Avalon Charter School
St. Paul, MN
This school is one of the hidden gems of the Twin Cities. It deserves attention. This is a groundbreaking school that changes people’s lives.
FACTS & FIGURES
Special education/Section 504
Free or reduced lunch
Senior projects completed (2004-2016)
IN THE LAND OF 10,000 LAKES—there are actually 11,842 for anyone counting—educators have been bringing learner-centered education to their St. Paul, MN neighbors since 2000.
Operating on multiple fronts, Avalon School has brought agency to learners and educators alike. By flattening the traditional hierarchy from day one, every educator is given an equal voice through the Avalon “Fist to Five” voting process. Modeling this collaborative work at the professional level opened up educators’ notion of what could be possible for their learners. Now, they aim to cultivate the confidence boosting effects of this agency-driven leadership for everyone at Avalon.
This collaborative stance speaks to Avalon’s message that “community is everything,” which means everyone’s voice is valued and appreciated. This socially-embedded principle is just one of the five core outcomes—Critical Thinking, Collaboration (Student/Staff/Community), Effective Communication, Self-Directed Learning, Academic Mindset—every Avalon learner pursues on a daily basis. Allowing learners to take on self-directed projects, while still achieving against the traditional state standards, Avalon transforms their space into a hub for learner agency and personalized, relevant and contextualized learning.
When a learner needs to pass a state standard in English, rather than reading adult-selected literature and writing predetermined essays, she can pursue her interest in comedy. Throughout the process—researching the craft, identifying her comedic voice, and artfully crafting an entire comedy show—she meets a laundry list of writing standards through a topic relevant to her passions and interests. As she displays her progress at each step, she can reassess her way forward with the guidance of her advisor. The advisor opens the learner’s eyes to resources, questions, and ideas that lift their competency-based development to even greater heights.
Opening up the walls of Avalon, another learner might be looking to achieve a requirement in biology. Interested in becoming a doctor some day, this learner has the option to connect with a local hospital through internship and volunteer opportunities, develop a plan for how his experience will relate to the required standards, and spend the next few months exploring the world of medicine.
In each case, Avalon sets a prime example for how a learning environment can handle the expectations of traditional standards, while artfully transforming into a learner-centered space. By approaching each roadblock with the learner at the center, Avalon believes and proves the possibilities for learning are endless.
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