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Extended learning opportunities thrive in Pittsfield

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New Hampshire has become a leader in the nation’s education reform efforts, from piloting an innovative assessment program (PACE) to student-centered “extended learning opportunities” where students participate in volunteer work, internships, or independent study in lieu of traditional classroom study.

The Atlantic is featuring an article about Pittsfield High School’s effort to turn around lagging graduation rates and test scores through its participation on the extended learning opportunities, with the help of federal and private grants. Sheila Ward, who coordinates the program in Pittsfield, has this to say:

How students do after graduation is a better measure of the success of a high school than just standardized assessments—tests don’t measure life skills. Our kids are developing relationships out in the community, they’re seeing connections between what they’re learning and where they want to go. Instead of just adding to their academic transcripts, they’re building resumes.

The program is geared to make students both career- and college-ready.  It has helped college-bound students to figure out their majors and career paths, while helping others prepare for careers and life after graduation, says Jenny Wellington, a Pittsfield English teacher:

It’s about contributing to the community, working together, problem solving—all of the real-world scenarios students are going to face when they get out there on their own.

Pittsfield has had great success through the program. Sheila Ward says that 264 students have participated in the program since its inception 5 years ago, and estimates that about 75% of them are employed or are pursuing degrees for similar fields. The full story can be found here.


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