Sep. 15—BATESVILLE — After a year of preparation, the Batesville Community School Corporation (BCSC) has launched the initial phase of its new community-connected academic model and will be seeking additional input from citizens as the model expands throughout the school system.
Freshmen were introduced to the Freshman Community approach when they arrived at Batesville High School in August. Using the structure championed by Ford Next Generation Learning, the Freshman Community is just the beginning of a new approach at BCSC that will impact three strands of transformation: teaching and learning; culture, systems, and structures of schools; and partnerships between schools and community.
"The Freshmen Community approach uses a dedicated team of teachers and administrators to oversee meaningful activities and career-focused experiences for those students during that first year," explained Kyle Laker, BCSC Community Coach. "We will pass along practical skills to students in a small-group environment while also introducing them to the various high school paths they can take, based on their career goals. Relationship-building is a key component, as we want the freshmen to know that they have trusted adults to help guide them through the year."
During the freshman year, students will be using their student resource time to be immersed in freshman onboarding. Through a dedicated cohort, they will practice relevant 21st-century skills, such as developing effective communication and presentation skills, as well as mastering data spreadsheets. In addition, they will have experiential learning opportunities, like attending a career fair, going on a college visit, and exploring local businesses. In the past, some of these activities have been reserved for upperclassmen.
"We will be transforming the culture, systems, and structure of our schools, thanks to our work with the Ford NGL process," said Andy Allen, BHS principal. "Besides introducing us to the concept of the Freshman Community, their dedicated coaches have been guiding us in developing a snapshot of what every Batesville Bulldog should aspire to be. We call this being Bulldog Ready."
BCSC's mission for this transformational initiative states: "Together with our community, BCSC is committed to providing an engaging and relevant learning environment based on a strong foundation of academic knowledge, transferable skills, and real-world experiences. Batesville Bulldogs embody confidence, empathy, and resiliency to ensure 21st century success." Using input collected during several community envisioning meetings earlier this year, the BCSC team has further developed this summary into a detailed "Portrait of a Graduate," which expounds on the attributes desired of every BHS graduate.
"We expect our graduates to establish a foundation of academic knowledge and lifelong learning, gain valuable skills that will serve them well in the future, find their passion and next steps after graduation, and be prepared to become desirable applicants," Laker said.
As the 2023/2024 school year unfolds, several additional resources will also help inform BCSC's path forward: site visits to other schools that have employed the Ford NGL process and meetings with additional community members so that both short- and long-term master plans can be created. The POG document will serve as the focus for this series of master planning meetings to develop academic communities within BHS beyond the freshman year. Using this model, students with similar academic interests will experience classes with their career interests always in the background.
"A large part of this process — both now and as we roll out our new Bulldog Ready framework — is community involvement," Laker said. "It is the key component and what makes this different."
"The master plan will rely on community members and designated tactic teams to develop ways that the community can be more connected to how we teach," Allen said. "Students need to see through the lens of those who are doing the work that appeals to them, either through bringing the outside world into the class to lead a project or by taking students outside the school so they can be immersed where the work actually happens."
Laker stressed that, while the current focus of this initiative is on the high school experience, the community-based model will eventually encompass the entire school system from kindergarten through grade 12. Processes will be developed so that, as they advance, BCSC students will be more engaged each year in the values expressed in the POG.
"Bulldog Ready is a K-12 learning continuum and will be appropriate and targeted for each grade level," added BCSC Superintendent Paul Ketcham, who has been extensively involved in the process. "Our journey together is just beginning. "We are working to expand the four walls of each school to encompass all of the 47006 zip code, bringing much of the community's resources into our classrooms."
"As we embark upon the master planning phase, we find ourselves at a crucial juncture that requires the collective wisdom, insights, and dedication of our community," Laker added. "We invite community members who have not previously provided input into this process and are interested in participating to reach out to me. Invitations will be going out in early November for our master planning sessions."
Anyone interested in participating or interested in learning more about the process should reach out to Laker at 812-934-4384 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A new website detailing Batesville's plan to transform their school corporation's educational structure has been created at https://batesvilleinschools.com/academics/transformational-journey/. Community members can read more about the Portrait of a Graduate and the Ford NGL process there.
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