June 1, 2016
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on We Don’t Give Grades

We Don’t Give Grades

church-report-card-imageStudents in our Social Entrepreneurial program don’t receive grades for their work. There are several reasons for this.

First, grades do not reflect a student’s real learning; instead, they reflect the student’s ability to comply with their teacher’s expectations and to fit into a spectrum of their peers. At LiHigh School, we only expect a student to move forward with their learning: to improve on their current skills, to develop new ones, and to master strategies for overcoming internal and external obstacles. Just because a student is thirteen years old doesn’t mean she needs to have the same skills or knowledge as other thirteen year olds. She may have trauma in her past; she may not have enough to eat each day; she may have focused on developing as a cartoonist rather than a mathematician — with all of her differences, why should she be graded on the same scale as someone else?

Second, grades rarely take into account a student’s growth over the course of a quarter, basing itself on the final product or suite of products. I had a student who began a seminar on U.S. government with almost zero knowledge, much less than I had assumed for the base knowledge to begin the class, which meant that he was unable to succeed on many of the early assignments; his final project was also much more shallow than those of his peers. If I had to give him a straight up letter grade, he may have just cracked a C. But the growth he demonstrated from the start of the course revealed significant learning that he ought to have been proud of, learning that wouldn’t be captured by that “C.”

Third, the process of grading often prevents teachers from focusing on the actual teaching, stealing precious hours away from our prep time. I teach a lot of seminars in the humanities — philosophy, theology, history, creative writing, law, etc. In a traditional school, I’d probably spend a majority of my time developing quizzes to ensure students were doing the readings, grading papers using a point-based rubric, and tracking all kinds of numbers in a spreadsheet (not to mention uploading those grades onto a website where parents could track their student’s progress). But because we don’t have grades at LiHigh, teachers instead spend our time developing lesson plans that will bring the students into a subject in a smooth and engaging manner; we also have time to figure out strategies that will individualize the lesson for each of the students in the class.

The fourth reason we don’t give grades in the Social Entrepreneurial program is because grades prevent students from developing a sense of intrinsic motivation. Every year, our newer students are always asking us, “Can I get credit for doing X?” or “Will this count for Y?” I love these kinds of questions, because it gives me the chance to remind them, “We don’t do credits here.” We don’t ask our students to complete their assignments in order to earn a checkmark in some book. Instead, we ask them to be honest with themselves, and if they think something is important for them to learn, to then commit themselves fully to learning it. “Can I get credit for doing X?” Who cares? How about, “Why do you think doing X is important?”

Now, to be clear, just because we don’t give grades doesn’t mean we don’t assess our students. They are assessed on a daily, weekly, quarterly, and yearly basis. But they’re assessed for who they are and what they’re doing. They’re assessed for how they persevere when they face obstacles, for how they improve from where they are, for how they’re being honest and open with themselves, and for how committed they are to developing a true sense of passion.

Those assessments come in the form of conversations and stories. They come from portfolio reviews and long letters home to parents/guardians. They come from public demonstrations with audience feedback. They come from placing student products next to real-world examples of similar works and trying to figure out if and how they differ.

But none of that takes the form of a grade.

And that is just one of the reasons why I love teaching here.

May 11, 2016
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on Student Journal: Lewis Deane Nature Preserve

Student Journal: Lewis Deane Nature Preserve

The following was written by two students, Ariella and Colleen, for their Backpacking class.

The Lewis Deane Nature Preserve is an 85-acre piece of land overlooking Lake St. Catherine in Poultney, Vermont. It was donated to Green Mountain College by Bill and Linda Osborne in 2002. The preserve was named after Bill’s godfather, Lewis Deane, who gifted the land to his godson. The purpose of the preserve is to provide opportunities for education, research, and outdoor experience to students and the community.

Atop the Dean Nature Preserve

Atop the Dean Nature Preserve

On April 8th, LiHigh School students and advisors went for our first hike of the year on the preserve. We went to the ridge line on St. Catherine Mountain, an easy uphill hike with a few rocky sections on the trail. Besides witnessing a breathtaking view of the lake, the hike provided an opportunity for our backpacking class to put their skills to the test.

