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The Schoolhouse Rocks: Academy School-Based Innovation

At the Learning Forward Foundation, we believe in the power of school-based educators to transform children’s lives. Whether awardees choose to think big or think small, we celebrate their creativity and innovation in the schoolhouse.

This year’s winner of the Foundation’s School-Based Academy Scholarship is Andrea von Biberstein, instructional specialist at Ridgeview Charter School, located in the southernmost region of Sandy Springs, Georgia.

The Schoolhouse

Ridgeview is an International Baccalaureate-Middle Years Program (IB/MYP) school, serving 1131 students. The school’s results from the 2015 Georgia Milestone assessments underscore the importance of improving academic achievement levels across all four core content areas. In 2015, 43% of students scored proficient or distinguished (level 3 or 4) on the English Language Arts assessment. Fewer students met acceptable standards in science (36%), social studies (35%), and mathematics (34%).

To meet goals for student achievement, the school is transitioning to a personalized learning model through the school-wide deployment of iPads. Ridgeview is among the first wave of schools in the districtwide strategic plan for schools to adopt one-to-one computing, and teachers and students have access to informational and instructional learning platforms across all core content areas. In addition, teachers have abundant opportunities for district-supported and school-based professional learning workshops, and benefit from two back-to-back 50-minute collaborative teacher planning periods each day. Instructional support is offered to teachers at the school through the work of school-based, full-time release certified instructional specialists.

Ridgeview’s Problem of Practice for Professional Learning

Although there is an abundance of technological resources, district support, protected planning time, and capable instructional support personnel, the school is in need of teacher-leaders who can facilitate collaboration that collectively 1) delivers instructional rigor that intertwines the IB-MYP framework and Georgia standards, 2) addresses the immediate reading, writing, and math needs of underperforming students, and 3) leverages resources to promote a pedagogical-shift from teacher-centered instruction to 21st century-oriented student-centered learning.

The Power of Academy Professional Learning

“When skilled leaders create the conditions for teachers to engage in authentic, job-embedded professional learning,” said von Biberstein, “great teaching emerges, which grows great students and great schools.” To help create those conditions for teachers, von Biberstein turned to Learning Forward’s Academy to gain the expertise needed to facilitate student growth-oriented teacher collaboration within and across grade-level PLC’s, as well as acquire the skills to evaluate professional learning outcomes that are scalable and support school improvement goals.

Congratulations to Andrea von Biberstein. We look forward to your continued success!

The Learning Forward Foundation scholarship contest encourages educators to put their good ideas into action and apply their research and creativity to impact education’s most profound challenges. Learn more or donate to the Learning Forward Foundation scholarships and grants.

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