Get Ahead With Free College!

Did you know that Thompson School District offers “free college” to high school students?

The formal name of the district’s free college program is Concurrent Enrollment. Follow along to learn more about this great opportunity offered to high school students.20170527_Graduation LHS_1_WEB

What is Concurrent Enrollment?

Concurrent enrollment gives students the opportunity to graduate from high school with college credits and accelerate their progress toward earning advanced degrees and the working world.

Thompson School District pays for the cost of tuition for a maximum of two college classes per semester per student. The parent/student is responsible for the fee(s) and book(s) associated with the course(s). Students in grades 9-12 are eligible. However, we strongly recommend that participating students are in grades 10-12. Some colleges may have an age requirement. Each of the programs is initiated by speaking with the student’s counselor and they also involve an application process.

TSD has concurrent enrollment agreements with a handful of colleges. Students can take college courses that fit into their ICAP at Front Range Community College (FRCC) and Aims Community College. There are other opportunities for college credit to be awarded with limited class options at the University of Colorado-Denver, Colorado Christian University, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs for a specific program called “Project Lead the Way” which specifies in Engineering and Metropolitan State University for the Pro Start program, which specifies in Catering.

There are three ways to earn concurrent enrollment credit:

  1. Career Pathways/Career Academy
  2. High School Select
  3. Campus Select

Let’s talk about Career Pathways and Career Academy!

Career Pathways is a year-long career and technical education program through FRCC. All students earn high school credit and have the option to earn college credit. The tuition is covered by Thompson School District and the parent/student is responsible for associated course fees. Most of the programs are held on the FRCC Larimer Campus in Fort Collins or at the CLC (Thompson School District Admin Building). Classes are held every day – students are placed in the morning from 8:00-10:00am or in the afternoon from 12:30-2:30pm. Transportation is provided to all locations. In-depth, hands-on learning is offered with a cohort of students. Many offer internships, FRCC certificates and/or industry credentials. All students in the Career Pathways Program must take the Accuplacer exam. The programs offered at Front Range Community College are:

  • Animal Technology Automotive Technology and Service
  • Criminal Justice Careers Exploration Culinary Arts
  • Medical Careers Exploration Welding and Metal Fabrication
  • Wildlife, Forestry and Natural Resources

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Career Academy is a year-long career and technical education program through Aims Community College. All students earn high school credit and have the option to earn college credit. The tuition is covered by Thompson School District and the parent/student is responsible for associated course fees. All programs are held at the Aims-Loveland Campus. Classes are held every day.  However, transportation is not provided for this specific program. The programs offered at Aims are:

  • Animation: 9:10am-11:00am M/T/W/TH
  • Graphic Design: 12:45pm-2:35pm M/T/W/TH

Let’s roll on over to discuss the High School Select program…

This program is one of the best options to earn college credit without even leaving the high school campus. It consists of college-level classes taught at the high school by an approved high school teacher or college professor. It offers a convenient location with familiar students and instructors. Tuition is paid for by TSD and the parent/student is responsible for course fee(s) and book(s). In High School Select, TSD offers the courses solely based on enrollment numbers. Students should talk with their high school counselors about what course offerings may be available at their high school. Classes are taught at the college level and students are expected to meet all college-level requirements. The requirements are: to speak with your counselor, fill out an application, recognize prerequisites and appropriate test placement scores. An Accuplacer assessment is needed if the student does not have ACT scores.

Last but not least, our last option for concurrent enrollment is the Campus Select program.

This program is great for the student who is able to drive to the college campus and have the option to take more classes than what is offered at their high school. It includes any course taken at the college level on the college campus. Students will apply to the college and register for classes like a college student. It is recommended to sign up for Guaranteed Transfer (GT) courses in order to ensure that the credit will transfer to most colleges and universities in the state of Colorado. Classes must fit and work within the student’s high school schedule and graduation requirements take precedence. Students must meet all prerequisites and understand that they will be in a college class with other college students. Classes are taught at the college level; most classes will require 6-9 hours of work at home per week. College professors will not know that the student is in high school unless the student tells them. Students may be required to work with classmates outside of class time.

Now that you have read about the concurrent enrollment programs, would you like to know how a student gets enrolled?

