CMSD to redesign 13 K-8 schools
CMSD NEWS BUREAU
With a variety of high-quality, innovative high school models in place across the city, CMSD’s team of academic specialists is turning its attention to K-8 schools, and they are doing so with the help of families and community stakeholders
Thirteen of the District’s K-8 schools are set to be redesigned in ways that will transform school culture, modernize education and prepare students to succeed in high school and beyond. This initiative is part of The Cleveland Plan’s promise to transform public education and grow the number of excellent schools in Cleveland.
The District will use the same design principles at William Rainey Harper School, which will open in a new building in the Old Brooklyn community in August. The school will start as a PreK-3 and one grade will be added each year.
For the past year, teams made up of District administrators, teachers, parents and community members have been crafting a new vision for their schools and neighborhoods. Unlike traditional school turnaround projects that tend to be top-down and compliance-driven, this school reform effort engages the school teams in the school redesign.
CMSD Executive Director of Portfolio Engagement Angee Shaker says the process has been empowering and reinvigorating for educators, who are in the driver's seat during the planning.
"Our principals and teachers are exploring and choosing among research-based, proven instructional models that are engaging and meaningful for students,” Shaker said. “There will always be a need for direct teaching, but overusing this or any one instructional approach causes students to tune out. We know we can accomplish deeper levels of learning through multiple, interactive learning approaches that build on student strengths and passions.”
To do this, each school’s redesign team chose from three different learning models to guide their work:
- Inquiry-based learning: Students explore content by posing, investigating and answering questions. They are then able to present their findings in a credible and persuasive manner (Anton Grdina, Case, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fullerton, H. Barbara Booker, Mound, Oliver H. Perry, Sunbeam and William Rainey Harper)
- Youth leadership development: Students are prepared to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through activities and experiences that develop social, ethical, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies. Teachers and students measure and track progress toward self-identified student achievement goals and schoolwide goal achievement. (Alfred A. Benesch, Robert H. Jamison and Waverly)
- Personalized learning using technology: This involves flexible, self-directed learning where teachers use project-based or competency-based learning paths to boost student achievement (Charles W. Eliot, Luis Munoz Marin)
The schools are getting a similar treatment to some of the District high schools that were redesigned in the past several years -- minus the focus on specific career pathways. Like the new and redesigned high schools, the K-8 design plan emphasizes positive youth development, community connections and a culture that is embodied in all aspects of the school.
Joseph Micheller, CMSD’s executive director of new school development, worked on both the high school and K-8 planning. He said the redesign initiative is about helping students in preschool through eighth grade to gain life skills such as teamwork, inquiry and problem solving that will help them to transition seamlessly into one of CMSD’s high schools.
“We want good schools with good teaching and learning based on contemporary standards to prepare our kids for those ninth-grade choices,” Micheller said.
He also said that new research on the importance of social and emotional learning -- teaching students to manage their emotions, make responsible decisions and form healthy relationships -- calls for a second look at how traditional public schools operate.
“In today’s world, you cannot separate social and emotional learning from academic learning,” Micheller said. “The new designs each take on a model that looks at the child as a whole."
The schools will implement their new framework over a four-year period that will include extensive professional development for the teaching staff, adjustment of policies and procedures and forging connections with community agencies.
Nearly half the schools on the list are set to move into brand-new buildings amid this transformation, which Shaker says will complement the introduction of a new philosophy. Construction is under way on new buildings for Charles W. Eliot, Fullerton, H. Barbara Booker, Oliver H. Perry, Sunbeam and Waverly. Several of the other schools being redesigned will undergo renovation and facility updates.
The planning has been, from the start, a group effort. Each design team consists of the principal, two teachers, at least one parent and at least one community partner.
After the design teams chose their models, they traveled to cities, including Philadelphia, Rochester, Atlanta and New Orleans, to see schools that were successfully using their chosen model.
District administrators said an excellent example of the planning process was right here in Cleveland at Campus International K-8 School. That school opened in 2010 as a partnership between Cleveland State University and CMSD and recently moved to a new, state-of-the-art building on the CSU campus.
“Campus International started in this very same way, with a vision and a mission,” said CMSD Chief Portfolio Officer Christine Fowler-Mack. "We later defined roles, built relationships and added partners, but at the heart of it was an exciting and clear vision of teaching and learning."
School teams began attending monthly design workshops last March to work alongside other teams and plan the upcoming changes. The teams also meet individually to work out details that are more specific to their schools.
At H. Barbara Booker School, Principal Nicholas Scheibelhood is making sure the voices of parents and caregivers are being heard.
“Our parents are very forthcoming about what they want for their children, and we listen to them,” he said.
One parent took an important role in a recent presentation at a design clinic. Afterward, she suggested that students also be part of the next presentation -- a suggestion that Schiebelhood plans to take.
H. Barbara Booker, which is working with the inquiry-based learning model, has formed a team that meets every two weeks. The team includes representatives from West Side Community House, which is the school’s wraparound agency, and Sherwin-Williams, which has been a valuable partner to the school.
As a large corporation based in Northeast Ohio, Sherwin-Williams gives the team a valuable perspective on skills that students can start developing in childhood and use to build a strong foundation for future careers.
“We’re preparing children for the workforce, and we need their perspective to successfully provide future companies with employable people who have employable skills,” Scheibelhood said.
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