The weather on April 8th in Poultney, Vermont was snowy, cold, and slightly windy. Students and staff had to dress appropriately for the weather. This meant layering up in lightweight, warm clothing. It never hurts to have too many layers, which you can always remove if you become overheated.

Having appropriate footwear was also a necessity. While the day was cold and snowy, the past few days had been warm, which caused the ground to thaw and the trails on the preserve to become muddy and thus slippery. There were a couple of wet feet due to being unprepared. Thankfully since this was a short hike, this was just uncomfortable; over a longer time or in harsher weather, being unprepared could result in hypothermia or frostbite.

Hypothermia is a condition where the body temperature drops dangerously below the normal range (below 95°F).  If someone becomes hypothermic, it is important that they are moved indoors or somewhere warm as soon as possible. Once the person is in a warm environment, remove any wet clothing and dry them. Wrap them in warm blankets, towels, coats, sleeping bags, or anything that is available. It is important to protect their head and torso first. Use warm water bottles wrapped in towels (so they don’t come in direct contact with the skin) or other heated objects to gradually heat the hypothermic person up. Ensure that they are heated gradually so that heart arrhythmia doesn’t occur. If there is no other heat source, another person (preferably naked to provide as much skin to skin contact as possible) can provide warmth to the person suffering from hypothermia. This should be a last resort as it is not the most effective way of treating hypothermia. The healthy person would be much more useful building a fire, making sure no one else is suffering from hypothermia, and attending to other tasks.

Frostbite is a condition where blood vessels and the surrounding tissues freeze. Frostnip is a superficial cooling of tissues that does not involve cellular destruction. Frostnip can be treated by submerging the cold tissues in water that is approximately 105°F and no more than 108°F. People with frostbite can prevent further damage to their body by following the same heating procedure but should receive medical attention as soon as possible and no more than 2-3 hours after the frostbite occurs. In severe cases of frostbite, parts of the body may have to be amputated.

The weather on Friday provided the ideal situation for the backpacking class to put their basic survival skills to the test. The students created an emergency shelter. The spot we ended up in was a grove (which offered some protection from the wind) that was downhill from, but not out of sight of, the ridgeline. We were equipped with an emergency blanket and had to craft a shelter that fit two people in it. We found a dead tree that had one end propped up on another tree. We used this as a support beam for our emergency shelter.  It is important to have the heat-reflective side of the blanket facing inward to preserve body heat.  We placed logs on the outside of the shelter to hold the sides down and filled the holes at the foot of the shelter with pine branches. We also collected pine branches to layer the floor of the shelter with.  This layer offers protection from the cold, wet ground. Ideally the barrier should be at least a foot off of the ground, for an emergency shelter a few inches should provide enough of a barrier. Our next step would have been to elongate our shelter by propping up branches to provide a better wind barrier. The result is a 5-10 minute shelter that will protect you from the weather.

In addition to building an emergency shelter, the backpacking class started a small campfire.  The only resources we were provided were three “strike anywhere” matches. Unluckily, everything on top of the mountain was wet due to recent precipitation. Fortunately there were resources on the mountain that we could use to build a decent fire. We found a limited amount of semi-dry dead grass, white birch bark, some dead branches that had been sheltered by the forest, and some dry pine needles.  

To start we built a nest out of the grass and filled it with bits of birch bark (which is highly flammable and water resistant). Once we had lit the nest, we fed the fire with more bark and pine needles.  As soon as the fire was big enough, we fed the flame with twigs and branches. We should have made a teepee out of small branches over the nest and built our fire up from there, but with many eager hands attending to the fire we ended up making a few mistakes. One of which was not building the fire the correct way. Another was making trails of tinder leading away from the fire.  We were lucky everything was wet because otherwise we could have started a forest fire.

The biggest takeaway from the hike was knowledge of basic survival skills. If you are stuck or lost in the woods, having these skills could save your life. Knowing how to dress, to create a basic shelter, and build a fire would keep you from losing your life.  Knowing how to build a fire could also be beneficial when it come to purifying water and cooking food, which could be needed skills if you are stuck in the woods for a long period of time. Having this knowledge is important when you go into the woods and will be useful during future hikes and backpacking trips.

March 10, 2016
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on What School Congress Has Done So Far

What School Congress Has Done So Far

constitution-preamble-gavelAs you probably know, LiHigh School operates using a School Congress, where every member of our community, both students and staff, has an equal voice and an equal vote when it comes to proposing and enacting the laws of the school. In addition, a rotating group of students, advised by a staff member, make up the Judicial Committee, which is in charge of enforcing the laws of the school (i.e., instead of “getting sent to the office,” students at LiHigh School are reported to their peers on the Judicial Committee).

For this post, I thought I’d share some of the highlights of what School Congress has enacted so far this school year:

  • An amendment to Law 502, so that it now reads, “The judicial committee will consist of four members: one from each phase, plus a non-voting staff member to advise. The term for each member shall last for one quarter. The committee shall meet at least once every other week to determine which (if any) offenses to pursue, though if circumstances warrant it, the committee may convene for an emergency session.”
  • The creation of Law 609, which details what members must do to complete an independent project; specifically, that they must give an exhibition — “real demonstrations of learning” — in front of a panel, whom will be responsible for assessing whether the student has “passed”
  • The creation of Law 610, which requires members at the end of each quarter to “make a short presentation reflecting on their work for the quarter, highlighting their successes, discussing their challenges, setting their goals for the upcoming quarter, and discussing how they align with their learning plan.”
  • The creation of Law 320, which regulates use of the sole couch in the school by prioritizing members who are reading books or articles over members who are browsing Facebook, watching videos, or simply hanging out
  • The creation of Law 410, which gives Congress the power to create committees, as well as the makeup of power within those committees
  • The creation of Law 321, which enacts the “Dibs” rule and establishes that the member who calls “Dibs” on a chair has the right to control that chair until the end of the block
  • The creation of Law 411 and Law 412, which require Congress to hold semi-annual meetings to review, first, the school’s general compliance with the Lawbook, and second, the current Phase Level Expectations and to make suggestions for improvements if warranted.
  • The creation of Law 413, which details the duties of the Congress’s secretary
  • The repeal of Law 503, which had dictated the time and place of Congress’s weekly meeting but did so using an outdated schedule
  • The creation of Law 414, which reserves the right of Congress to regulate the use of devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) within the school
  • The creation of Law 513, which details what happens when a student does not comply with the Judicial Committee, assigning the issue to the whole Congress to address
  • The creation of Law 611, which gives leaders of seminars, workshops, and presentations the power to regulate the use of devices during the seminar, workshop, or presentation, including the power to determine whether a device is properly “put away”
  • The creation of Law 322, which forbids members from putting their “shoes, socks, feet, or whole bodies” on the various tables in the school

As you can see, the Congress addresses a number of areas at LiHigh, not just behavioral issues, but also judicial issues, congressional issues, and in matters of curriculum design. The power that we give our students over their entire education is just one more reason why LiHigh School offers a truly unique educational experience for the teenagers of central and southern Vermont.

And in case you didn’t know, we are accepting applications for students interested in joining us, including students who are interested in finishing out their 2015-2016 school year here at LiHigh.

You can call us at (802) 287-2411 or email our director, Greg Rosenthal, if you have any questions about getting started.

February 4, 2016
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on On Smartphones: A Statement from our Students

On Smartphones: A Statement from our Students

As you may know, the LiHigh School Social-Entrepreneurial program is a democratically run program, which means that we don’t make any rules or major decisions without the students and staff members receiving an equal opportunity to discuss and vote on any proposals. If the students don’t support a proposal, then it doesn’t pass.

One issue that has come up again and again before the Congress has been the use of smartphones and tablets at the school. Just like almost every other school (and workplace) in the country, we’ve struggled to take advantage of everything smartphones have to offer without suffering from their negative side effects. And just like almost every other school (and workplace) in the country, we’ve been less than successful.

But yesterday, during our bi-weekly School Congress meeting, after several months of conversation, the students passed the following resolution:

The members of LiHigh School recognize the addictive and compulsive behaviors engendered by smartphones. With Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, we recognize that, by design, the smartphone creates “an environment of almost constant interruptions and distractions…and that the smartphone, more than any other gadget, steals from us the opportunity to maintain our attention, to engage in contemplation and reflection, or even to be alone with our thoughts.” We refuse to allow our passions to be held captive to these devices, and this Congress reserves the right to regulate them in our community.

In a school such as ours, where students are encouraged to discover their interests and chase their passions, smartphones have become a real scourge. Their attention-beckoning notifications prevent us from thinking deeply about who we are and what we want to do, and their procrastinator’s hoard of distractions stem our creative juices before they get a chance to truly flow.

But with this resolution, the students have declared that they will not “be held captive” by these devices, and they’ve affirmed their right to regulate their usage.

The Congress followed their resolution by passing two related proposals:

  • In a scheduled seminar, presentation, or meeting, members shall comply with a leader’s request to put their devices — smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. — in a location where the device’s alerts and notifications will not serve as a distraction from the matter at hand. The leader, who can be a staff member or student, depending on the situation, shall have final say as to whether a device is properly “put away.”
  • On Friday, February 5, 2016, members of the Social Entrepreneurial program — students and staff — shall go one full day without access to their devices. Members may use desktop or laptop computers, but they may not use their smartphones or tablets, except in the case of an emergency.

We haven’t solved every issue with these devices, but by working together — students and staff in one democratic community — we hope to succeed where so many other schools (and workplaces) have failed.

Because it can’t be about taking devices away from the students, and it can’t be about a top-down authority imposing its will over a bunch of kids. That won’t work, and it doesn’t teach them anything but a method for getting around the rules.

If we’re to successfully solve the problem of smartphones in education, it can only be about the students reaffirming the control they have over their own lives. It’s not about taking smartphones away; it’s about empowering them to give them up willingly themselves.

That’s the only way this problem can be solved.

October 19, 2015
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on Week of Oct. 19th-23rd in the Social Entrepreneurial Program

Week of Oct. 19th-23rd in the Social Entrepreneurial Program

This is what’s on the docket this week for the LiHigh School Social Entrepreneurial Program:

Rock of Ages Granite Quarry

Tuesday, Oct. 20:
We’ll take a long ride to Barre to visit the Rock of Ages Granite Quarry It’s almost a two hour ride, so we may be a little late returning home. I’ll send a mass email when we leave Barre so you’ll know when to expect us. Students should pack their own lunches for the day.

Wednesday, Oct 21:
After our afternoon seminar ends at 1:45pm, Stuart, Cedric, Giulia, and Kyle will drive the students down to Merck Forest in Rupert for our first camping trip of the year. We’ll hike our sleeping bags, food, and water 1.9 miles to a secluded valley on Old Town Road, where we’e rented a cabin alongside the White Creek. The cabin is a retired sugarhouse. It sleeps 15 people, and there is also space for two tents nearby (if anyone prefers to sleep in a tent).

Our cabin at Merck Forest

The low for the night is being forecast for a relatively balmy 48°, but there’s also a 30% chance of rain in the afternoon and evening, so students should bring rain gear just in case. Thankfully, we’ll be sleeping inside. Every student will need their own sleeping bag, and if they have it, a sleeping pad to make the wooden bunks just a tad softer. We’ll send a permission slip home today, so make sure it gets signed and brought back to us tomorrow please!

Thursday, Oct 22:
We’ll return from Merck sometime before noon on Thursday and close out the day normally.

Friday, Oct 23:
School will be closed for staff inservice.

Have a great week everybody!

October 5, 2015
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on This Week in the Social Entrepreneurial program

This Week in the Social Entrepreneurial program

National Mental Health Awareness Week
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so both Stuart’s and Kyle’s advisories will be focusing on issues of mental health during our first block all week. Both advisories will look at Mental Heath by the Numbers, but then the advisories will diverge, with Stuart’s advisory concentrating on how lifestyle choices can positively or negatively influence mental health and Kyle’s advisory exploring a variety of specific conditions. Each advisory will then do a presentation on Friday that teaches the other advisory what it learned over the course of the week. In celebration of National Mental Health Day, school will also be closed on Monday, October 12th.

