A new grant from a Massachusetts education nonprofit will allow a public high school in Great Barrington to reimagine how it serves students in a rapidly changing world.
The nearly $337,000 implementation grant comes from Mass IDEAS.
“The IDEAS in Mass IDEAS stands for Innovating Design in Education for All Students," said Liza Veto.
She's the program officer of Mass IDEAS, which describes itself as an initiative launched by Next Generation Learning Challenges with support from the Barr Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. It’s been working with Monument Mountain Regional High School since 2019 on a plan for a whole school redesign.
“And what we mean by that is a school team really looking at all the elements of a school and thinking about, ‘is it really preparing students for success in the 21st century?’" said Veto. "And so that may include everything from operational considerations to, of course, curriculum instruction to how stakeholders are involved at the school.”
This is the second round of funding Mass IDEAS has awarded Monument Mountain after the initial planning grant.
“The planning grant provided us with the opportunity to really learn about the future of education and planning an educational vision to better meet the needs for students in the 21st century, and we had opportunities to visit schools and to do professional development to try to learn about different ways that we can restructure public education," said Principal Kristi Farina. She says the school’s redesign has four main pillars. The first is how to restructure the institution to better support students.
“One of those is thinking about an academy model and how we can put teachers together in teams to better support the student experience,” Farina explained.
She says the school also wants to expand its wellness and social-emotional learning.
“We’ve seen in other schools that have really strong and robust advisory programs that students are able to take more ownership of their learning – and that is something that we actually historically at Monument have valued," said Farina. "We have a long history of valuing student voice and ownership of their learning, and what we are wanting to do is guarantee that all students at Monument have that experience, and that it’s not just as select view.”
The other structural changes include implementing a shared governance model for the school to increase that sense of student ownership over their education, as well as how to restructure the school day “so that we can actually do the implementation of these ideas and move away from what some refer to as the old Carnegie model of public education, which is based on periods and seat times, and trying to look a little more holistically at the education experience and how schedules could support that,” said the principal.
The redesign will also focus on envisioning what kind of graduate Monument produces, and how students can demonstrate their understanding of the total experience at the school. Berkshire Hills Regional School District Superintendent Peter Dillon says that it will also see Monument Mountain expand its vocational training programming for its 530-odd students.
“People who want to be nurses, doctors, work in hospitals, all sorts of technology positions, opportunities around advanced manufacturing," said Dillon. "There’s a lot of small industry in this part of the Berkshires, and how to work through that, and then build and expand on a wide range of internships.”
Students have played a role in the redesign planning.
“We have students who have lead initiatives around health and wellness, as well as environmental sustainability – and again, those students who were seniors this year passed on that work to students who will be taking on those leadership roles for us as we move forward," said Sean Flynn, a counselor at Monument Mountain and one of the co-leads of the Mass IDEAS implementation grant team at the school. “We also have a number of other ways in which we incorporated student voices through our restorative ambassadors program – in which those students were trained actually by Railroad Street Youth Project and the Anti-Defamation League – and another group that’s a faculty and student group that was trained in Vermont by Up For Learning in Youth and Adults Transforming Schools Together through becoming facilitators for community dialogue.”
The Barnstable Intermediate School in Hyannis and Mohawk Trail Regional School in Shelburne Falls also received grants from Mass IDEAS. The new plan for Monument Mountain is scheduled to be put into place in Fall 2021.