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Aurora Institute

The Reinventing Schools Coalition

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Learn Lessons from the Field

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 9.45.34 AMThe Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) has been working with many of the school districts around the country that are transforming their operations to “personalized mastery” systems.  There aren’t a lot of technical assistance providers to help schools make the transition, so it’s good news that RISC is opening up their operations to a membership organization with four different levels of membership – individual, education institution, corporate and coalition members for those schools and districts using their framework.

I have a deep respect for the work that RISC is doing. There are two things that always jump out to me when I visit schools that have been partners with RISC:

1)  What’s Right for Kids: There is a shared commitment among the leadership team to “do what’s right for kids”.  Perhaps district leadership that have this student-focused orientation are deciding that personalized mastery is the way to go and are selecting RISC. Perhaps RISC is nurturing this type of leadership. All I know is it is highly consistent across districts. At one district I couldn’t even get a conversation on state policy going with the superintendent. He explained, “We don’t think about it much.  It’s too easy to have state policy become an excuse about why we can’t do something.  In addition, the state assessments, although certainly not designed in a meaningful way, keep the pressure on us. We just stay focused on doing what is right for kids.”

2) Support for Teachers to Manage Personalized Classrooms: In the classrooms, there are standard operating procedures designed for personalized education.  They are posted all over the wall. Students as young as first grade have explained to me what they are learning, how they know they are learning, what they are going to do to demonstrate learning, and what they will do next.

District transformation is hard work, as we all know.  Certainly not every district that has partnered with RISC has made the full transformation. And those that are steaming ahead and getting results will be the first to say that they have a long way to go.  However, I am impressed with any organization that can support districts to build new capacities that stretch from leadership to the critical details of classroom management.  By the way here is a video of students from Lindsay that uses the RISC Framework talking about their performance-based system.