The staff members truly know and support each student. I had heard a few teachers say they knew what level each of their students were at and what they were working on academically, but I didn’t think that was possible. How could a teacher who has a hundred students know exactly how each was progressing and what the next steps were? After spending a day in the classrooms, I found it true. Their dedication and methodology allow them to know and support EACH of their learners.
Quest is a technology-utilizing school whose staff are friendly, energetic experts in personalized learning. They approach education through mastery-based learning and student agency. This means each student is empowered to take ownership of their unique learning adventure. Educational objectives are “quests” to be mastered. If you walk up to any student and ask, “What’s your quest?”, They will tell you what they are currently learning, why they are learning it, and what steps they still need to take to master the concept.
Because the students meet regularly with teachers to design their learning pathways, they have both ownership and awareness. Not just of where they are, but how to get to the next level.
Multiple times a week, students are involved in goal setting and progress monitoring. They meet with teachers for feedback, to discuss the next steps, and to jointly create the necessary structures for support. This develops within the young people a sense of accountability as they set out on each learning adventure.
Quest Jr. High has an amazing school spirit and culture where everyone shares a vision of each student’s success. Their friendly teachers and staff create an atmosphere of support, with every student investing in one another's learning process and developing true camaraderie. Learning and achievement are celebrated. In this particular school, academics are cool! Because of this caring community, students look out for each other. They hold each other accountable for learning.
While in one classroom, I asked a student how he would support an off-task peer. Without any hesitation, he told me that 1) he would ask the friend what he/she was working on 2) he would ask him/her what support they needed 3) he would either mentor the student through the task or find someone else who could, and 4) he would encourage him/her by reminding the friend how awesome they are and that they could do it!
Because students can set their unique learning goals, they are allowed to move ahead as soon as they are ready. No more bored early finishers! We met a couple of students who proudly proclaimed that they had finished their grade-level curriculum and now were working one or more levels above their grade. This kind of learner agency allows both advanced and struggling students the chance to succeed.
Teachers here have a passion for fostering student success. In every classroom we visited, teachers were working one-on-one with students or in small groups. Pupils were receiving the individualized attention that young scholars need. Meanwhile, other class members were collaborating and innovating to solve real-world problems, working with community partners through technology, or were busily engaged in their personalized learning quests. These innovative activities allow students to have meaningful participation in the community and prepare to become world citizens.
When discussing learning maps, one might hear “practice, practice, practice, prove it”. This is an interactive method that involves students having instruction, and then multiple opportunities to practice the concept before they take a mastery test, which is called a “prove it”. Students are excited to take these tests. It is viewed as a celebration for scholars to show what they know! And most students feel confident they will achieve mastery going into a “prove it” because their practice has been tailored to their strengths and their learning modalities. This is a very effective approach to learning, as it allows students to truly master the content before moving on to the next concept.
Quest’s students are amazing. They are confident achievers. They are innovative problem solvers. They are community-minded young leaders. They are exactly the kind of learners with the potential to change the world.
Tours through the school are regularly given by the student council. But they aren’t the only ones who are polished and prepared to tell others about their amazing school. You can stop anyone, in any class, with questions about the school, their quests, and what their next steps are. They readily answer. When asked what they like about school, the most common response was the teachers and Principal Nicki Slaugh. Why is that? Those young people know they matter. They know they are respected and even loved. They know their school is focused on Every Student. Every Day. No Matter What.
Thanks for letting us come learn from you.
Chrys McCumber, Teacher
Odyssey Charter School