The Biggest Change of 2015-2016

Changes AheadThe following relates specifically to a change in our Social Entrepreneurial program, but some of it applies across the board.

The fundamental part of being a progressive school is that you commit yourself to moving forward every single year, to never resting on your laurels or believing you’ve figured everything out. It’s in your very bones to question everything you’re doing and ask yourself, “Might there be a better way?”

That’s a question we ask ourselves every day, week, and month, but it’s a question that really begins to hit home come the summer time, when the classrooms are all quiet and we have the freedom to conduct long, meaningful, and necessarily messy conversations about what is we do here and how we can do it better.

Every year, we come out of these conversations with lots of ideas, and this summer was no exception, but without a doubt, the biggest change coming to the Social Entrepreneurial program this year started not during one of these summer conversations, but during a School Congress meeting in the Spring, when we essentially put the same question, “Might there be a better way?,” to our students, and as a community, the students and staff proposed and passed one heck of a new idea.

So, the biggest change to the 2015-2016 school year is that LiHigh School has abolished the concept of a grade level (i.e., 8th grade, 9th grade, 10th grade, etc.) and replaced it with the concept of the phase level.

At LiHigh School, we’ve designed a learning environment that has three specific goals:

  1. Meet students where they are;
  2. Give students the opportunity to learn at their own pace;
  3. Award diplomas to students who rigorously demonstrate that they are independent and mature learners.

To achieve these goals, our new system organizes a student’s educational journey into three phases:

  • Phase I: Guided Learners
  • Phase II: Negotiated Learners
  • Phase III: Independent Learners

Students in Phase I depend heavily upon the guidance of their advisors to create and complete the projects on their Learning Plan. These students probably don’t know what they’re passionate about, or aware of what really interests them in the world, or know what to do with that information if they do have it, which is why, throughout Phase I, their advisors will help them discover their strengths and challenges and learn to create interesting and authentic projects that are tied directly to who they are.

Students in Phase II have a stronger sense of who they are and what they want, but they may not know the best way to move forward. They work hand-in-hand with their advisors to develop projects and land professional internships in their fields of interest, while also increasing the depth and rigor of their accomplishments. The goal of students in Phase II is to develop the ability to take charge of their own lives.

Students in Phase III are on the cusp of adulthood. They know who they are, what they want, and how to get there. While their advisors and mentors are there to support them at every step of their journey,  students in Phase III lead from the front. Their goal is not to simply take charge, but to show that they can be successful when they do so.

Along with increasing the student’s sense of independence, the phase levels also increase the academic depth and rigor of their work in each of the five Learning Goals.

To progress from one phase to the next, students must pass through a gateway review, during which they must demonstrate success in each aspect of the phase they are hoping to graduate from. This is achieved through the development of a portfolio that speaks to the appropriate set of Phase Level Expectations; the creation and management of this portfolio makes up a large portion of the student’s one-on-on work with their advisor. Students who successfully complete their Phase III Gateway are deemed ready to accept a LiHigh School diploma.

For more information on the specific expectations accompanying each phase level, see the following:

With this new change, students no longer have to worry about “staying back.” Nor do they have to wait for September to roll around before they move from one phase to the next. They can move at a pace that works best for them and achieve their high school diploma at the exact time they’re ready for it, whether they’re 16 years old, 18 years old, or 20 years old.

By moving to Phase Levels, we better address our mission to provide highly individualized learning for all of our students, while also moving our school in a better, more progressive direction.

This is a pretty big change, and we couldn’t be more excited to share it with you.

Author: Kyle Callahan

Hi, I'm Kyle. I'm an advisor at LiHigh School. I've been involved in progressive education since I was in high school. I was an original member (and student representative) of the Progressive Program at Green Mountain College, and for my Master's degree, I attended Goddard College, which started the trend toward progressive education in the 1960s. Along with teaching at LiHigh School, I teach courses in creative writing and communications at Green Mountain College. I live with my wife and daughter in Poultney.

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