School-to-Work Paves the Path to Act 77 at MAUHS
Mount Anthony Union High School is ahead of the curve in redesigning education for its students to meet 21st Century needs. Among the reasons for this enviable position are two important factors. One is a number of smaller youth-adult partnerships that are working collaboratively under the banner, "Pave Your Own Path." Another is the School-to-Work program run by Brooke Remington with the assistance of Amy Bolio that has paved the way.
Three years ago, the Vermont Legislature passed Act 77 into law. Act 77 calls for students to create personal learning plans, engage in work-based learning, virtual high school, dual enrollment, and early college as pathways to graduation, with students assessed in a proficiency-based system. The School-to-Work program developed in the early 1990's is already flourishing at Mt. Anthony as a strong place-based, proficiency-based program. Remington places between 50 and 70 students a semester into Bennington County in three electives: Field Study, Senior Project, and Community Service.
Senior Project is an opportunity for seniors to do a semester-long research project. Brooke helps the students choose a topic of interest to pursue that involves setting steps and determining goals. Students might want to learn to play guitar or ride a horse, but more often, the projects are career-based. They go through an interview process with resume and cover letter, learn the employer's expectations and discuss the evaluation process. The amount of work is rigorous and meaningful as a capstone project assessed by a portfolio of all their work, graded with rubrics and culminating in a public presentation.
Field Study is much the same as the Senior Project in that students set up internships for an hour a day. Field studies are open to 11th and 12th graders with occasional 10th graders recommended by Guidance. They work at a site in the community to "get their feet wet." If students decide to take it for an entire year, Field Study II's assignments are more rigorous. For example, if they are studying to be a teacher, they might go and help the teacher the first semester but have a specific study goal the second semester such as looking at literacy groupings and case studies, getting more in-depth. Brooke visits every site at least twice.
Community Service is School-to-Work's participatory action offering for 9th-11th graders where they go out and volunteer at a school or non-profit for a class period. While not always aligned with students' career interests, they often are.
Act 77 connections do not stop there. Many students utilize the pathways of virtual high school classes and dual enrollment in coordination with their place-based learning. One senior student who is interested in veterinary medicine has completed Field Study I and II internships with a veterinary clinic in the area. She has taken a virtual high school class in veterinary medicine, and her Senior Project is in-depth cancer research for animals. In conjunction, she is using her dual enrollment voucher to take a college class in the field. She will go on to study with this solid foundation built on these opportunities afforded through School-to-Work and Act 77.
This year, three separate efforts—a four-person team taking a Communicating School Redesign (CSR) course, an active leadership group called Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together (YATST), and a Mindset, Metacognition, and Motivation (M3) group have joined forces to form a larger group called Explorers that meets every Friday. The Explorers, approximately a dozen people, is an exemplary youth-adult partnership. This is the group that facilitated the "Pave Your Own Path" logo with schoolwide input that the graphic design class created and is posted around the school. Brooke, taking the CSR course and active in the M3 group, is an integral part of this larger group.
Among the activities that link students with the community, Brooke organizes Career Week. In the spring, students in grades 9 to 11 get a taste of careers they can explore. Every day, speakers come in to present in 15-minute spots about what they do and their career journeys during Seeds of Success advisories. In connection with the work forces development initiative at the Career Resource Center, students come to realize that there are indeed jobs in Bennington County.
Remington also chairs the committee that organizes the annual Sophomore Career Summit for every 10th grader in the county that takes place at Bennington College and features 72 speakers. Students select two workshops with three to five speakers who chat with them about their schooling, careers and certification. In a third workshop, they fill out career action surveys and learn about next steps. They receive information about dual enrollment, college opportunities, work force options from the Department of Labor, trade schools, technical training, the military, Americorps and Vista.
At the supervisory union level, Brooke sits on a committee with the principal, parents, and other faculty working to make the changes that need to happen integratively for the middle school and eventually the elementary school. She has been to the middle school to help align personal learning plans. The redesign under Act 77 is a huge process with a lot of working parts that is still in the early stages.
As more and more students come to take advantage of flexible pathways, the existing structure at Mt. Anthony is gradually being realigned to manage all of the students accessing the variety of options. At present, the number of students utilizing this combination of offerings is not as great a percentage as it will be, but with the opportunities in the legislation becoming widely known, students are coming to understand and embrace what is available to them. The School-to-Work program plays an integral role.
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