District Administration December2017 - 92

ProfessionalOpinion
An approach to letting
students drive learning
Schoolwide Enrichment Model requires educators to relinquish some control
By Blane McCann

G

iftedness is not just a test
score. How many students
have we seen who did not
have a test score to qualify for a gifted
program but became an expert in
an area of passion and interest? This
broader definition of giftedness is one
I learned from Joseph Renzulli, a longtime professor of educational psychology at the University of Connecticut. I
have worked in three school districts as
a building principal and superintendent,
collaborating with Renzulli to apply his
pioneering ideas about giftedness and
personalized learning.
Following passions
What if we could personalize learning
for all kids in all classrooms? Another of
Renzulli's principles-the Schoolwide
Enrichment Model (SEM)-serves as
an entry point for schools that want to
do just this. In an SEM cluster, students
drive their learning with the help of the
cluster facilitator. Additionally, teachers
do not create a lesson plan prior to the
cluster meeting but lead class discussions
to help students determine their own
learning paths.
I had identified five elements to personalize learning. They are:
* knowing your students
* voice and choice
* flexible groups, spaces, mindsets
* data-informed
* technology support
A teacher who knows their students'

DAmag.me/drive

92 December 2017

A teacher who knows
their students well can
allow for more voice and
choice because they
know their interests
and their capacities
to learn and work.
interests and capacities well can allow
for more voice and choice. Once students find their voices and make learning choices, a teacher becomes more
flexible. I had a teacher tell me she was
letting go of deadlines because students
wanted to submit their best work and
needed more time.
Data informs our work with individual students. This data is critical to map
out a learning pathway that is personalized based on student needs to extend
learning or to relearn content.
My district, Westside Community
Schools, is a 1-to-1 learning environment. Our teachers enhance learning
by using technology such as iPads and
laptops. We do this so our students can
create personalized content and use individualized applications while they work
at their own pace to master our standards
and benchmarks.
The results are definitely worth
the journey. At Westside Community
Schools, reading scores are improving
and fewer students need remediation.
Furthermore, our Gallup student and
staff engagement scores are on the rise,
demonstrating that people enjoy the

teaching and learning that takes place in
our classrooms.
Proven success
I have seen similar results each time I've
implemented these types of learning
approaches. Achievement gaps closed.
Student achievement increased. Students
could see the relevance in the subject
matter based on their interests. Most importantly, students' academic confidence
grew. SEM leveled the playing field.
Today, Westside has nine of 10 elementary schools and our middle school
implementing SEM. In addition, our
high school, with the help of a U.S. Department of Labor grant, is implementing a version of SEM through our Center for Advanced Professional Studies.
Students in the center participate in a
variety of meaningful, real-world learning opportunities, such as job shadows
and internships. One group of students
recently designed and built a circulation
desk using recycled materials from a historic district elementary school that was
recently torn down to make room for a
brand new building. One student became so engaged that he will now pursue
a major in architecture at the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln. His excitement
and engagement is off the charts, thanks
to his involvement in this project.
With the emphasis on personalizing
learning for every student, SEM is a perfect entry to helping staff feel comfortable relinquishing classroom control and
begin to trust their students. DA
Blane McCann is the superintendent of
Westside Community Schools in Omaha,
Nebraska.
District Administration


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration December2017

District Administration December2017 - Cover1
District Administration December2017 - Cover2
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District Administration December2017 - Cover3
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