Renaissance Program at Twinfield Union School
The great thing about being in a public school is that we have a diversity of learners who represent the diversity of our community. I think that has allowed the entire community to know and trust what we’re doing.
FACTS & FIGURES
Renaissance Program established
Ages of learners served
Learners served each semester
Learners created their entire high school experience through the Renaissance Program
of Twinfield Union School learners participated in the Renaissance Program at least once
Vermont is well-known in the education world for its leadership in transforming traditional credit-based assessment to a standards-based system and then pushing even further to a competency-based system. However, Vermont is an interesting case study in how by giving broad state-dictated guidelines, local districts can have widely varied interpretations when they go to implement a proficiency-based system into practice.
When standards were introduced, an opportunity arose for districts to provide young learners the opportunity to pursue paths that fit their learning interests. Instead, many systems fell back into the scope and sequence structure they were familiar with and created hundreds of indicators older learners needed to meet before graduating—putting everyone back on the same exact path.
Twenty years ago, the Renaissance Program at Twinfield Union School was launched following an honest reflection from a learner who saw dropping out as the only way to reinvigorate her passion for learning. The traditional system had taken that passion from her. Listening intently, the then principal, Christine Barnes, and elementary educator, Debra Stoleroff, formed a committee to imagine a system that would adapt to not only this learner but also the many others who felt underserved by the limiting curriculum and teaching styles of that era.
They recognized the power of having learners take control of their learning, while still setting up the structures necessary to meet the Vermont Student Performance Standards. The resulting Renaissance Program made room for personalized, relevant, and contextualized learning opportunities that would be open-walled and cultivate learner agency within every learner who wanted to participate.
Twinfield Union School—by the very nature of their one-building, Pre-K-12 learning environment—was naturally a socially embedded environment where multi-age interactions were always taking place. However, that was a small taste of what kids could learn about themselves and the world if a learner-centered system was implemented in a robust way.
Debra Stoleroff, from her teaching experiences at River East in New York City, saw young learners had the ability to design quality learning based on their personal interests. The Renaissance Program allows all high school learners to create a learning exploration based on their interests and passions. Once learners write a proposal, they sign up for Renaissance as they would any other traditional class. Learners submit as many proposals as they wish during their high school career. They can even design their entire curriculum through Renaissance opportunities while meeting all of the required graduation competencies.
The learning experiences within the Renaissance Program has given many learners confirmation that their passions are worthy of lifelong pursuits. From exploring hard sciences like medicine and botany to digging into creative pursuits like art and music, learners are given the freedom to look at industries from multiple angles and discover where their interests fits. Once they graduate, they can then confidently choose their next step—whether career or college—and hit the ground running.
The Renaissance Program has allowed Twinfield Union School to embrace the notion that learning can happen anytime and anywhere. The program’s success has invited transformational questions to be considered by all educators at Twinfield and has opened the door for more traditional classroom structures to be infused with learner-centered explorations.
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