Thursday, February 27, 2020 | Making The Grade BerkshireEagle.com | BenningtonBanner.com | ManchesterJournal.com | Reformer.com 40
â€˜Kaleidoscope Collective for Learningâ€™ aims to track creative approaches to learning in Mass. By Jenn Smith The Berkshire Eagle GREAT BARRINGTON, MASS. â€” Monument Valley Regional Middle School is on track to join a new statewide learning collaborative designed to help educators share lessons and find better ways to help their students succeed in all areas of life. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education named Monument Valley among the 22 schools and districts selected as finalists for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning pilot program, aimed at involving more students and teachers in â€œdeeper learning.â€? Monument Valley will represent the Berkshire Hills Regional School District and Berkshire County as the only school from this region in this cohort. â€œWe were thrilled that hundreds of schools and districts expressed interest, many of which completed
applications for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning,â€? state education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said in the December 2019 announcement of finalists. â€œThis reflects schoolsâ€™ and districtsâ€™ enthusiasm for deeper learning â€” learning that is interactive, relevant, collaborative, and coherently aligned to Massachusetts standards.â€? The finalists were selected because they â€œhave already begun innovative workâ€? involving deeper learning and submitted creative proposals for how to enhance that work. To become a part of the collective, finalists were required to attend a training and meeting, held in Marlborough on Dec. 10. They also have to convene community members to contribute ideas to the schoolâ€™s or districtâ€™s plan, and host a school visit with state officials in January. After attending the initial convening with colleagues, Monument Val-
ley Principal Ben Doren said he was â€œsuper impressed with itâ€? and with meeting Riley, Senior Associate Commissioner Komal Bhasin, who is leading the Kaleidoscope Collaborative, along with Associate Commissioner Tera Carr. The workshop included the commissioner leading an activity as an engaging example of how collaboration and critical thinking can take place in the classroom: he got grown-up participants to work under tables as if they were painting a mural on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. â€œI wasn't sure how serious Massachusetts was about deeper and proficiency-based learning, but now I understand how serious the state is about making this shift,â€? Doren said. He said his school already has a number of partnerships to help students take the material they are learning and apply their skills through various projects and programs. Last October, Monument Valley students participated in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Week program presented by the i2 Learning organization, during which fifth graders had to figure out the decline of some local animal populations around the fictional Loon Lake; sixth graders had to design colonies for life on the moon; seventh graders had to build kinetic sculptures; and eighth graders studied surgical techniques, and conducted simulated biopsies and suturing.
Deeper learning for equity's sake
Doren said partnerships like this, and with the Kaleidoscope Collective, help ensure that students of all abilities have access to interactive deeper learning opportunities. The school's data shows that students who match criteria for being high-needs, including kids who face socioeconomic disadvantages, weren't performing as well in school as their other peers. It's an issue that Doren says is endemic across the state and the country. â€œSince the mid-2000s, we've known that but we haven't shown much progress. The equity issue hasn't been solved. At the same time, there have been lots of changes in workplaces, in the economy and in the demands of the 21st century,â€? he said. Doren said deeper learning models have the potential to create
greater impact in classrooms. â€œFor example, by designing a lunar colony we can see whether a student is able to synthesize information, to empathize while working with others, and using standards they've learned as a base for the lesson. These are things, these are skills we want graduates to have,â€? he said. Berkshire Hills Regional School District Committee Chairman Stephen Bannon said he is happy to see that the district has been tapped for potential participation in the Kaleidoscope Collective. â€œI think our community and our families know we've always done a good job educating their children and any changes we make will be for the better,â€? Bannon said. â€œTimes have changed a lot during the last 20 to 30 years. Schools have to change, too.â€? Monument Valley gathered some feedback in January during parentteacher conferences, and education department officials met with the schoolâ€™s fifth-grade team and other school leaders and students. Doren said he looks forward to learning more about the collectiveâ€™s next steps this spring. Senior Associate Commissioner Komal Bhasin, a former public school principal in Lawrence, said that, to her, deeper learning has three key components: collaboration, creativity and critical thinking skills being taught in an authentic way. â€œThe point of our school visits is to understand and get feedback on what schools need, and to help make plans that are really customized to the needs of their school,â€? she said. Bhasin said that after successful school visits, selected participants will continue to be an active part of the Kaleidoscope Collective through June 2021, with educators and administrators meeting every two months or so for professional development and feedback opportunities for their school's or district's deeperlearning plan. At the state level, Bhasin said education officials are looking to create a database of proposals and lesson plans, and hold discussions on how to evaluate deeper learning. The state also is looking for programming and funding partnerships for the collective's work. If all goes well, the education department expects to request proposals and name a second cohort for fall 2021.
Look into the future of education in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont.