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Learner-Centered
Insights from 2019, and Intentions for 2020
by
Devin Vodicka
Devin Vodicka, Altitude Learning's Chief Impact Officer, reflects on learner-centered progress in 2019 and intentions for 2020.
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Insights from 2019, and Intentions for 2020
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The end of the 2019 calendar year provides an opportunity to pause, reflect, celebrate, and set intentions for 2020. As the Chief Impact Officer and Chief Academic Officer for Altitude Learning, I have had the privilege to connect with schools across many states and to interact with students, teachers, school leaders, families, and involved community members. 

From this perspective, I would like to offer the following insights:

  • The Movement Is Building Momentum: The learner-centered educational community continues to grow. We see this not only in our partnership network which has more than doubled from 21 schools in 2018 to 46 schools in 2019, but also when we look at information from the Christensen Institute’s Canopy Project and Education Reimagined’s learner-centered map. The Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools has grown to 114 forward-looking school districts, including Altitude Learning partners Arcadia Unified, Menlo Park City School District, El Segundo Unified, and Poway Unified School District. I believe that we are at the front edge of broader changes in education and the growing  number of schools and districts that are committed to shifting to student-centered learning is an encouraging sign that systemic transformation may happen soon. 
  • There’s an Emerging Consensus That Competency-Based Learning and SEL Are Imperative: We are gathering a growing body of evidence that reinforces the benefits of a learner-centered approach and central to this model is a competency-based system of assessment. We see tremendous promise with partners such as Odyssey STEM Academy in the Paramount Unified School District in California. They have elegantly demonstrated how engagement is supported by interdisciplinary competency milestones that include both academic and social-emotional learning outcomes. In addition, the growing number of schools involved with the Mastery Transcript Consortium is another indication of the increasing demand to shift the system. Finally, the presence of speakers such as Marc Brackett from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence at educational conferences like ASU-GSV is a sign of how social-emotional learning is moving from a supplemental concern to an essential, core component of learning models of the future. 
  • Educators Create What We Experience: We know that shifting to learner-centered practices requires a mindset shift as well as addressing and aligning systems to create the enabling conditions for change. The best way to accelerate that process is to ensure that school leaders and educators also have opportunities to be learners who experience learner-centered opportunities. The success of partners such as Logan County Schools in Kentucky are an example of the potential of our approach. The Learner Agency Academy in Arcadia Unified School District and Competency-Based Assessment Academy in Menlo Park City School District are also illustrating how a collaborative, iterative process builds capacity and sets a foundation for success. 
  • New Schools → New Possibilities: New schools across our partnership network are demonstrating what is possible for all schools. Odyssey STEM Academy , Design39Campus in the Poway School District, Global Leadership Academy in Terrell ISD in Texas, and Pioneer STEAM Elementary in the Peninsula School District in Washington are all making great strides to empower learners, implement competency-based opportunities, and create authentic learning experiences for all students.
Hear the Odyssey team share how they are measuring what matters for ALL learners.

Looking forward, here are our Intentions for 2020:

  • Increase Connectedness: Learning is a social process and we will be hosting a number of convenings to connect, share, and learn together. In addition, we will make more school visits, including attending the League of Innovative Schools spring meeting which will be co-hosted by Altitude Learning partner El Segundo Unified School District. We are also excited about our 3rd Annual Partner Forum happening in May. In another effort to foster connectedness, we are collaborating with Menlo Park City School District in June to host the Transformative Grading Conference where educators will explore grading practices that best support learning.
  • Push for Expanded Measures of Success: To accelerate a systemic shift to learner-centered education, we must transcend conventional metrics such as seat time and standardized test scores. In a model that aims to celebrate and build on what is unique about each learner, focusing on Impact Framework metrics tied to agency, collaboration, and problem solving will be critical. New measures such as achievement of self-generated goals can inform meaningful growth for learners. We intend to be on the cutting-edge of this movement.
  • Create Learner-Centered Experiences for Educators: Our team has been hard at work developing pathways focused on foundations of learner-centered education, agency, competency-based assessment, and authentic learning experiences and we are eager to continue to support school leaders and teachers on the journey to ensure that all learners achieve their full potential. 
  • Leadership Matters: School leaders understand that creating the enabling conditions for change is an important challenge that must be addressed. We are excited to work with innovative leaders to align strategies and create the context for measured risk-taking for the benefit of all students. 

Thanks for all that you have done to make 2019 such a memorable year. We look forward to staying connected in 2020 and beyond. Together, we can meaningfully improve the learning experiences of all students—and all educators! As a result, our collective efforts will improve the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and society. 

With gratitude,
Devin