Distinctive Schools National Board of Directors:
Chicago, IL (April 4, 2018) Distinctive Schools announced the establishment of its National Board of Directors that will help guide Distinctive Schools as an educational practice leader committed to social justice and the elevation of access and achievement for all students.
Distinctive Schools began its journey in May of 2011, with the mission to ensure successful futures for all of its students. Today, in partnership with Chicago International Charter School (CICS), Distinctive Schools currently manages four K-8 elementary schools in Chicago: CICS Bucktown, CICS Irving Park, CICS Prairie, and CICS West Belden. In the northern region of Minneapolis, in partnership with Innovative Quality Schools, Distinctive Schools manages Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA), and at the start of the 2017-2018 school year, Distinctive Schools proudly partnered with Central Michigan University in the opening of its newest school, Distinctive College Prep – Harper Woods, a K-3 charter school, adding grade levels each year through grade eight.
“We are ready for an expanded set of minds to help us serve our students, families, communities, and staff. Our Distinctive Schools educational model is fueled by innovation and informed by cutting-edge research and best practice, and, we believe with the establishment of our National Board of Directors, we will be able to continuously innovate as a network,” stated Dr. Joseph Wise, Chairman of the Board and CEO at Distinctive Schools. “The board that we have assembled embodies the spirit of positively impacting K-12 education, and brings education expertise, talent and energy to the table. We expect them to help us continue to innovate, trailblaze, and collaboratively lead a public education transformation, as well as help build a new narrative for what our nation’s education should look like today.”
The Distinctive Schools National Board of Directors consists of leaders, representing a diverse group of institutions including acclaimed education organizations, universities and K-12 academies. The Distinctive National Board of Directors are
As national thought leaders in the area of personalized learning, Distinctive Schools fosters learning environments that honor each individual and nurture the whole learner, and through a highly personalized model of instruction and supports, students develop a strong sense of agency and confidence and consistently exceed national norms on both growth and attainment targets.
“We believe our National Board of Directors represent the apogee of education today. We are very fortunate to learn and work with them, and to utilize their unique skill sets and expertise to continue to strengthen Distinctive Schools,” stated Scott Frauenheim, President and COO at Distinctive Schools. “The new board will strengthen support in all areas of the organization while continuing to positively impact student achievement. It is an exciting step for Distinctive Schools.”
Distinctive Schools Celebrates CICS West Belden with Release of Personalized Learning Case Study!
At Distinctive Schools, we are celebrating Chicago International Charter School (CICS) West Belden!
CICS West Belden is located in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago, and in 2011, became operated by Distinctive Schools, a school management organization (SMO) with three other schools in the Chicago area. At this time, classrooms at CICS West Belden were more traditional, with desks in rows. However the classroom set-up didn’t forge an environment of camaraderie and love of learning. As stated by Colleen Collins, now School Director at CICS West Belden, “Students were well-behaved and on task, but their engagement was low.”
Therefore, in 2013, CICS West Belden began its journey into personalized learning and the first step was to build a foundation and create a culture of respect, innovation and self direction. This step would help lay the groundwork for personalized learning, so the school’s leadership team attended the Summer Design Program led by LEAP Innovations. This design workshop offered the CICS West Belden team the “space, time, and expertise to design innovative solutions to some of their most pressing challenges,” and, at the program, numerous ideas came together.
CICS West Belden then spent nearly a full year planning the details of the pilot classrooms to first implement personalized learning before going school-wide. When the pilot team was chosen for the 2014-15 school year, the team began working quickly to prepare for implementation. Since then, CICS West Belden has piloted innovative ideas, refined and implemented methods, and transformed the student experience.
“Switching to a personalized learning model can be overwhelming for teachers and staff,” stated Scott Frauenheim, President and Chief Operating Officer at Distinctive Schools, “Though, we learned by implementing personalized learning through pilot teachers and classrooms first, before implementing it school-wide, we were able to take changes one step at a time.”
Fast forward to April, 2018 - CICS West Belden serves 530 students in grades kindergarten to eighth grade, and CICS West Belden Bulldog pride is exemplified across the building. When you walk into classrooms, they look more like start-up companies than a traditional classroom -- with small group spaces, futons, and technology such as iPads or Chromebooks for all students.
