NYC Educational Innovation Tour

31 students, parents, educators, and community partners from Winooski and Burlington journeyed to New York City in January 2013. There, they visited innovative schools and discussed how to make learning more student-centered in our own communities.

The above video was created by BHS student and site visit participant Henry Prine.

In January 2013, 31 individuals from Winooski and Burlington embarked on a learning journey to New York City. The group included students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members from both cities. This trip was organized by Partnership for Change fellow Sarah Bertucci in collaboration with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).

In NYC, the group visited schools that have done exceptional work in proficiency-based learning and serving their diverse student bodies, particularly ELL students. Most of the schools were from the Internationals Network for Public Schools and the New York Performance Standards Consortium. There was variation among the schools, but they shared some key attributes: strong relationships between students and adults; high standards that students meet through challenging projects, portfolios, and presentations; a welcoming environment that values student voice and leadership; diverse students working together in un-tracked classes; and a commitment to “do what’s best for kids.”

The first morning, the group visited the Julia Richmond Complex, a large educational complex housing six different schools. Here, they split into three groups and toured the most innovative sites.

“I was really impressed with the schools at the Julia Richmond Complex. The students were so focused and working well. The atmosphere in this school was awesome. Teachers, principals, and ‘director’ were very open and took their time to explain and include us,” shared Winooski Middle/High School ELL teacher Inge White.

Winooski English teacher Brent Litterer reflected, “We can do what a school like Vanguard Academy does. We need to set up [clear] structures…and be clear on proficiencies at various levels.” Mr. Litterer has already had a formal discussion about the highlights of the trip with the humanities department at WMHS.

Winooski science teacher Shannon Bundy agrees with him. She said, “Implementing [proficiencies] is possible! With some dedication, elbow grease, and additional work…this is manageable for WHS. I saw the diversity of what schools were doing and feel that there was nothing there that we couldn’t do.”

“One question is how do we replicate this type of opportunity in Vermont given our small schools and districts,” said Frank Gerdeman of the Vermont Agency of Education, who shared about his experience on the trip with his department.

Lauren Curry, another trip participant and Executive Director of the Tarrant Foundation, observed, “Many of the things that were most impressive and most representative of the change we hope to achieve didn’t have dollar signs attached. The culture of these places shone above all else.”

For our schools and communities to have their best future, we need to learn, grow, and work together toward a common goal. The NYC site visit participants were able to come together as a community and learn, keeping an eye on what will work here in Winooski and Burlington.

Check out our facebook page for more photos of the trip.