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January 19. 2014 7:02PM

Gov. Hassan visits Pittsfield school to see impact of redesign plan


Pittsfield Middle High School sophomores Kyle Hamel and Lilly Plummer stand with Gov. Maggie Hassan Friday as the school gave the governor a demonstration of its change to “student-centered” learning. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

PITTSFIELD — The staff and students at Pittsfield Middle High School on Friday showed Gov. Maggie Hassan how their new way of learning is paying off.

Hassan was witness to the Pittsfield School District Redesign plan, the result of a community effort to improve the schools that began in 2009.

“We didn’t like the results we were getting in the schools,” said John Freeman, SAU 51 superintendent of schools. “The community came together and said ‘we can do better.’”

The school system adopted a “student-centered” learning approach that aims to put students first and empower them to take ownership of their learning. After a “self-discovery” process in which students learn the ways in which they learn best, each student develops individual learning plans, with help and support of fellow students, faculty, and family.

The school’s learning system also includes “extended learning opportunities,” or opportunities for students to earn credits by working for businesses and organizations outside the school.

Aiding in the transition was a three-year, $2 million federal School Improvement Grant and a $200,000 grant the school received from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Freeman said.

On Friday,Hassan took part in student meetings and met with students afterward.

She was impressed.

“Pittsfield students are taking responsibility for their own futures by engaging in developing their curriculum and by participating in extended learning opportunities outside of the classroom,” she said. “It is an impressive program and I look forward to the students’ progress and success.”

School administrators said her visit was “exciting,” and likely meant a lot to students.

“This is extremely exciting, we are being recognized and acknowledged for transforming our school,” said Tobi Chassie, a district administrator.

Students in attendance also endorsed the redesign.

“It’s engaging, definitely more hands-on than reading from a book,” said sophomore Lilly Plummer.

“It’s been a good change,” said Kyle Hamel, also a sophomore.

“Students get a lot more involved in learning.”

dseufert@newstote.com


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