Through a personalized program
in this rural high school, students
develop their own curriculum.
a personalized program that evolves
from vague curiosity to deeper inquiry.
Students enroll in Pathways for a single
semester, several semesters, or for their
whole high school experience. Students
arrange with their advisors to schedule
time in work settings, internships, or
learning at home. Students from across
the spectrum of achievement may
enroll, and students who qualify may
receive special education services while
in Pathways. Virtually all those who
choose this path express dissatisfaction
with classroom learning.
Two years into the program, more
than 40 of the 560 students at Mount
Abraham Union have enrolled in Pathways for all their credits; an additional
19 students are using this process to
earn independent core credits. Nine
Mount Abraham Union students who
did Pathways full time have graduated since spring 2010, and most of
those who join the program stay in
it. Although students often talk about
dropping out when they first apply to
the program, only two students from
this program have left Mount Abraham
Union before graduating.
More than 100 students are enrolled
for credit in the district’s personalized
learning department, which includes
Pathways participants and others who
enroll as full- or part-time students.
The department’s home base at Mount
Abraham Union houses computers,
multimedia equipment, and space for
advisors and students to work on project development.
As a community mentor with Path-
ways, I’ve observed this program unfold
and interviewed many involved students
and staff. I’ve seen how Pathways
engages even indifferent teenagers. Pathways puts the student at the center of
the learning process but uses standards
relevant for work in the 21st century to
assess the products students develop for
their final exhibitions and portfolios.
Pathways curriculum doesn’t convey
a particular body of knowledge. Instead,
through a well-developed inquiry
process, students explore their interests.
These interests always come first. Learn-
ers then develop projects that sharpen
and demonstrate skills they’ll need to
pursue dreams connected to those pas-
sions into their adult lives. They practice
such skills through firsthand involve-
ment in their community, and they cre-
ate products that are assessed through