First, the student needs to talk to their counselor about taking concurrent enrollment classes and which program they are interested in. Second, students need to update their ICAP (Individual Career and Academic Plan) and Plan of Study on Naviance to reflect that they want to take a concurrent enrollment class. Counselors can assist with this step. TSD will not pay for the course unless it is in their ICAP and Plan of Study.

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For Career Pathways and Career Academy, the student will apply at the beginning of the spring semester for the following school year. Typically during course registration, there are only a certain number of slots for each program.

For the High School Select program, the student will apply at the beginning of the spring semester for the following school year.

Please be aware that students who fail or withdraw will be responsible for repaying tuition costs back to the school district.

For the Campus Select program, students may register for the class(s) they want to take once the college course catalog is released, which is typically 3-4 months prior to the start of the semester.

The final step for the concurrent enrollment program is for the student to see their counselor for the appropriate paperwork. Apply to the appropriate school via online application or paper application. Complete the concurrent enrollment form, take the Accuplacer test if necessary and attach the score or attach the qualifying ACT scores. Return the paperwork to the student’s counselor. Check back later for confirmation of enrollment. If the student is taking a Campus Select class, you must check your college e-mail account regularly, as this is how the school will communicate with you. If you miss a deadline for payment of fees, you will be dropped from the course. Also, when taking Campus Select courses, you will have a few extra steps to do with a new student checklist that will be provided to you. This checklist involves speaking with a college advisor and attending a new student orientation.

What will this look like on my high school transcript?

All 100 level and above college classes will be weighted like AP classes. Example: ENG 121, PSY 101, COM 115.

Career Pathways classes have their own unique credit amount and the grade will be weighted.

High School Select classes will be .5 high school credits and have a weighted grade. Students typically earn 3 college credits.

Campus Select classes will vary from .17-1.0 high school credits, all depending on the number of college credits earned for the course. If it is a 100 level course and above, it will be a weighted grade.

Toward the end of the student’s senior year, when the decision has been made about what college/university they will be attending, the student will need to transfer their earned college credits to that school. They will need to request official transcript(s) from the colleges where the concurrent enrollment credit was earned and have them sent to the college/university they will be attending.

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Advantages of participating in the concurrent enrollment program:

  • Free tuition
  • Good transition to college
  • Earn credits toward your college degree
  • Gain confidence in your ability to succeed in college
  • Campus Select students are fully integrated at FRCC

Cautions to know for participating in the concurrent enrollment program:

  • 6-9 hours of homework per week
  • Transcripts are permanent
  • Poor grades can affect scholarships and financial aid

Please feel free to reach out to your student’s counselor or our College and Career Department for further information.

  • Tyler Schlagel, College and Career Coordinator
    • Phone: 970-613-5098
    • Email: tyler.schlagel@Thompsonschools.org
  • Afton Valerio, College and Career Assistant
    • Phone: 970-613-7575
    • Email: Afton.Valerio@ThompsonSchools.org

 

Seeing is Believing Series: Mountain View High School

Every month, parents, community members and district staff come together for TSD’s “Seeing is Believing” program, which offers an inside glimpse at how schools are fostering personalized learning. In our third summary of the series, we re-visit Mountain View High School.


Teaching and learning doesn’t get more personalized than in Peter Toew’s music room at Mountain View High School.

Conducting a band or orchestra, says Toews, requires “100 percent personalized learning.” For the whole group to function, the individual performers must rise to the same level. Playing in a band or an orchestra requires collective performance. And each individual’s contribution counts.

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The evidence of mastery—or evidence of where the individual student currently stands on that road to mastery—is immediate.

Toews, who has been teaching at Mountain View High School since the school opened in 2000, collects eight pieces of data in each student’s performance—tone, rhythm, notes, intonation, etc. When giving a test, Toews opens an iPad and checks off his rubric. All students at MVHS are given an iPad and log-in to see their scores. There is no need to wait or wonder.

“In a minute, kids can go in and look and they go, ‘man, I got a four on notes, but I got two on rhythm, so I really need to this time focus on rhythm to get better,’” says Toews. The specificity helps students key on areas of improvement and then they take the test again.