“Today, our school is a place where learning is cultivated and where students are active partners in their education,” stated Ms. Collins. “Likewise, our teachers collaborate together, as well as with families and students, to design learning experiences that provide all our students with curriculum and instruction that showcases their passions, successes, and ambitions.”
We are thrilled to share a case study which tells the story of CICS West Belden’s journey. The case study was written in collaboration with FSG. FSG is a mission-driven consulting firm, with extensive work in issues related to personalized learning and nonprofits.
This case study is helping inform education leaders, as well as our school communities, on one school’s journey to personalized learning, and it includes lessons learned, the steps in CICS West Belden’s personalized learning journey, challenges along the way, the value of partnerships, and the focus on the future. For your copy of the CICS West Belden Case Study, visit: http://bit.ly/Distinctive_Journeys_to_PL
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from Distinctive College Prep (DCP) - Harper Woods.
This month's Trailblazer uses personalized learning to create an engaging and rich classroom environment. Her students take ownership of the progress they are making, guided by a combination of their own goals and standards-based targets. Student ownership and independence allows this trailblazer to individualize instruction, provide intervention, and give feedback to her students. She is willing to do whatever it takes to motivate her students, even working their personalities into daily classroom routines. She encourages her students to think, question, and connect, and she is bringing out the best in her students every day!
We feel so fortunate to have her at DCP - Harper Woods, please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Ciara Cox!
Ms. Ciara Cox: Featured Trailblazer!
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from CICS Prairie.
This month's Trailblazer is leading the way for personalized learning at CICS Prairie. She serves as a thought partner with the LEAP Learning Network, participates in the Frontier pilot for second grade, and was featured as the very first Frontier All-Star teacher in February! This Trailblazer incorporates student choice and voice in her daily practice. Her students use a variety of menus and surveys to explore how they want to learn and demonstrate their learning. Her leadership is helping to trailblaze a strong personalized learning path for everyone at CICS Prairie.
We feel so fortunate to have her at CICS Prairie, please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Keona Roberts!
Ms. Keona Roberts: Featured Trailblazer!
Celebrating Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Week!
Students and staff across the Distinctive Schools network shared kind acts this week. Students from Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA) wrote letters of gratitude to veterans, made thank you posters for lunchroom staff, and selected kind acts from the wall of kindness at MELA. Middle school students from CICS Bucktown volunteered to put together treat bags to thank their parents, students spent time doing yoga, and staff shared 'Kind' bars as a treat for one another!
There were so many acts of kindness taking place this week, and our campuses did a wonderful job capturing kindness through photos and videos, however one campus took the lead in our kindness challenge -sharing over THREE HUNDRED photos of kindness across their campus! Congratulations, CICS West Belden for completing and documenting so many kind acts! We hope all of our campuses keep the kindness going and keep kindness as a top priority!
Random acts of kindness week is a time for reflection on the importance of kindness, gratitude, and most importantly - for one another! We are so grateful for the collaboration we experience with our students, families, parents, staff, and teachers. Click through the photos below to see some of the amazing things that happened this week!
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from CICS Bucktown.
This month's Trailblazer is passionately committed to education. She is a leader at CICS Bucktown - both in teaching 8th-grade and coaching middle school. Her knowledge and experience with the Summit Learning Platform is incredible. She uses the platform to differentiate materials, meet each of her students at the pace that is right for them, and grade students based on mastery. This leader is a wonderful resource for both students and staff; she spends much of her time mentoring students and building relationships. She is incredibly hardworking, dedicated, and an asset to the team!
We feel so fortunate to have her at CICS Bucktown, please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Rachael Beucher!
Ms. Rachael Beucher: Featured Trailblazer!
We appreciate all the families who choose Distinctive Schools, and thank you for being part of our Distinctive family! Happy National School Choice Week from all of us at Distinctive!
It takes a village: EL Supports & Updates
Guest Author: Lori Fink, Distinctive Schools EL Network Coordinator
Personalized Learning from an English learner (EL) lens is super exciting, because it is very inline with WIDA’s Can Do philosophy, as well as Distinctive Schools’ strategic plan, to embrace the cultural and linguistic attributes each of our students bring to school. Likewise, relationships are at the heart of everything we do, and our students come from diverse backgrounds. Personalized learning promotes developing relationships and a deep understanding of student cultures. If we are to truly develop successful young people, we must focus on building relationships with our entire school community. Hence, as we look to establish impactful relationships with diverse students and families, an integral step is to develop strong school and home partnerships.
