Deer Lakes School District
Developing a Framework for the Future Informed by Learners, Industry, and Higher Ed
Public school district in a rural community outside Pittsburgh
Serving 1,800 K-12 students across 4 schools
Diagnostic Assessment, Guiding Coalition, Framework for the Future, Learner Profile, Learning Model
Returning to schools after the Covid-19 Pandemic, Deer Lakes wanted to focus on more than just test scores. With a priority for students to grow, be happy, and know where they are going, they wanted to establish an expanded view of success along with the learning experiences and measurement instruments to support this vision.
As the team set out to develop their Framework for the Future to define their desired learner outcomes and learning experiences, engaging the strong community within and beyond Deer Lakes was central to their success.
With a diverse and representative guiding coalition across a spectrum of willingness to change, the team wanted to deeply understand what kids need when they get out of school. Within the school community, they interviewed students, teachers, and school and district leaders. To gain insight into college and career readiness perspectives, they also interviewed various community groups, including hiring managers from local companies and admissions officers at local universities. The district’s learner-centered approach intentionally included students both on the guiding coalition and in these interview conversations as active agents of change.
Using learnings from these conversations, classroom walk-throughs, and a clear sense of existing Bright Spots to build upon (such as long standing commitments to K-12 career counseling and partnerships to support mental and physical health), the guiding coalition team identified trends and used design thinking to imagine what school could and should look like. From this process, a draft of desired outcomes emerged that school teams then socialized and shared with staff to get feedback and identify areas for further clarification. After a few rounds of revisions and feedback, a clear learner profile emerged with 5 defined competencies.
Moving forward with a clearly defined learner profile, the guiding coalition aligned on what learning should look and feel like in order to bring those 5 competencies to life. From that conversation, they defined their learning model and drafted K-12 progressions to clarify how each of the 5 competencies would be demonstrated in grade-level bands. Educators were engaged to co-craft these progressions which are intended to provide concrete examples and guidance to ensure vertical alignment. The district recognizes the impact of clearly defining and demonstrating its foundational competencies for students, educators, and the community to effectively promote authentic learning that shapes today’s learners into tomorrow’s leaders
From there, the team built a website to capture evidence of students practicing and demonstrating the Learner Profile outcomes. This not only celebrates the Bright Spots but enables all stakeholders within and beyond the district to see the impact of their learner-centered model.
With a clearly defined district-wide framework, Deer Lakes is ready to offer professional learning aligned to the framework and empower schools in the district to leverage design thinking to spark learner-centered change in their classrooms. These next steps will help them achieve their goal of focusing on learning and student wellbeing in addition to academic achievement.