New Seminars Start This Week
With Public Speaking coming to a close, we’ll start two new seminars this afternoon. The first, Cultural Studies, will be led by a Green Mountain College student-teacher named Meesuka (assisted by Stuart), who will introduce the students to her native culture of Haiti and expose them to a variety of other cultures through visits to the members of Green Mountain College’s “International Club.” Students will also explore a culture of their own choice.

The second seminar, Collecting Stories, will be led by Kyle, who will guide the students’ development of their listening, speaking, and writing skills through the ancient art of storytelling. Students will interview family, friends, and strangers to collect meaningful stories, then share them in a written or spoken form with the rest of the class.

Tuesday: Apple Picking at Hick’s Orchard for Phase 1 Students
Starting this week, our staff member Giulia will be scheduling enrichment activities for our Phase 1 students, who (because of their age) may find it difficult to acquire an internship. For their first activity, Giulia will take the students apple picking at Hick’s Orchard in Granville on Tuesday. It should be a beautiful day, with a high of 68°!

Wednesday: Kyle Will Be Absent for Most of the Day
While Kyle will be here for the advisory block in the morning, he’ll be leaving at 10am for the rest of the day. One of our staff members, Casey, who works with Kyle’s advisory, will be around to pick up the slack during guided work time, and students in Kyle’s Mythology and Collecting Stories classes will have assignments to work on independently.

Thursday: School Field Trip to Middlebury
Also starting this week, staff member Nicole Graves has begun scheduling shadow days for both individual students and for the whole school. On Thursday, while one of our students is completing a shadow day at the Old Castle Theatre in Bennington, the rest of us will travel to Middlebury to meet with the owner of Vermont Soap Company, followed by a guided tour and visit to the production floor of Woodchuck Cider (don’t worry: the students won’t be trying any samples!).

Learning Plan Meetings
If you haven’t scheduled a day and time to meet with your student’s advisor this week to discuss your student’s learning plan, please do so ASAP.

Have a good week, everyone!

September 1, 2015
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on The World of the Quest

The World of the Quest

This month, as part of our Who Am I? term, the students in our Social Entrepreneurial program will be participating in a live-action role-playing game, where they will build fantasy-based characters, create scenarios and challenges for those characters, and then act them out using improvisational and problem-solving skills.

Today, the students used the world-building game, Microscope, to detail the scope of the fantasy world they’ll be role-playing in. The final story they told using Microscope isn’t the exact story they’ll be playing, but it does provide the baseline for the world their scenarios will exist in.

The following story was created by the group as a whole, with each student taking a turn to add some element to the overall story. No one contributed more than anyone else, making this a true team-created story.

icevolcano_fulleAt some point in time, near the island village of Kanye, a giant volcano erupted, sending a strange darkness into the sky. As the darkness crept toward the village of Kanye, it came into contact with a dog, which then turned into a rabid monster-like dog. That dog then attacked its owner, a small boy, who tried to fight it off, but failed. Instead of being killed though, the boy turned into a corrupted, monstrous version of himself, becoming the first of ” the corrupted.”

As the darkness spread, most of the villagers of Kanye became corrupted, turning into goblins and orcs. There was one homeless peasant boy, Bailey, who was immune however, and he ran off and hid from the others. Trying to save themselves, the villagers threw their founder, Kanye, to the corrupted, hoping their sacrifice would save them. They were wrong.

Meanwhile, while the volcano was erupting, thirteen different cave-dwelling creatures around the globe “changed” into magical versions of themselves during an event known as “The Changing.”

All of this led to “The Mass Destruction,” as the darkness encircled the globe, corrupting everyone and everything it touched…except for one person, a girl named Mallorica, who fell into a hole and discovered a magical stone, The Ward, which rendered her invisible to the corrupted. She kept the ward secret, sharing it with family members, but that is all.

