Oliver H. Perry School to follow new learning model

With a variety of high-quality, innovative high school models in place across the city, CMSD’s team of academic specialists is turning its attention to PreK-8 schools, and they are doing so with the help of families and community stakeholders.

Oliver H. Perry School is among 13 District PreK-8 schools that are to be redesigned in ways that will dramatically improve school culture, modernize education and prepare students to succeed in high school and beyond. This initiative is part of The Cleveland Plan’s promise to transform public education and grow the number of excellent schools in Cleveland.

Each school has a redesign team that chose from three different learning models:

  • Inquiry-based learning: Students explore content by posing, investigating and answering questions. They are then able to present their findings in a credible and persuasive manner.
  • Youth leadership development: Students are prepared to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through activities and experiences that develop social, ethical, emotional, physical and cognitive competencies. Teachers and students measure and track progress toward self-identified student achievement goals and schoolwide goal achievement.
  • Personalized learning using technology: This involves flexible, self-directed learning where teachers use project-based or competency-based learning paths to boost student achievement.

Oliver H. Perry will follow the inquiry-based learning model. Principal Brittani Irvin said the school’s redesign team adopted the approach with the goal of helping students to become “creative thinkers, future innovators and caring citizens.”

“Students will be guided through an inquiry learning experience to collaborate, research, present and reflect,” she said. “They will walk away with a portfolio of skills related to these experiences and experiences provided by community-based partners. “ 

Unlike traditional school turnaround projects that tend to be top-down and compliance-driven, this school reform effort engages the school teams in the redesign.

For the past year, the teams have been crafting new visions for their schools and neighborhoods. Each redesign team consists of the principal, two teachers, at least one parent and at least one community partner.

Oliver H. Perry's redesign team includes the school’s leadership, grades 4-5 ELA/social studies teacher Marlene Stoneman, 6-8 math teacher Gloria Allen, community member Channell Boyd and Emma Parker from the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, a community partner. 

CMSD Executive Director of Portfolio Engagement Angee Shaker says the process has been empowering and reinvigorating for educators.

"Our principals and teachers are exploring and choosing among research-based, proven instructional models that are engaging and meaningful for students,” Shaker said. “There will always be a need for direct teaching, but overusing this or any one instructional approach causes students to tune out. We know we can accomplish deeper levels of learning through multiple, interactive learning approaches that build on student strengths and passions.”

The schools are getting a similar treatment to some of the District high schools that were redesigned in the past several years -- minus the focus on specific career pathways. Like the new and redesigned high schools, the PreK-8 design plan emphasizes positive youth development, community connections and a culture that is embodied in all aspects of the school.

Joseph Micheller, CMSD’s executive director of new school development, worked on both the high school and PreK-8 planning. He said the PreK-8 initiative is about helping students in preschool through eighth grade to gain life skills such as teamwork, inquiry and problem solving that will help them to transition seamlessly into one of CMSD’s high schools.

“We want good schools with good teaching and learning based on contemporary standards to prepare our kids for those ninth-grade choices,” Micheller said.

He also said that new research on the importance of social and emotional learning -- teaching students to manage their emotions, make responsible decisions and form healthy relationships -- calls for a second look at how traditional public schools operate.

“In today’s world, you cannot separate social and emotional learning from academic learning,” Micheller said. “The new designs each take on a model that looks at the child as a whole."

The schools will implement their new framework over a four-year period that will include extensive professional development for the teaching staff, adjustment of policies and procedures and forging connections with community agencies.

Nearly half the schools on the list, including Oliver H. Perry, are set to move into new buildings amid this transformation, which Shaker says will complement the introduction of a new philosophy. Several of the other schools being redesigned will undergo renovation and facility updates.

After the design teams chose their models, they traveled to cities, including Philadelphia, Rochester, Atlanta and New Orleans, to see schools that were successfully using their chosen model.

District administrators said an excellent example of the planning process was right here in Cleveland at Campus International K-8 School. That school opened in 2010 as a partnership between Cleveland State University and CMSD and recently moved to a new, state-of-the-art building on the CSU campus.

“Campus International started in this very same way, with a vision and a mission,” said CMSD Chief Portfolio Officer Christine Fowler-Mack. "We later defined roles, built relationships and added partners, but at the heart of it was an exciting and clear vision of teaching and learning."

Thomas Ott

Thomas Ott is director of the CMSD News Bureau

Read More on School News
Volume 10, Issue 3, Posted 11:04 AM, 03.10.2018