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Pathways for Personalized Learning

Description of the Model Program

 

Los Cerros’ signature model is Pathways for Personalized Learning (PPL). PPL brings a variety of CTE Pathway and STEAM elective courses for students to explore and learn skills necessary for the future, including incorporating a wide range of technology for student use. Teachers spent time collaborating with colleagues and attending professional development conferences to enhance the learning outcomes and projects that maximize student interests and opportunity. Four years ago, we determined we needed to integrate more inclusive and engaging elective courses that provided students with an opportunity to learn the skills for the future. We continually adjust the course work and expectations for students to meet their needs through course feedback, community involvement, CTE Pathway, and STEAM standards. The module system, project based learning, brings course work expectations in which students select their interest and perform tasks to reach a goal.

The 2018-2019 San Ramon Valley Unified School District LCAP goals 2, 4, and 6 focus on providing standards-based instructional materials for all students and professional development for teachers, expand course offerings for more opportunities for students, and increase the percentage of students who feel connected to and safe at school and decrease overall percentage of suspensions and expulsions as well as the disparity among student groups. Some of our actions to meet these goals at our school include creating CTE Pathway and STEAM courses that provide layering education and real-life context, all subject teachers aligning their curriculum to standards and assessing students via those standards and providing teachers with extra release time to enhance their collaboration and lessons to support their instructional practices. Our school district has implemented Personalized Learning Initiatives to provide more choice and opportunities for students.

Los Cerros is distinguished for our CTE Pathway and STEAM elective courses, along with the newest technology through Pathways for Personalized Learning (PPL). In sixth grade, students take the wheel elective courses which include Robotics/Tech and Art. From there, students choose their path of electives which include Robotics, Advance Tech, Computer Projects, Computer Science and/or Art 1, Art 2, Advanced Art, Digital Media Graphic Design. These courses have established standards and create pathway opportunities for students upon promotion from Los Cerros. Other courses that tie into this pathway include two science electives; 21st Century Design and Forensics, and Media Literacy, which is an academic elective. Over the last four years, we realigned the course work to show the pathway progression of each class and prepare students with skills necessary for high school, college, or career.

In developing the PPL, we included continued feedback from parents and students, along with staff engagement in the curriculum. Our school is the leader in received Donors Choose grants for our school district. We received over $205,000 in Donors Choose grants to date. Our teachers also received over $15,000 through other grant applications. Our teachers participated in the following professional development opportunities over the last four years: PRISM (Programming and Robotics Integrated in Science and Mathematics) 2015/2016 school year, CUE (Computer Using Educators) 2016/2017 school year, Code.org Cyber Teacher Certificate 2017 school year, ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) summer 2018, NAEA (National Art Education Association) Conventions in 2016 and 2018, Teachers College for Reading and Writing Workshop, MERIT alum and Google certified instructors. In supporting teachers with their professional development, we proposed new courses to the middle school course catalog and updated the already existing course descriptions to support the PPL model. Our school added Computer Science, Media Graphic Design, Advanced Art, 21st Century Design and Forensics courses over the last four years to provide students access to CTE Pathway and STEAM courses.

The recent technology added to the Los Cerros campus for student use includes a flight simulator, laser cutter, linkbot robots, Arduino robots, 3D printers, Raspberry Pis and Pi Top Ceeds, Circuit Playgrounds, LilyTiny wearable microprocessors, scroll saw and drill press to shape CO2 cars, Hydrogen Cars, Adobe Photoshop, and color printers. Along with hands-on learning, the school added over 350 computers through grants and purchases. Working with the school district, we integrated interactive projectors in all rooms with audio systems to improve student’s ability to hear instruction. We also added the infrastructure necessary to support the increased number of devices.

Technology is not a stand-alone experience; it is embedded in how students communicate with peers and teachers and the paths that they can choose to deepen their knowledge on guided subject matter. Teachers use hyperdocs, multimedia documents that enables student navigation and response, to allow deep dives in history, science, social issues, and literature. Teachers are using non-fiction articles and curated videos across multiple subjects including science, technology, and history to challenge students to define their beliefs and understanding of the greater world.  Students engage in meaningful, real-world discussions while using state-funded databases to support their thinking. Additionally, students learn to discuss issues collaboratively while focusing on textual evidence. These class discussions are bedrock to building a community of thinkers and fostering an environment of student acceptance. Our parent community is able to participate in student discovery through a variety of platforms meant to amplify the student's voice. Additional evidence of student's voice can be found in a student-produced campus news program, a media literacy elective producing PSAs, classroom current event videos, and original drama production written by students at Los Cerros. Within the classroom walls, students use technology to review books, respond to peer comments in an academic forum, and create screencasts to demonstrate curriculum mastery. Students also engage in passion projects that allow them to engage meaningfully in content they are curious and passionate about.