Toews’ spacious music classroom and the entire Mountain View High School were on display when Thompson School District’s “Seeing is Believing” tour stopped for a visit on Wednesday, Feb. 21. The tour is giving district staff and district partners an opportunity to see how schools are making progress under Thompson School District’s ongoing journey to bring personalized learning to every classroom setting. Mountain View High School was the eighth such visit.

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Like Toews, says Mountain View High School principal Jane Harmon, some teachers are implementing personalized learning in a “very comprehensive way.” Other teachers “remain skeptical,” she acknowledges. But most teachers are implementing some elements of personalization.

Teachers are being asked to become learners in this journey, says Harmon. And they are being asked to take risks, all with the goal of creating learning environments that give students more of a voice and more of a choice in their education and to encourage students to take ownership of their learning.

For instance, math teachers Em Ayyildiz and Heather Anderton each designed a “flipped classroom” unit for their shared Algebra I class. In flipped classrooms, the instruction shifts to a learner-centered model in which students use class time to explore topics in greater depth while content is left to online resources.

“It was uncomfortable for those teachers,” says Harmon. But the flipped classroom approach changed the teachers’ interactions with students, she adds, “because they became a one-on-one tutor for some students, and a small-group tutor for others. At times, they had to stop and do large group instruction, but it gave them the ability to know students personally, because they had the time to do that. They weren’t standing in front of the classroom modeling a problem. So through that risk-taking they were able to do the very thing we need teachers to do, and that is to relate with students.”

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In any algebra class or music room, adds Harmon, some students are “ready to fly.” At the same time, other students need one-on-one time with the teacher. The personalized approach allows teachers to distinguish the needs and gives them time for those various interactions.

Up in the second-floor classroom of social studies teacher Kelly Evans, students are exploring the seven jobs that make up the work of the President of the United States. The class is pre-Advanced Placement civics integrated with economics. The class is part of the magnet program inside MVHS known as ‘LISA’ or Loveland Integrated School of the Arts. Groups of students are working together to write a paragraph explaining what the one job they have selected to study and why it’s important. Each group will also create a hat that represents that particular responsibility.

Recently, students were asked to summarize everything they had learned about the executive branch of government. They were given a rubric of how their submissions would be evaluated. Each student decided the form in which they would deliver their work. Evans says she received “amazing” submissions that included storybooks, pamphlets, and infographics—all based on the individual student’s choice of how to represent their work.

Evans said her early cautions about personalized learning are dissipating. “I think before it was almost sort of sold as ‘have at it.’ And that was very scary, but now that I’ve done it this way, the students are tapping into their learning styles. They’re really expressing themselves, and I’m seeing the breadth of what they understand more than if I were to just say, ‘here’s an essay question, write me something.’”

Students, says Evans, are more engaged. “They’re more into it … they do the work so that they can produce that higher-quality project at the end. They actually navigate their agency, their self-agency, a lot better. They’re more invested.”

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There are 170 students in LISA (out of 1,240 in MVHS overall). LISA is a school-within-a-school. Students apply for enrollment with a portfolio demonstrating their pathways and interests. Once enrolled, they pursue a rigorous pre-Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement curriculum.

Art is incorporated in all LISA core classes except for mathematics. Collaborations with local artists and other community connections are routine. There is team bonding at a fall retreat. And seniors complete a capstone project including interviews with people in their field of study, says LISA coordinator and language arts teacher Gwynne Johnson.

The capstone project “is a reflection about their learning and how they have come to understand themselves. How did they learn? What do they know about themselves? How has arts integration helped them get where they need to be? What are their future goals?” says Johnson.

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The LISA students “are known for tending to be a lot more risk-takers in their learning,” says Johnson. “My LISA classrooms look different. They tend to be a bit noisier … They’re not just here as sponges, taking a test and going through school. They’re active participants.”

The same is true in the “regular” art classrooms, too. Students were given free rein to design their own art show. During one recent project, students selected a personal favorite quote and decided how to develop art that incorporated it. Advanced students worked on their own, pursuing the techniques and materials that inspire them.

“The key to personalized learning is to learn to be okay with the chaos,” says art teacher Anne McManus. “It’s just the way it is.”

