest mandates and assessments, to the exclusion of other goals.
  • Students may not initially see value in choice-driven, collaborative, project-based learning; and/or may have responsibilities that limit their ability to pursue personal/professional interests.
  • Community-based organizations may need help identifying school/youth needs, responding with relevant programming, and negotiating effective partnerships with schools.

We take into account these expected challenges, along with each school community’s unique themes, capacities, strengths, challenges, and goals.  We acknowledge the difficulties inherent in redefining the roles of educators and students in order to enrich learning—and want to share our experiences as a possibly useful model for others.

Digital Ready structure and methodology:

We wrap connected learning in a multidimensional face-to-face support system that encourages broad sharing of ideas, models, and resources. With our input, school teams (leadership and teachers) use design thinking to create strengths-based, customized SMART goals. Schools implement their goals via four “levers of change” designed to support their transformation into technology-powered, youth-centered learning environments:

  • Curriculum: digitally-enabled/project-based learning, backward design, 24/7 access, customization and sharing of open-source materials, student ownership of learning via research, production, connection.
  • Teaching: flexible pacing and grouping, formative assessment drives instruction, digitally-enabled/project-based learning, student voice and choice
  • Mastery-based approaches: http://vimeo.com/digitalready/masterybasedlearning designing competencies that name skills and knowledge, providing multiple contexts for developing/demonstrating mastery.
  • Expanded Learning Opportunities: in partnership with Hive NYC, we provide technology-rich, authentic contexts for learning to support young people across the city in discovering and developing interest-driven pathways, and in building key 21st-century skills (collaboration, problem solving, research, technology skills, etc.).

DR’s approach relies heavily on fostering an active community of learners: students, partners, and schools. Our model is teacher- and student-empowering because (rather than being about the bells and whistles of technology) it is about developing new models for face-to-face interactions.

Our program empowers students, and the adults who serve them, to collaborate in new ways via a carefully designed holistic program with educational technology and student-centered approaches at its heart.

ESI  structure and methodology:

ESI is an educational component of the Office of the Mayor’s Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) and is supported by Open Society Foundations. YMI is the nation’s most comprehensive effort to tackle the broad disparities slowing the advancement of Black and Latino young men.

As part of that comprehensive effort, ESI works and conducts research in 40 public high schools that have shown promise in reversing this trend; develop and launch new high schools specifically designed to fully prepare Black and Latino young men for success in college and careers; and scale-up college advising training city-wide with the goal of reach all high schools over the next two years.

At the heart of ESI are these three core elements:

  • School Practices – 40 ESI schools research, evaluate, document, share, and replicate successful outcomes and data-based models that drive significant change.
  • Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) – ESI participants work to ensure that their school’s academics, programs and guidance reflect the culture and experiences of young Black and Latino males.
  • School Design Fellowship – ESI is developing a breakthrough school model based on successful school practices and has so far built 3 new schools that embrace the model, bringing together a team of passionate educators (the fellows) who collaboratively create and implement the school design. The fellows then become leaders of schools they help to design.


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