Earlier today, the New England Secondary School Consortium announced recipients of their first annual NESSC Champions awards recognizing seven leaders from across New England.
Receiving regional awards were:
• Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State College System; and
• Lou DiPalma, state senator from Rhode Island.
Receiving state awards were:
• Dr. Ed McKay, chancellor of the University of New Hampshire system:
• Dr. Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director for the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents:
• Justin Alfond, state senator and majority leader of the senate from Maine;
• Denise Jenkins, grant programs officer education from the Rhode Island Foundation; and
• Peter Peltz, state representative from VT.
These awards signify a unique contribution to moving state policy, practice, or public understanding in ways that promote increased graduation rates, decreased drop-out rates, and more students moving on to college and credentialing programs.
“Ensuring high quality learning for all of our students is pivotal both on an individual level for each child and collectively for us all across New England,” noted David Ruff, executive director of the Great Schools Partnership and the NESSC. “These individuals stand tall as examples of community members who are dedicated to ensuring that our young people get the quality education they deserve.”
The awards were given out at the annual High School Redesign in Action conference hosted by the NESSC. With close to 500 educators, legislators, and business leaders participating, the conference show cases successful programs at schools across Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. The NESSC is a collaborative effort of high schools and the departments of education in these five states working to research, promote, implement, and support practices and strategies that enrich learning for students. Key to this effort is a commitment to students demonstrating learning versus simply attending school, and creating a variety of pathways to better personalize learning for each student.
As Chancellor of the Vermont State College System, Tim Donovan has lead efforts to promote college acceptance of proficiency-based graduation from high school. Currently, all schools in the Vermont State College System have signed on to a pledge coordinated by the NESSC supporting proficiency-based learning.
“Tim’s leadership across the Vermont State Colleges has been instrumental in moving proficiency-based graduation forward, creating the ability for our high schools to personalize learning and better prepare students for life after graduation,” noted John Fischer, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Education Agency.
Rhode Island State Senator Lou DiPalma proposed and shepherded state legislation that requires mandatory attendance for all students until graduation or age 18.
“This legislation—while difficult to implement—has provided a positive push for schools across Rhode Island to create new and more engaging learning opportunities for students. Senator DiPalma’s efforts won’t allow us to simply let students walk away from learning that will be required for success in life,” said Sharon Lee, Director of Multiple Pathways for the Rhode Island Department of Education.
State Senator Justin Alfond has served on the NESSC leadership council since its inception. Senator Alfond introduced, championed, and helped guide Maine legislation that requires students to demonstrate proficiency of common learning standards to graduate from high school.
“As a principal and parent of a kindergarten student, I am excited for the future of Maine education as we move away from lower expectations built on attendance towards demonstrations of deep learning. Senator Alfond’s leadership and support for legislation, the Maine Department of Education, and ultimately high schools across Maine have been instrumental in making this a reality,” said Todd West, principal of Deer-Isle Stonington High School.
Dr. Joe Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, has lead a superintendents’ effort to create a policy agenda that supports proficiency-based and personalized learning. Dr. Cirasuolo has presented these ideas to the legislature to support various legislative actions. Recently leading a state task force regarding high school graduation, Mr. Cirasuolo has been a leading advocate for proficiency-based learning as a means to support the most vulnerable students.
“Joe has taken the tough stands on a regular basis on behalf of Connecticut students,” notes Rae Ann Knopf, executive director of the Connecticut Council for Education Reform. “His leadership is paving a new road for learning across the state.”
Representative Peter Peltz from Vermont has been a tireless advocate for multiple and flexible learning pathways for students, twice championing legislation that supports dual enrollment in college for high school students.
“Representative Peltz has been a key leader regarding dual enrollment in Vermont. He sees the benefits of getting kids engaged and moving ahead with college at an early level,” stated Armando Vilaseca, Vermont Secretary of Education.
Denise Jenkins from the Rhode Island Foundation has been instrumental in supporting schools across Rhode Island in the development of better instructional practice. Ms. Jenkins has served as a key thought leader in this work, promoting the exchange of ideas across teachers.
“Using data on classroom practice collected as part of this work, our teachers have looked for and found new ways to meet the learning needs of our students,” notes Alan Tenrero, principal of Cumberland HS. “We know that increasing learning requires increasing the quality of instruction—and Denise has been instrumental in assuring we have this support.”
Dr. Ed McKay, chancellor for the University of New Hampshire system, has been a champion for aligning the Common Core State Standards across the preK-12 system into higher education. Dr. McKay provided resources to assist the NESSC—both financially as well as deploying policy experts to set up common core summits across New Hampshire where higher education faculty members and high school educators joined in conversation about college and career ready standards.
“Dr. McKay knows that changing our high schools will impact higher education. And it is the responsibility of us all to work together to ensure that New Hampshire students get an education of high quality that smoothly transitions them from high school to college,” stated Virginia Barry, New Hampshire Commissioner of Education.