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Innovative schools share ideas to improve learning

By Lisa Rathke

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, May 19 2013 2:52 p.m. MDT

League activities are supported by state education departments and charitable foundations in some states. It's different from the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, which is a national coalition of public school districts committed to digital innovation.

Wallingford Public Schools in Wallingford, Conn., has benefited from access to experts and resources that it would not normally have, superintendent Salvatore Menzo said. The schools are putting in place personalized learning plans where students demonstrate their mastery of concepts by doing projects and solving problems, like designing a house using geometry.

It gives the students choice and voice, two factors that Menzo says are key to getting students engaged in what they're learning.

At the Wiliamstown school in Vermont, Patrick Davison is choosing online college courses he can take instead of attending English class as part of his flexible pathway to graduation. The prolific reader was in the same boat as Swan, failing out of 9th grade twice, simply because he didn't do the work and wasn't interested. Instead, he would zone out. But in his free time, he would learn on his computer. Now, he's taking classes to prepare himself to get into Champlain College to study game design. He's applied to take a creative writing course at the University of Vermont this summer and has gotten into the Governor's Institute of Vermont, an intensive summer study program held at a college campus.

"With A.J, with Patrick and a few other kids, they don't need a huge adjustment," Rominger said. "They don't need to get out of the system, but they need the system to work for them."

They're excited about learning now, she said.

Swan, a bright, articulate 18-year-old interested in being a survivalist as well as a filmmaker, said his academic success has made him happier and more confident and opened up more opportunities for him.

"I would have been just another high school dropout living in Vermont," he said.

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