“The KCS vision for a new type of high school in Toronto is remarkable on three fronts: it is in demand; it will serve the needs of an entire population of forward-thinking families and students; and the incredible depth of study and research that is going into the design, based on what leading schools all over North America are doing…” – Grant Lichtman
Our fundamentals were established. Our vision document was clear. In January 2017, a Task Force of 40 parents, past parents, board members, and staff set out to research how these two things were being realized in leading schools all over North America. Many hours and 100 pages of research later, the group convened to build a prototype.
What would the student experience be exactly?
What timetable framework would enable our vision?
How would learning partners help enrich student learning?
How would the facility be designed to encourage deep learning?
How would assessment practices support optimal learning?
On June 15, 2018, we identified the features of the KCS Senior School model. While our full output was too long for this blog, here were some we intended to embrace:
- Deep, relevant projects
- Regular engagement with external experts
- Community-based experiential learning
- Student-driven learning (including passion-driven learning)
- Relationships (Collaborative projects, Advisory, open as community hub in off hours)
- Math and French courses all year for optimal learning
- Other courses semestered or trimestered
- Longer periods for most courses
- A protected time block when students are tasked with self-directed projects and learning experiences
- A quality Learning Management System for every course so students can easily access course-related learning when and as much as needed
Partners in the System
- Identify the different roles learning partners can play, from one-off engagement to co-op placements
- Build a large roster of willing partners from within and outside the KCS community
- Identify an online tool that will facilitate and help manage student/teacher/partner engagement
- Assign an administrative role to provide oversight and support
- Engage students in the identification, selection, onboarding, and design of the student/partner experience
- Quality space for learning of all kinds for students, teachers, and learning partners
- Lots of room to display student work and to support entrepreneurship (products for sale)
- Places to build community, enjoy a snack or meal, hold assemblies, give presentations
- Fitness room and easy access to outdoor space for nature and physical activity
- Makerspace, art, and recording studios
- Leverage e-portfolios to capture learning journey and growth
- Authentic assessment via performance tasks
- Assessment of competencies in addition to knowledge and skills
- Ongoing student reflection
- Traditional assessments where worthy
We left the prototyping exercise in agreement, knowing our work wasn’t done but that our progress was palpable. The next step was to put our thoughts in front of others. What did they think? Ever serious in our efforts, that was a task that merits its own update.