The corruption continued to destroy everything. It even turned the plants, trees, and flower into evil, monstrous versions of themselves that would attack anyone who happened by.

The uncorrupted tried to rally themselves, and a prince arose to lead them, Prince Werner, but during one of the battles, the prince was slain on a giant rock. All of his blood puddled into an indent in the rock, and after the battle (which the uncorrupted won), the survivors burned his body on that rock. The ashes fused with the blood to create a brand new stone, but unlike the ward, this one was cursed: it evaporated all of the blood out of anyone who touched it, killing them instantly and getting stronger in the process.

Now began a period called “The Strengthening of the Magic.” The thirteen cave dwellers who had changed into magical creatures were all drawn to a beautiful, crystal cave, where their magic increased 13-fold. Bailey, the homeless immune boy from Kanye, discovered a race of gnomes living peacefully away from the corrupted and became their leader. During this period, Mallorica discovered a strange portal in the ground and fell into it, only to be deposited in the Realm of the 9 Hells, a fiery place where time speeds up. As she aged faster by the minute, she saw in the distance a golden rope, which when she touched it strengthened the magic of her ward. She passed out, and when she awoke, she was in the rubbles of the village of Kanye and years and years had passed.

Now begins “The Quieting of the Darkness,” when the uncorrupted creatures discovered that they could calm the dark cloud corrupting everybody by periodically sacrificing girls in the volcano. Hearing of this, Mallorica uses the ward to make herself invisible, and she climbs to the top of the volcano, where she gives the ward to the other girls to help them escape and sacrifices herself instead.

This leads to “The Dark & Dead Silence,” when all of the surviving creatures are stagnant in their various refuges around the globe, afraid to travel because of the corrupted animals, humans, and flora that still lurk out in the wild places of the world. During this period, the inhabitants of the village of Protecton, a small village that surrounded a giant Redwood-like tree, decided to allow themselves to die off rather than begin inbreeding, but then one of their members, a man named Giuseppe, decided to take a small band of adventurers and blaze a path through the corrupted forest to see if they can reach the nearest village over a dozen miles away. No one knows what became of them.

Somehow (and we don’t know how), the uncorrupted survivors finally discover the cure to the darkness, sending the poison cloud away forever and freeing all of the corrupted creatures and flora from the imprisonment of their cursed existence. Thus begins and ends the time of “The Liberation.”

And that is the world in which our quests will take place. The quests may take place during the First Darkness, or during the Dark & Dead Silence, or during any of the other periods, but it will take place sometime between the eruption of the volcano and the Liberation. So as the students begin to develop their characters, they’ll need to think of how those characters lived during all of that, how they experienced “the darkness,” and how they survive from being corrupted by it.

August 20, 2015
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on Strengthening our Advisories

Strengthening our Advisories

Strengthening the Heart of LiHigh School

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

As a school that gives students direct control over their time, one of the challenges we face is creating and maintaining a culture where learning is the order of the day. Students should be free to work on whatever interests them, but they should also remember to work. To reinforce this idea, we’ve made some changes this year to strengthen the heart of our school: the advisory.

Following our pick-me-up session in the morning, students will start their days meeting with their advisory, which includes only those students who share the same advisor. Each advisor has the latitude to direct their 60-minute advisory blocks as they see fit, but generally speaking, this will be a time to build and organize portfolios, critique peer and professional work, improve basic knowledge of vocabulary and math facts, develop general productivity skills, perform community service, explore different learning styles, discuss current events, investigate interesting problems, take short field trips, find and contact mentors, and more.

The advisory block will be followed by 75 minutes of guided work time, during which the students will remain with their advisory and receive guidance on their independent projects, complete homework for their seminars and workshops, and receive support for their internships.

While we remain a school in which students can choose what to do with their time, our push for stronger advisories reinforces the notion that the range of choices available to students remains within the context of learning. Because as it says in the preamble to the laws passed by the students and staff during School Congress last year, at LiHigh School, “learning is the order of the day.”

August 19, 2015
by Kyle Callahan
Comments Off on The Biggest Change of 2015-2016

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.