 

Revisit other Seeing is Believing tours here:

Ferguson High School

High Plains K-8

ThompsonCARES Hosts Third Annual Wellness Night

Last month, ThompsonCARES hosted their third annual Wellness Night, an event focusing on mental health resources and awareness for the Thompson School District students, parents, and staff. Resiliency was the theme of this year’s Wellness Night.

The event was composed of four student sessions, four adult sessions on topics concerning youth, and a special session for educators on the importance of gender-neutral language. Betsy Cairo, the executive director of Look Both Ways, was a speaker for the educator session as well as the student session on healthy relationships. “I was a presenter to both faculty and youth. I had such a good time presenting to both of these groups,” Cairo said. “The kids were so eager to participate and it made it so fun to interact with them. Presenting to the faculty was such a treat.”

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Luke Walker, a social work intern with the district, had the opportunity to attend Betsy Cairo’s educator session. He found the session to be extremely informative and important in today’s world: “Cairo’s session gave me new perspectives on gender identity and helped to shift my mindset. I would encourage everyone to learn more about gender identity and gender-neutral language if they ever get the opportunity because it is such an important topic especially with the way that our world is evolving.” Cairo said that she is “hopeful that more professional development can be done in the arena of transgender youth.”

Among other speakers was Brandon Maynard, a co-responder with the Loveland Police Department. “I had the delight of speaking to many parents and discussing topics of suicidality and depression with adolescents,” said Maynard. “During my lectures, attendees had excellent questions and insights that really spoke to the passion of supporting the wellness of the next generation.”

In between sessions, attendees could browse the resource fair. Various resource tables were set up to educate the TSD community about the different resources that are available in the Loveland area including Betsy Cairo’s organization, Look Both Ways. Other resources that were represented included Hearts & Horses, SAVA, SummitStone Health Partners, 3 Hopeful Hearts, and the Loveland PD Crisis Team. The resource fair provided an opportunity for students, parents, educators, and community members to learn about resources that they may have been unaware of beforehand. Brandon Maynard shared the following in regards to the resource fair, “As a professional, I learned a lot, myself on the resources and support offered for adolescents in the Loveland Community. Additionally, I work as a co-responder with the Loveland Police Department, and was able to provide additional resources and obtain some for the various teens served in the community.”

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The night ended with a moving speech from keynote speaker and former principal of Columbine High School, Frank DeAngelis. DeAngelis spoke about his personal experience during the Columbine shooting and the effects of that traumatic event for him and his students. He spoke about the resiliency that he and his students had to have to carry on. It was a powerful way to end an already illuminating night.

It was encouraging to see how many staff, families and community members care about mental health and want to educate themselves about the subject. “I found it inspiring to see so many different walks of life attend this event,” Maynard said. “Everyone was very friendly, and supportive of the many different providers, parents, and organizers at the event.  I was honored to present, and anticipate, with great enthusiasm, for next year’s event.”

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Thank you again to everyone who was there and helped to make it such a successful event. If you couldn’t attend Wellness Night this year, we hope to see you next year!

Seeing is Believing Series: Ferguson High School

Every month, parents, community members and district staff come together for TSD’s “Seeing is Believing” program, which offers an inside glimpse at how schools are fostering personalized learning. In our second summary of the series, we re-visit Ferguson High School.


Water bubbles gently in glass carafes, coffee grinders whir, a barista shouts completed orders.

The coffee shop sounds are familiar. So is the alluring aroma and cozy setting. But this coffee shop is tucked inside Ferguson High School and the customers are teachers and students on their way to class.

The shop is called Grounded. It was dreamed up by Ferguson students. They developed a business plan, earned a green light from the principal, and put in the time and physical labor needed to transform an old library to a gathering spot.

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The coffee shop doesn’t look like a typical classroom, but the students who run it earn course credit. Like any good business, it’s not standing still. There are plans to expand the line of offerings and upgrade the equipment. There are plans to secure a business bank account so the shop can take credit cards instead of the cash-only requirement today.

Learning by doing is one of themes at Ferguson, one of the state’s longest-running alternative schools and one of 91 Alternative Education Campuses in the state.

Ferguson High School was the fifth stop (Thursday, Nov. 30) on Thompson School District’s “Seeing is Believing” tour. The tour gives district staff and district partners an opportunity to see how classrooms are being overhauled under the districtwide reform toward personalized learning. At Ferguson, the implementation is on a deliberate pace.