In order to do so, Chicago International Charter Schools (CICS), Bucktown, Irving Park, Prairie, and West Belden, managed by Distinctive School, have a Bilingual Advisory Committee (BAC). The goal of the BAC is to facilitate leadership development of parents in order to advocate for the academic, social, and cultural development of all ELs. This year, our campuses have had tremendous success through the inclusion of the BAC in the school community. Participation has supported student academic and social-emotional success, celebrated and overcame language and cultural differences, and continues to empower families to be engaged in their child’s education.
Highlights: At CICS Bucktown, BAC parents organized a Fall Fest Potluck. A record breaking 75 students and parents participated. Families enjoyed food from different cultures and an authentic performance representative of music from the Andes Mountains.
CICS Irving Park’s BAC helped to design and promote culturally and linguistically responsive classrooms by organizing a family history project and bulletin boards representative of classroom communities. Throughout the month long project, there was an excitement amongst the students and faculty as everyone was sharing and learning about each other’s culture.
At CICS Prairie, parents strengthened their leadership skills by attending parent trainings hosted by the Office of Language and Culture. Parents learned about bilingual education, immigration rights, and parental involvement. They were able to bring that information back to the school to share with the greater community.
Just like learning is personalized for our students, Distinctive Schools also provides personalized learning for our parents. For instance, voice and choice helps drive our parental engagement. By asking families what they want, we are able to seek out meaningful opportunities that meet parent needs. It is through this model that we look forward to continuing to strengthen, bolster, and grow parent and community collaboration to provide a distinctive educational experience for all of our stakeholders.
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from CICS Irving Park.
This month's Trailblazer is someone who keeps his students and student-centered learning at the heart of his work. He is willing to take risks in instruction, and because he is willing to challenge his students, they are productive, responsible, and engaged. He understands that his students have various needs and skill levels, and addresses student needs individually. He personalizes math for his students, giving them options and a variety of ways to problem solve. This educator is a leader, extremely driven, and willing to do whatever it takes.
We feel so fortunate to have him at CICS Irving Park, please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Mr. Matthew Hoeft!
Mr. Matthew Hoeft: Featured Trailblazer!
Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Prairie, managed by Distinctive Schools (DS), is part of the pioneering LEAP Innovations Pilot Network for Cohort 4. We began our eighteen month journey in Winter 2017 with the second and fourth grade English and Language Arts team: Mr. Brian Hall, Ms. Virginia Kelly, Ms. Keona Roberts, & Ms. Jessica Story. The Pilot Network brings together leaders and teachers from the Chicago area to, “design, implement and evaluate personalized learning practices and edtech tools in their classrooms.”
After analyzing data, looking at our current status, and learning more about the LEAP Personalized Learning (PL) framework of Learner Led, Learner Focused, and Learner Demonstrated alongside our Distinctive Schools PL Framework, we were able to identify and create a target for 2nd and 4th grade.
The Data: LEAP Personalized Learning Student Report
The desire to increase intrinsic motivation and measure growth was evident in the Fall 2016 LEAP Student Reports: The LEAP Personalized Learning Surveys are designed to measure the teaching practices and classroom conditions that enable personalized learning. In this report, you’ll need results for your school compared to results for geographically similar schools and all schools that participated in the survey.
The survey aligns to the LEAP Learning Framework. Scores have been created for three key components of the framework—Learner Focused, Learner Demonstrated, and Learner Led—as well as subscores for elements within each of these broad components. Additional survey items ask about flexible learning environments, access to technology and information, and out of school learning.
The LEAP Personalized Learning Teacher and Student Surveys are developed by LEAP Innovations® to measure personalized learning in classrooms across the country and offered at no cost to schools and districts.
Of the three components, the data shows, on the LEAP PL Framework, Learner Led is an area of improvement. With our work in Frontier, and around our PL goals, we hope to increase this score with the year end Student Report survey.
The Data: NWEA MAP Reading
Aligned with our DS vision, our Cohort 4 created a vision: Students are intrinsically motivated, use voice and choice, learner led experiences, know the why, and feel set up for success.
What is Frontier?
As a team we selected Frontier as our edtech product to start for implementation in the fall of the following school year. Frontier is a learning platform that allows for students to read and write using informational texts and videos around an essential question. The Frontier phases of the process are discover, explore, create, draft, revise, and publish.
