Burlington, Vermont – Three years ago, Burlington and Winooski School Districts partnered together to pursue a multi-million dollar grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to redesign education to support the success of all learners in today’s rapidly-changing, global society. Selected from dozens of schools competing to win the grant, the two districts have spent the past three years supporting a systemic shift in the way teachers teach, students learn, and families and community interact with the schools.
This year, in a show of confidence for the work in progress, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, the largest charitable foundation in New England dedicated exclusively to education, has awarded an additional year of funding for this important work.
“I want to thank the Nellie Mae Education Foundation for their continued support of the excellent work teachers, students, and families in our schools are doing,” said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. “I continue to support the innovative work happening in Burlington and Winooski and look forward to the added support this grant provides students.“
The Partnership for Change, the bridging entity that is helping to lead this effort, has brought together a broad base of school and community leaders to accomplish this mission. Together, they help support the design and implementation of a set of “student-centered” approaches to learning that draw on new understandings from neuroscience about how people learn, and best practices that are emerging from state-of-the-art schools across the country.
“We are very pleased with the decision by the foundation to continue funding the work already happening here in Burlington and Winooski,” said Partnership for Change Director Hal Colston. “We look forward to the continued progress of both districts over this year.”
“The work our two districts embarked on three years ago and that began as ‘pockets of innovation’ throughout the schools, has primed both districts to make broader systemic shifts that put students at the center of their learning,” commented Winooski Superintendent Sean McMannon. “Our districts are on the cutting edge of research-based educational practices that support increased success for all students.”
Some of the features of “student-centered learning” that have been developed over the past three years include the iLab, a personalized learning lab in Winooski, and the 9th grade humanities academies and advisory system in Burlington. Most impactful has been the Fellowship and Partner Teacher Program in both schools that allows for more teacher collaboration and planning time to shift instructional practices, which research shows makes a big difference in student learning. Other features include extensive technology upgrades and vastly increased collaboration with the larger community in the education of its young people.
“Student-centered learning recognizes that each student learns differently, and that learning happens all the time and everywhere,” said BHS Principal Amy Mellencamp. “We are blessed to live in a place rich with community resources to make learning more relevant and connected to real-world problems.” “We hope to continue increasing the amount of learning that happens outside of classroom walls,” added WMHS Principal Leon Wheeler.
The Partnership for Change supports the work of remodeling public education in Winooski and Burlington, Vermont to align with what our young people need to thrive in a complex global society. Established in 2012, we represent a broad and diverse group helping to build a more prosperous future for our communities. Specifically, the Partnership is committed to build more robust teaching and learning environments, create deeper family-school partnerships, generate community-based learning experiences, enhance youth engagement and leadership, and establish a proficiency-based system in which all learners are provided many opportunities to set and meet ambitious goals.
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