Vergennes Union High School is dramatically changing the way it's educating kids.
"What happens with this is that time is the variable and learning is the constant," said Kristine Kirkaldy of Vergennes Union High School.
This fall's freshman class is piloting new performance-based graduation requirements-- shifting the focus for earning a diploma from a traditional report card and hours logged in a classroom to one that includes a 4-year, cross-curriculum portfolio.
"You will have a portfolio into which you have placed pieces of evidence showing your growth and learning in the various areas that were asking," Kirkaldy said.
Teachers leading the effort say students will now be able to use things like part-time jobs, internships and experiences in the arts outside the classroom to demonstrate academic skills in core subjects like English, math and science. The goal is to give kids tools that better reflect 21st century needs.
"We really want students to be able to demonstrate learning in a variety of different ways over a variety of different expectations," said Matt Deblois of Vergennes Union High School.
The new model has been seven years in the making. It's designed to focus on real-world skills and tap into students' desires for hands-on, interactive opportunities, emphasizing technology, choice and creativity.
"I think we are doing the opposite of watering down our education system because we are still requiring students to maintain the traditional Carnegie units that we require which are on top of the state mandates and to do performance-based graduation requirements," Deblois said.
The 96 freshmen in the class of 2016 have all been briefed on the changes, and they'll work with advisors over the next four years to piece together their portfolios with an eye on graduation.
"It's about learning how to learn," Kirkaldy said. "The better you are at it, the better you are able to acquire the skills such as critical thinking, reasoning, problem-solving."
Teachers are still hammering out details on what will be accepted as part of a student's portfolio. Seniors will need to defend their work in front of teachers and administrators for approval prior to earning a diploma.
Vergennes Union High School is using hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to launch the program. Similar efforts are also being tested in South Burlington and Rochester.
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