Last month the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education named the Rumney Marsh Academy and Abraham Lincoln Elementary School in Revere as finalists for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning pilot program. The program is aimed at involving more students and teachers in ‘deeper learning’ in order to meet the job skill demands of the modern world and close achievement gaps in school districts across the state.
Schools focused on deeper learning, like the ones in Revere, help students develop academic and problem-solving skills that enhance their ability to communicate and work with others while developing skills that can prepare students for jobs of the future.
Last Monday a delegation from Kaleidoscope visited the Rumney Marsh Academy (RMA) and talked with teachers and students about the program.
“The RMA and Lincoln were selected as one of 22 schools for the Department of Education’s Deeper Learning initiative, which aims to develop alternative assessments to standardized testing,” said Revere School Superintendent Dianne Kelly. “The pilot program will encourage and enable students to apply their knowledge to real world experiences or circumstances throughout the course of the pilot.”
According to research, the fastest-growing job sectors are those that require problem-solving and critical thinking skills, while jobs that require routine manual skills are in decline. By 2020, two out of three jobs will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school. Consequently, high school graduates need to master challenging academic content and develop skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem-solving that they can apply to complex and new situations.
However, few of the nation’s students, and even fewer traditionally underserved students, demonstrate the college- and career-readiness skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly complex economy.
Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley said in too many cases he has seen the curriculum narrowed to focus on assessed subjects or shallow coverage of content in a rush to cover all standards before MCAS testing.
“(Teachers) also reported instances of too much time spent drilling students on tested skills, divorced from a cumulative, meaningful learning context,” said Riley. “The result is that often students are disengaged and unable to connect their daily lessons with their current or future lives.”
RHA and Lincoln School will join the inaugural Kaleidoscope cohort this year. The cohort will run from January 2020 to June 2021 and the two Revere schools will receive professional development on implementing deeper learning.
In the deeper learning model, expert teachers help students demonstrate fluency in a given academic area so that students can identify themselves as participants in and contributors to that academic area. This differs from traditional learning where a student simply learn a subject but may be unaware of how to apply that subject to real world situations. Being able to connect a subject to the world outside the classroom helps students shape their critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Riley said the two Revere schools were selected because they have already begun innovative work involving deeper learning and submitted creative proposals for how to enhance that work.
Riley added that deeper learning opportunities in Revere could help close achievement gaps and prepare students for a strong future.
“We were thrilled that hundreds of schools and districts expressed interest, many of which completed applications for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning,” said Riley. “This reflects schools’ and districts’ enthusiasm for deeper learning – learning that is interactive, relevant, collaborative, and coherently aligned to Massachusetts standards.”
Lessons learned from this pilot will inform efforts to bring deeper learning to more schools and districts in the future.
“We are excited to begin collaborating with our inaugural cohort in January to accelerate deeper learning statewide,” said Senior Associate Commissioner Komal Bhasin, who is leading the Kaleidoscope Collaborative for Learning.