What might it look like if we could group students based on their interests and learning strengths rather than just with their same age peers? This year the Sanborn Regional School District is partnering with the New Hampshire Department of Education and the New Hampshire Learning Initiative to develop a personalized educational pathway for students in grades K-2. The project called NG2: No Grades, No Grades, is one of the 12 projects in the nation sponsored by the Assessment for Learning Project supported by the Center for Innovation in Education. NG2 focuses on learning experiences for students that allows them to learn at the level that is most challenging and appropriate for them.
We already have half of NG2 in place. For the past seven years, Sanborn has been providing students with feedback and next steps for learning that goes beyond typical “letter” grades, hence the No Grades. This feedback is given to evaluate the expectations for all aspects of the work rather than just giving students a letter grade. The students then go back into their work to make changes and improve the product so that it meets competency. Student progress toward meeting those competencies is shared with parents through letters such as M for meeting or IP for in progress instead of arbitrary grading with A, B, or C.
The second half of NG2 involves the blurring of grade levels for students during the project. During the project, students will be able to work on tasks and use reading materials that are at their instructional level. For many of our students this will mean using materials and meeting expectations well above their current grade level in school. This project promotes self-direction in setting their own learning goals as they move seamlessly and independently through the unit activities. The goal of the unit is to provide students with the best learning pathway based on their knowledge, understanding and skills and to support student independence.
Sanborn’s NG2 project involves the design and assessments for a unit of study (2-3 weeks) that focuses on “The Community”. Students will be working on activities and a final project that address the competencies and standards in social studies, reading, writing, speaking, and research as students learn more about their community. Students will also focus on Work Study Practices: collaboration, communication, creativity, and self-direction.
During the project students will work with their own peers as well has with students of different ages. Teachers will be studying how students work within a multi-age environment, how technology impacts learning, and the types of structures and supports needed to support learners in a personalized learning environment. The district is grateful to have the support of these partners and the supportive resources to design personalized learning environments for students to address competency education.
Teachers involved in the project see the development of this unit as a first step in designing the foundations for personalized learning at the primary level. Amy MacDougall, a 1st grade teacher at Memorial School commented recently about NG2, “We are excited to delve deeper into personalized learning to meet our students at their skill level and provide more authentic opportunities for them to grow.” Amy’s comments echo the other teachers’ feelings about NG2. Our educators are focused on supporting our students as individual learners and in making sure they experience challenging and rewarding educational experiences at Sanborn.