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Personalized learning upends the traditional model of a teacher standing in front of a room and imparting insights and guiding discussions. Under the personalized model, classrooms look more like comfortable living rooms with a variety of seating choices and desk configurations. And personalized learning encourages students to pursue their interests in specific ideas and topics.

As such, says principal Jason Germain, Ferguson High School is not rushing into the reform. So the school is in the middle year of a three-year journey to adopt personalized learning.

The first year was used to outline competencies, work habits and content expectations for each learning unit. This school year is being used for assessment planning. And next year the work will focus on adjusting the instructional practices in class.

Most Ferguson students, says Germain, are dealing with challenging circumstances outside school. Those issues create barriers to learning in a traditional high school setting.

Ferguson students are at high risk for dropping out—or already have dropped out once or twice and are on the road back. Students who attend Ferguson might be balancing school with a full-time job. They might be young mothers. And the school is familiar with the idea that not every home prioritizes learning or has provided a stable family foundation. Many students have been exposed to child abuse, neglect, alcoholism, drug use and more.

No matter the reasons behind enrollment in the alternative setting, says Germain, the typical Ferguson student is “over age and under credit.” Ferguson “strives very hard to offer a comprehensive high school experience,” he adds, while also recognizing that each path to a high school diploma may follow a unique route.

Ferguson downplays the grind of classwork, homework and test scores. Instead, “we make sure students know what they’re supposed to know,” says Germain, and set a course of learning to acquire the needed knowledge and skills

Students attend classes at Ferguson, usually with small class sizes, and they may also access a variety of district-run online and expanded opportunity programs that happen to be housed in the same converted church. The options include SOARS (Secondary Options for Achievement Resulting in Success), Thompson Online and E3, the district’s Expanded Learning Opportunities program.

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Student plans for the future are as varied as the myriad pathways to a diploma—a welder, a psychologist, joining Navy SEALs, a special effects makeup artist, a veterinarian, and becoming a computer repair technician.

No matter the learning style or the journey being pursued, students rave about the Ferguson’s special touch.

“Amazing teachers and great facilities,” says a fulltime Thompson Online student who spends half his year on the rodeo circuit in Texas.

For another student the flexible schedule allows him to work shifts that run until midnight. The fact that Ferguson doesn’t ask for homework means he doesn’t fall behind.

Another student, who recently transferred to the school, lauds Ferguson’s intake program, called “Scholars,” for orienting students to Ferguson’s climate, culture and expectations. Students may arrive at Ferguson from a variety of backgrounds and different schools, she says, but they really watch out for each other.

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“It’s really nice being able to work at my own pace,” another Ferguson student shares, “If you’re able to work independently,” she adds, “you’ll be successful.”

 

Revisit High Plains K-8 Seeing is Believing event here.

Seeing is Believing Series: High Plains

Every month, parents, community members and district staff come together for TSD’s “Seeing is Believing” program, which offers an inside glimpse at how schools are fostering personalized learning. In our first summary of the series, we re-visit High Plain K-8.


Five second-grade students are gathered around Holly Williamson’s semi-circle table discussing tide pools.

“A tide pool can be its own world,” says Williamson, reading from a text. “What do you think about that? Is that a fact or an opinion? It’s kind of tricky, isn’t it?”

The semi-circle desk is under the American flag in one corner of the bright, large classroom. From Williamson’s vantage point, she can see her entire room. Williamson is the lone adult in the room, other than a small group of visitors. Students are clustered together in various configurations. There is a low level of chatter in the room, but the voices are worthy of a serene college library—not a second grade classroom of energetic seven-year-olds.

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A student at one table is reading “A Bad Case of Stripes” by herself. Students at another table, several in chairs with orange exercise balls in place of hard seats, are discussing jellyfish. Books are open in their laps. In front of the students is an assignment sheet with a question: “What three things do all jellyfish need to have?”

Two girls at another table work with Banagram tiles scattered between them. Nearby, the phonic words for the week are listed in their notebooks. And in yet another corner, students are strengthening their grammar and comprehension using Lexia. A couple of students perched on oversized pillows as they follow the online program along.