Gamification of the curriculum has increased student engagement. Gamification occurs through the integration of educational quests,  and other times it occurs through the competition of learning “tournaments.” Students use the maker’s movement strategies and design thinking to explore historical civilizations’ achievements and engineering concepts.  

Our music program utilizes Smart Music for student practice. This result is greater independence and accountability of our musicians. Our math department completed several class activities using Desmos, which is an online graphing calculator.  Math, English and History classes use flipped classroom teaching methods to give students schema before teaching a concept, where teachers can better support students after teaching a concept. Through Google classroom, teachers can offer individual guidance, support, and assignments.

All student populations have access to the PPL courses. Because of the PPL courses, we see strong school connectedness between students and teachers along with the projects and curriculum they work with. These courses provide a venue for student success as seen through fewer disciplinary behaviors in the PPL courses, stronger work completion by individuals an opportunity for students to grow and master concepts. Students are actively engaged in the curriculum that is displayed around campus, including designing our Stress Free Week flyers, art displays for the office and educational surveys to learn about school culture. Our counseling department is very supportive of students and provide them with opportunities to learn and grow. Through weekly emails, transition parent nights, lessons to students, suicide awareness, Digital Citizenship, and social development, our counseling department supports the whole child in learning. Other notable programs Los Cerros provides students include Student of the Month, weekly homeroom announcements with Character Education and highlights around campus along with an Access period for a flexible time in the student¹s day.

The PPL courses prove successful by providing experiences for students to feel connected to the school, introducing new courses to explore opportunities, and offering professional development for teachers as stated in our school district’s LCAP goals. Student attendance increased over the last few years from 95.32% to 97.06% attending school in a four year period. There is strong communication with parents and regular meetings with students to discuss the importance of attending class, including Attendance Awareness month in September. In supporting all students on campus, we believe in restorative practice and teaching and learning through discipline. Our school suspension rate has decreased from 4.6% to 1.8% since 2016. Our students are considerate and respectful individuals who understand that a school is a place of learning, exploring and creating.



 


Implementation and Monitoring of the Model Program

 

Los Cerros began implementation of the Pathways for Personalized Learning (PPL) four years ago. Year one of our PPL was about collecting information from students to determine what courses of study they are interested in and evaluating the California Standards to ensure our students were ready for the future. Year two of PPL established the need and direction we

wanted to take student offerings to provide differentiated learning opportunities including having more female students in PPL courses. We began holding events for families such as STEAM Night, Family Paint Night, Pi Night and Family Robotics Night, to help bring awareness to the need of CTE Pathway and STEAM courses and showcase student talents and successful completion of modules and individualized learning. Year three included adding year-long courses such as Advanced Art and implementing Computer Science and the Robot Talent Show was introduced for parents to come to watch their student creations. Also in year three, we began Teacher Takeover for our social media accounts in which all teachers gave families a first-hand perspective of their classes each week. Parents and students love seeing what everyone accomplishes and engages in during the day. Year four of PPL continued with family involvement, restructured how our courses are sequenced and added Digital Media Graphic Design to show the progression of skills. We coordinated with the school’s PTA to host family events with the teachers of these courses and to provide parents with an opportunity to learn and engage in the curriculum with their student. Every year, our counseling department puts on a large Career Fair which brings in over 70 careers for students to examine. Careers directly tied to the PPL courses are in attendance and students are able to connect the course work to a career.

As we embark on year five of PPL, we surveyed all students, parents, and staff regarding a new bell schedule and satisfaction with current electives. Students and parents had overwhelming support for more choice of electives. Staff agreed to have a variety of elective courses benefited student interest. We continue to collaborate with district colleagues, attend national and local professional development and provide students with current and practical interests and standards-based curriculum.

In order to make the course changes and have the most current curriculum, our teachers participated in the following professional development opportunities over the last four years: PRISM (Programming and Robotics Integrated in Science and Mathematics) 2015/2016 school year, CUE (Computer Using Educators) 2016/2017 school year, Code.org Cyber Teacher Certificate 2017 school year, ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) summer 2018, NAEA (National Art Education Association) Conventions in 2016 and 2018.  What distinguishes Los Cerros from other schools is that our teachers embraced their learning and proposed and added new courses to the middle school course catalog and edited some of the already existing course descriptions to support the PPL model.

