Visiting Pittsfield, NH

A group of 13 students, parents, teachers and parents for change organizers and I traveled to Pittsfield New Hampshire on November 13 to learn about personalized learning plans (PLP’s), portfolios, student-led conferences and high school advisory. What we discovered was an integrated system that has connected the students, parents and teachers in a synergistic model.

Recognizing student voice, it was primarily students that informed our day. We learned about their advisory program, which meets every day. Students discussed how they have choice in their advisory on “Friday fun days” when they do team building and how they enjoy the connection with a small group of students. Much of the rest of the week of advisory is loosely scheduled for academic check-ins, working on their PLP’s and their portfolios, planning with their advisor and discussing current events and other topics that impact their lives. They referred to their advisors support as a “nurturing kick in the butt”.

Students then talked about their experience with proficiency based learning and how they prepare for their student-led conferences. This is a program they piloted four years ago with only a few teachers. Now the entire school holds student-led conferences and they have noted their attendance by high school parents has more than tripled since they started to use this conference format.

What was especially impressive, was how the students were able to not only discuss their successes, but also areas where they hadn’t met proficiency. They were very clear about what kinds of things they needed to do to recover proficiencies and that it was their responsibility to so. It was also evident, what role their advisor played in guiding them through the process of proficiency recovery as both an advocate and a resource.

We are hoping to bring a group from Pittsfield up to Vermont in the spring so that more members of the Burlington and Winooski communities can have an opportunity to learn from their innovative program.

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