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A Technology Rich Project-Based Curriculum: TechBoston Academy's Vision for Personalized Learning

The Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network (MA PLN) is hard at work helping public schools transition to personalized learning programs that put student engagement and academic success at the heart of their curricula. Personalized learning helps students learn how to think critically and engage with the world they live in while embracing their individual interests and learning styles.  
 
In this three-part interview series, MA PLN Senior Associate Karen White talks to principals and headmasters participating in MA PLN cohorts about their visions for personalized learning. Today, Karen speaks with TechBoston Academy's Co-Headmaster Nora Vernazza about the school's efforts to further promote academic and social support for all students while emphasizing student engagement. 

Tba


TechBoston Academy (TBA) is part of our second cohort of schools in the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Network. TBA, a Boston Public School, has 1003 students in grades 6-12. TBA’s student body is predominantly African American and Latino with less than 10% from other ethnic groups. TBA is a Pilot School with enhanced autonomy that allows the school to offer a truly unique and successful program.  

Karen: What makes TechBoston Academy special? 

Mrs. Vernazza: TBA is a special place because our school culture is built on strong relationships and caring. We invest heavily in the supports that students need to be successful in school and to find success once they leave. 

Karen: Why are you participating in the MA PLN? 

Mrs. Vernazza: We have always believed that student-centered learning should be at the core of how we “do school.” By instituting widespread personalized learning, we will increase authentic student engagement and strengthen the academic and social support for all types of learners. MA PLN is an opportunity to learn from and with other Massachusetts schools. This is a unique opportunity for teachers to learn best practices in personalized learning so that students can benefit. This is how we go “from good to great!"

Karen: How will you implement personalized learning in your school and what are the connections to the principles that guide the MA PLN? 

Mrs. Vernazza: We are focusing on increasing student engagement. We want to do this by strengthening our social and emotional supports and making project based learning a standard across all the grades.  We will build an advisory program that will facilitate collaboration between students and staff. This advisory program will include community-based projects and explicit instruction in goal setting and action planning. Our programs will be founded on the principles of Social Emotional Learning, Engaged Learning and Next Generation Curriculum and Assessment. 

Karen: What are some of the challenges of this transformation to a more personalized learning school? 

Mrs. Vernazza: One challenge we are facing is engaging the staff in the planning process. We have over 100 staff members across a middle school and a high school and it has been tough getting everyone involved. We are tackling this issue through a series of focus groups and electronic surveys. Hopefully we will get the input we need to guide our work. Another challenge is deciding the best way to fuse these programs into our existing program and align it with other initiatives at the school. We are very fortunate to have many community partners that help us provide the level of support our students need so they can be successful in school and in the real world. 

Karen: What is the vision for personalized learning at TechBoston Academy?

Mrs. Vernazza: Our vision statement. TechBoston Academy engages both teachers and students in innovative technology enhanced learning experiences. Teachers learn through self-directed professional development focused on the best practices for student-centered learning; including quality performance assessments, authentic project based learning, and adolescent social and emotional learning. Students acquire skills and content by collaborating in the design and implementation of community based projects that allow them to explore their unique interests while engaging in a cognitively-rigorous, technology rich, college preparatory curriculum. TechBoston Academy students and teachers work together to make meaningful connections and contributions to the school community and the world. 

To learn more about TechBoston Academy visit http://techbostonacademy.org/ and follow them @tbaupdates

Read Parts 1 and 3 in this interview series:
Developing Personalized Learning Pathways at Holmes Elementary
Making Plans for Student Success at Garfield Middle School

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