All of the students know the expectations for classroom behaviors. That’s because the students set them up.

“At the beginning of the year, we talked about what we wanted our room to look like, feel like, sound like,” says Williamson. “I introduced each of the different kinds of seating choices and they came up with them. They know how we work together.”

They also know how they are doing in the effort to grasp key concepts. A Data Wall chart displays overall class performance and progress, including an expanding circle of “green” (good) data under the Lexia results.

Williamson’s classroom is a microcosm of the entire High Plains School. Now in its second full year of operation in eastern Loveland, High Plains is the first school in Loveland that was built from the ground up around the concepts of STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics. The school’s unique design welcomes students with natural light and interesting spaces that encourage personalized learning.

High Plains School was the fourth stop (Thursday, Nov. 16) on Thompson School District’s “Seeing is Believing” tour. The tour allows district staff and district partners to see that traditional notions of how classrooms look and feel are being overhauled under the district’s push to personalize education.

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Visitors at High Plains School observed new definitions for classrooms and learning spaces, which serve students from Early Childhood Education (three-year-olds) through eighth grade. Some classrooms are “open concept” with no fourth wall or door. Cozy spots under open stairwells and nooks invite students to work together in small groups. A rooftop garden and the close proximity to the High Plains Environmental Center add to the variety of options.

High Plains School principal Danielle Freeney says learning is organized around one key theme. That is, “how do the content areas play together?” Art plays second fiddle to no other subject. Learning is planned, or “engineered,” in collaboration with students.

Project-based learning is ubiquitous. Kindergarteners met with exterminators and district facility staff to develop ideas for preventing mice from invading homes under construction. Third-graders Skyped with toymakers regarding the development and marketing of a new product. Sixth-graders used the energy of the earth and sun to develop a product to minimize the devastation from major wildfires. Other students have produced children’s books, designed rockets, wrote and produced newscasts, or developed public service announcements to combat cyber bullying and internet safety.

The idea at High Plains is to take learning out of its content-specific silos and encourage learning—and collaboration—as students tackle assignments in groups. Upon completion, professional experts vet concepts and quiz students about their ideas and proposals, bringing the “real world” to school on a regular basis.

Erin Gilmartin Loften, professional development coordinator at the Colorado Department of Education (CDE), said she attended the High Plains School tour stop as part of the state’s work to support high schools with low graduation rates under federal school accountability requirements.

“What does personalized education, when done well, look like?” said Loften. “I wanted to have a sense of what it looks like.”

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Roseyn Hood, associate commissioner for strategic partnerships at CDE, said the High Plains classrooms offer ample proof that teaching and learning can move from rote study and memorization to helping students develop more complex ways of acquiring knowledge and skills. In particular, Hood said she was “very impressed” with the integration of art as a tool for problem-solving and creative thinking.

“Learning is much more than ‘I have to know my math facts and I have to know my presidents,’” said Hood. “It’s how do you conceptually learn and digest and evaluate information. That’s more important for students. I heard far more about ‘how do we figure this out’ than ‘we can’t do this.’”

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Back in Williamson’s classroom, the fifth-year teacher is asked if she ever taught in a more traditional classroom set-up, with the teacher in front and the students sitting in neat rows and columns. Williamson shakes her head, recalling the memory. Yes, she says, in her first year she taught in a “traditional” classroom set-up. She smiles and adds, “I’m never going back.”

Personalized Learning, a Student’s Perspective

Are you curious what personalized learning looks like in our schools? Thompson School District’s Seeing is Believing program is designed to provide parents, community members and district staff an inside glimpse into school communities that are focusing on the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, and/or cultural backgrounds of individual students through personalized learning.

Recently, students enrolled in Ferguson High School and other programs located in the building hosted a “Seeing is Believing” student-led panel. They spoke about the student experience within these programs, the opportunities that personalized learning can create and the challenges that still need to be faced.

Personalized learning is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Rather, it is a deep and rewarding program that explores how to help a student to identify their individual path to success. Learn how this group of students is creating their own path by watching the full panel here:

Learn more about the programs featured in the panel and Ferguson High School here:

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Thompson Online

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A special thanks to Thompson Valley High School students for the video.