Teachers are able to monitor student progress through the data dashboard which provides weekly email updates as well as real-time updates on student status. This informs teacher feedback and who to conference with based on what teacher action is needed: Check in, Give Feedback, or High Five. Ms. Roberts uses Mondays to conference with 2nd grade students using this Frontier data. This five-minute conference allows for reflection, guidance, and goal setting for the rest of the week.
Students are also able to give feedback to their peers on their drafts before publishing. Here is an example of feedback from Gina to her peer: You could get more examples and more evidence. And you could really use periods.
Once students are given feedback by teacher and peers they are able to publish their work. They can choose to share it with just their teacher or with the rest of the Frontier world!
What do the students have to say?
Here some student interviews from CICS Prairie, Gina 4th grade and David and Evelyn 2nd grade, who share the process and their excitement around using Frontier as a learning tool.
What is Frontier?
David: First I go into the next little Frontier thing. If there is a video I watch it if there is a article I read it. I go to the little box and write about it. Once I’m in here I look and see which is good for me to do first I did easy to hard and then harder.
Gina: We go on a few minutes, we get on half of the time. You get to do lessons and when you are done you can write about it
What’s a challenge of Frontier?
Gina: Typing isn’t really that hard if you just check it.
How do you choose what you want to discover?
Evelyn: I picked What is life like in the White House? I picked that one because I want to be a president when I grow up.
David: What is the best sport at the Summer Olympics? I picked this project because when I grow up I want to be a gymnast and first I want to know about it.
What are your feelings about Frontier as a learning tool?
David: I like Frontier because it helps me learn things I want to do when I grow up!
Gina: I rate this 5 out of 5 stars, I got to be able to write a story of my own and tried my best with all my work and I checked it.
Through innovation cycles, coaching and ongoing professional development partnered with LEAP the past 10 months, we are leaping through projects and understanding their needs, strengths, interests, and approaches to learning.
We are eager to analyze our NWEA Reading data and Thinking Maps: Write from the Beginning and Beyond data in Winter 2018 to inform our implementation. As well as Spring data in these ELA areas as well as the LEAP Student Report results.
Receive updates about CICS Prairie by following them on Facebook!
Last month, Distinctive Schools attended EdSurge Fusion 2017. EdSurge Fusion included unique tracks centered on Vision, Research, Implementation, and Evidence. The tracks included presentations by education thought leaders, policy makers, and entrepreneurs, as well as leaders from schools and districts across the nation. Some notable speakers included Jim Shelton, President, Chan Zuckerberg Education; Tom Vander Ark, CEO, Getting Smart; and Betsy Corcoran, CEO and Cofounder, EdSurge.
During the conference, speakers addressed the path ahead. For instance, today’s kindergarteners will be entering the workforce in 2035 and, according to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children entering elementary school today will end up working in new jobs that don’t yet exist. As a result, today’s kindergartners will need to be prepared for future career requirements - Which addressed the big question, are our current classrooms preparing our kids for this reality?
Here are three key takeaways from Edsurge Fusion 2017
that helped address this important question:
1. Teachers must be agents of change, not objects of change.
Leonid Rabinovich from Miami-Dade County Public Schools, presented Voices From the Field, along with Heath Morrison from Mcgraw-Hill Education and Jason T. Green from Learning Innovation Catalyst (LYNC).
During this session, Mr. Ravinovich stated to the audience that we are asking teachers to implement something they don’t know (personalized learning), because most of today’s teachers grew up in traditional classrooms. Therefore, we have to support teachers through professional development (PD), and provide technology that will reinforce training. Likewise it is essential that we recognize teachers are at different levels of personalized learning with different levels of adoption, and provide personalized PD for teachers where they are at.
By empowering teachers to be agents of change, and provide teachers with personalized PD,, they will feel part of the process.. As a result, this developmental role will evident in the classroom and help students become self-learners as well, which is critical as students one day enter the workforce and understand jobs that do not exist yet.
2. Meeting the needs of each and every student is going to look different.
Today’s schools and districts must ensure all students receive the tools and resources they need to be successful in school, as well as in career and life. However, each student is unique and learning differs between student to student. Personalized learning is designed to improve educational outcomes through each student, but it also raises concerns about equity. The educational experiences between each student may vary, and sometimes the biggest barrier to equity isn’t always within the schools but outside. Such as when a student gets home, do they have access to devices, the internet, or space to continue learning?
