A Modern Learning Story
Springville-Griffith Institute - "Change School" in Action
~ by Linda Ashida
“To everybody involved with working with our kids, you have the permission to try new things, and you have the protection from this board of education to do those things; and, you can take that risk and we will have your back.”
~Allison Duwe, School Board President
Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District is on an exciting journey to becoming a community of Modern Learning! Join us for a glimpse of their story!
Travel 25 miles south of Buffalo, New York, and these are the kinds of scenes you are bound to encounter in Springville-Griffith Institute Central School District (SGI) - a public school community that serves about 1800 students in a high school, a middle school, and two elementary schools. Across SGI, it is becoming more and more common to see students extending their learning from the classroom to the community, designing their own learning experiences, and collaborating with learners of all ages, including adults.
Community of Modern Learning
So what makes these scenes of Modern Learning possible? It starts with inspired leadership.
A few years ago when Kimberly Moritz began her role as Superintendent at SGI, she was looking forward to new opportunities to learn and lead in a district that was less-focused on traditional measures of learning - including standardized tests – than other districts she had previously served in. Kimberly was eager to partner with the community in their commitment to doing what is best for all learners in the context of a changing world. She envisioned creating a coalition of stakeholders to explore possibilities, and to lead change that would be sustained long beyond any one individual’s tenure there.
To support her own learning goals, and in an effort to align her beliefs with the educational beliefs of the Springville-Griffith community, Kimberly joined Change School 2 in the Summer of 2017. At the end of the 8-week cohort she was equipped with her Change School Playbook - filled with ideas for what Modern Learning could look like at SGI – and she was ready to take action!
But to really drive change, Kimberly was keenly aware that it would be important to first build capacity. She wanted other school and community members to have the same kind of learning experience - grounded in the 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning – that she had enjoyed in Change School. And with her encouragement and support, they did! With representation in subsequent Change School cohorts from the School Board, the administrative team, and certified staff, the result has been a uniquely-strong team approach to becoming a community of Modern Learning.
Poised for Change
In the video ”Rethinking Schools at SGI,” voices from students, parents, teachers, administrators, and the school board, reveal just how ready they are to reimagine what learning should look like and feel like in their community.
Big Picture Change
The Change School alumni at Springville-Griffith Institute will tell you that their most important endeavor this year has been the work of the Guiding Coalition. Formed a year ago, this team of 20+ administrators, teachers, students, parents, and board of education members, meets monthly. Their goal by year’s end is to articulate their beliefs about learning, along with their mission and vision for the students of SGI. The group is intent, as Kim says, “to articulate in simple statements what we are talking about when we are talking about change.” As Modern Learners, the coalition understands that having a clear mission and vision––a “North Star” that will drive every decision they make and everything they do for their students––is the most critical first step to drive and sustain system-wide change.
As the work of the Guiding Coalition progresses, an important goal of the SGI Leadership Team is to listen carefully to the community.
In order to encourage ongoing and broad participation from as many voices as possible, the group invites both students and adults from across the community to participate in Thought Exchanges over the course of the school year. Kim describes the Thought Exchanges in her blog, one of many tools she uses as a means to inform, foster transparency, and encourage open communication. In her post, “SGI-Please Share Your Thoughts,” she writes:
It’s a simple three step process. We ask a question, you share your thoughts, and you rate the thoughts of others. Please watch this video and respond by telling us what you think.
Afterwards, it’s important to go back into the exchange and rate the thoughts of others. In this way, we can get a sense of what’s most important to everyone in our school community.
A Year of Collaboration
An important step in the Thought Exchanges is not simply to offer one’s own input, but to read and respond to the input of others. In that way, with the support of the entire community, the Guiding Coalition can best determine priorities, address the most pressing questions and concerns, and establish the best path forward.
After a year of collaboration - and gathering and analyzing input from the community - the Guiding Coalition has completed a final draft of their belief statements that will serve as a foundation for crafting their mission and vision statements.
- We believe there is innate curiosity in everyone, that produces unique paths to learning.
- We believe in empowering learners to use resources beyond the walls of our schools to engage in real world problem solving.
- We believe in learning together to discover, design, create and play.
- We believe in a culture that values risk taking and growth: where research, feedback, steady practice and progress over time foster constant improvement.
- We are actively engaged in discovering, designing and contributing to an ever-changing world.
- We provide a challenging but supportive educational experience.