Evaluation of the Kansas City Public Schools' student-centered learning program Harry Truman Elementary
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Student-Centered Learning is a foundational curriculum and instructional framework developed in the Kansas City Public Schools District and implemented between 2010 and 2012. The program was designed by incorporating many elements from the standards-based schools movement as well as components of the facilitative instructional movement. The result of this process was a two-year commitment to implementing Student-Centered Learning. The philosophy adopted during this period of time in Kansas City Public Schools focused on transformation from theory to practice using the concepts of routine, search and selection environment. By examining the pattern of current practice, acquiring new information and alternative practices, and creating an environment where innovation can be adopted and sustained, organizations can use an structured selection process where unexpected positive benefits that result in productivity are kept and ineffective ideas discarded. While this philosophy is most closely aligned to economic theories, Nelson and Winter's 1982 work on natural selection, although decades old, still resonates in Kansas City today. Kansas City Public Schools had determined that routines would be replaced with trial and error, innovation and change. Student-Centered Learning involved reinventing the district's curriculum into a discrete set of content-based Learning Targets. These targets were divided into what were referred to as grade-level expectations. Students were given an entrance exam to determine their academic level and were subsequently placed in non-age-based, ability-based classrooms. Teachers utilized a facilitative approach to classroom instruction and were directed to reduce direct content delivery time and increase student cooperative and independent practice. Project-based learning and inquiry-based approaches to learning were pushed as the way students could learn best. Administrators and Instructional Coaches used a walk-through classroom observation tool called Observation 360 to determine if the process was being implemented correctly and to provide on-going professional development. The program was in place until it was suspended in the spring of 2012 after a large district-level administrative change and the loss of state accreditation by the district following multiple years of poor standardized testing results. Composite and observational data collected between 2010-2012 illustrates that while teaching practices did appear to follow the design of Student-Centered Learning, the subsequent results on student measurable academic achievement on the Missouri Assessment Program appeared to follow the same inconsistent pattern that has impacted Harry Truman Elementary and the district since the onset of No Child Left Behind and led to the district's loss of state accreditation in 2012.
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