We are monitoring the PPL courses through student sign up data and yearly enrollment numbers. There is an increase of 73.3% of female student enrollment and an increase of 36.6% of male student enrollment in the PPL courses since 2016. In 2016 we had 250 male and 105 female student enrollment in the PPL courses. In 2018, 342 male and 182 female students enrolled in the PPL courses. This number represents some semester-long classes and students who elected to take two PPL courses at the same time. Overall, there is an increase of 69% of student enrollment in the PPL courses. The effectiveness of the PPL courses is seen through the huge increase in enrollment, quality of learning students show through modules and products and parent support for the events. The continued feedback model from students, parents, and teachers is explored each year. Teachers seek grants and donations, along with school-provided resources, to enhance the curriculum and modules that support student interests. Teachers constantly change their instructional learning activities to support student interest and provide high levels of engagement.


 


Results of the Model Program

 

Los Cerros addresses the needs of students by providing them with the Pathways for Personalized Learning (PPL). There is growth in student sign-ups for these courses, higher levels of engagement and high quality of output in CTE Pathway and STEAM coursework. Students from all student groups have the opportunity to enroll in the PPLs and to show proficiency in the curriculum. Teachers use researched based questions to conduct surveys for the PPL courses. These surveys focus on student attitudes towards the subject and the class, along with their feelings about their abilities of the course work. We identified and determined which modules students find engaging and provide them with skills necessary for future courses.

The increase of 69% percent of students enrolled in PPL courses over the last four years led to an increase of 18 to 25 PPL course sections over the same time span. All student groups performed at the highest level, showcasing some of their talents at the California State PTA Reflections Contest, district-wide art shows and Performance Assessments such as portfolios, digital portfolios, projects, reflections, and exhibitions. Los Cerros has supported multiple Odyssey of the Mind teams for the past 4 years. Teams advanced to both the state competition and the World Finals. These teams utilized skills from the PPL courses in their competitions.

Our teachers discussed and planned ways to promote the PPL courses to meet the needs of all students on campus including those with disabilities, gender equality, and our underserved population. Teachers established long term goals to continue to attract more female students in the PPL courses through interest surveys and design products. Our increase of 73.3% of female student enrollment and an increase of 36.6% of male student enrollment in the PPL courses since 2016 shows all students can access courses they show an interest in and it shows we met our goal of attracting more female students. Although our school enrollment went up 4.4% since 2016, the increase of male and female student enrollment in PPL courses was significantly more. When our school invested in PPL courses, the underlying message to the student population was that these areas of study are valued in not only our academic community but in life and the world. Understanding the unique challenges most adolescents face, it is in our best interest to offer classes they want to be part of. When students have access to courses in creative expression, they are applying techniques, processes, and skills to communicate meaning, their perceptions, their understanding of the world and others. When student's social-emotional needs are met because they are immersed in a classroom culture that practices acceptance and tolerance, while valuing individuality and self-expression, they feel safe to explore, go outside their comfort zones and be truly engaged in their work. Student engagement is essential in meeting behavioral needs, along with support from paraprofessionals and administration in restorative practices. PPL courses and elective courses are a safe place for students to learn from their mistakes and try again, jumping right back into the creative process (studio habits of mind): develop craft, engage & persist, envision, express, observe, and reflect. This provides a model for resiliency and life skills that are valuable in the workforce.

Student success stories include student engagement in the self-paced courses like Computer Science and Advanced Tech. Students have the ability to take more time to process and learn skills and modules that interest them. We see students showing more moments of success and being proud through the PPL courses. Students who have socio-emotional concerns enjoy building bridges, figuring out how to make it stronger, testing, breaking a few, and continuing to tinker to improve. One example of student success was with a quiet female student in robotics who struggled to get her light sensors to work. Once she overcame the obstacle and applied her new knowledge, she came running out of the darkened room yelling the teacher's name, exclaiming, “I DID IT! Come see!” This particular student’s success was felt for many days after.

Our staff is committed to continually developing and providing students with the newest curriculum for these courses. This process is why the teachers involved continue professional development, are encouraged to let students find their passion and partner with parents and the community to provide various opportunities for success outside of the academic classes. We believe in the future of our students and giving them the tools to be successful.