With competency education in personalized learning, we are able to focus on our students each day and provide them the personalized supports so they stay on pace, gain the high-quality education they deserve, and gain the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in college, the workforce, and in life.
3. Technology should empower learning, not replace instruction.
Personalized learning tailors instruction to each student’s unique needs and learning preferences. Likewise it blends instruction by combining face-to-face learning with student collaboration, and technology resources. Technology resources include 1:1 devices for students and applications on devices that helps personalize instruction for each student.
Technology is a powerful tool for learning that can be used to help students develop skills and succeed in school. However, when schools and district design personalized learning models, they should think more broadly than only technology and include creating an environment where students are nurtured to develop a growth mindset. For example, Distinctive Schools (DS) Personalized Learning Model has successfully shifted from one of a traditional focus on teaching to one with a focus on deep learning.
Using a strengths-based approach, coupled with real-time feedback generated from short-cycle assessment data, DS educators coach our students in their development of strong and positive student identity and agency. In turn, our students become confident, well-rounded, resilient members of our learning community and are well-positioned for success in college, career, and life.
As a result, technology at Distinctive Schools supports student targets and goals, serves as a catalyst for student-centered learning, and one of the multiple opportunities students have to show mastery of skills. At EdSurge Fusion 2017, Sarah O’Connell, School Director at Chicago International Charter School (CICS) Bucktown, managed by Distinctive Schools, co-presented the Evidence Workshop, What We’re Learning: Personalized Learning Models, Tools and Outcomes, and shared with the audience how collaborating with LEAP innovations, and using platforms like Lexia Learning, has supported the school’s personalized learning journey. For instance, CICS Bucktown uses blended learning approach, combining the most recent technology and tools with exemplary teaching to provide a highly personalized learning path for each student.
These are only three takeaways that can be used to prepare our students for the future. As educators we want to prepare our students to lead productive and successful lives, and personalized learning encourages students to supports this process. To find out more about Distinctive Schools’ personalized learning journey, take a look at this recent article The path to personalized learning is not straight. The article provides insight into CICS West Belden's path to implement personalized learning campus-wide.
Teacher-Designed: Personalized Learning Favorites
"I found that letting my students choose their learning path for the day is really engaging and lets them be more independent in their learning," Emily shared. This also allows Emily to be more intentional about how she personalizes learning for each of her students. After receiving feedback from The Teachers Guild, Jin-Soo Huh, (Executive Director of Personalized Learning for Distinctive Schools), and other teachers at MELA, Emily has developed new iterations of her work, like the sample checklist below:
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their innovation, commitment, and dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from our Minnesota campus, Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA).
This month's Trailblazer is someone who puts relationship building at the very heart of his work. He is dedicated, always willing to lend a hand, and goes above and beyond for his students and colleagues, even going as far as to ride the bus home to ensure safe travels of his students! This trailblazer is leading the way, and we are so grateful for his commitment to supporting and serving at MELA!
We feel so fortunate to have him at Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy, please join us in congratulating a Distinctive Trailblazer, Mr. Jamel McNutt!
Mr. Jamel McNutt: Featured Trailblazer!
Distinctive Schools Celebrates Giving Tuesday!
This year Distinctive Schools took part in #GivingTuesday, by honoring influential educators, mentors and coaches. Every #DistinctiveGiving gift supports programs and resources for classrooms, professional development opportunities for staff, and field trips to give our students the hands-on learning experiences they so deserve.
Thank you to all who honored, shared, and contributed to Distinctive Giving!
Trailblazer teachers and staff hold a vital role in developing school reform, and we are grateful for their dedication to our network! This month we are featuring a Trailblazing Teacher from CICS West Belden.
This month's Trailblazer is someone who has a passion for teaching. She has been teaching at CICS West Belden since it first opened in 2002. She is a dedicated leader, who has pushed herself to grow as an educator every year. She is always willing to be a mentor and goes above and beyond for her students and her colleagues. Her energy is contagious, she is a true innovator, and she makes learning so much fun!
We feel so fortunate to have her teaching at CICS West Belden, please join us in congratulating a Trailblazing Teacher, Ms. Kelly Pollack!
Ms. Kelly Pollack: Featured Trailblazer!