Episode 23: Can a Comprehensive High School Be Learner-Centered? with Melissa Agudelo

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Episode Summary:

Melissa Agudelo, Co-Principal of Lincoln High School in San Diego, shares about her experiences and insights as an educator and leader aimed at putting learners at the center by design.

Melissa shares how she got into education through Teach for America in the 1990s and the impact of seeing disaggregated student data under No Child Left Behind, which made her question traditional approaches to teaching focused heavily on curriculum coverage versus relationships and relevance.

She discusses her transformative experience teaching at High Tech High with project-based learning, but also her realization that those approaches weren’t reaching all students, prompting her move to lead schools focused explicitly on serving learners furthest from opportunity.

Key topics covered include:

  • 🙏 Implementing restorative practices rather than zero-tolerance discipline
  • 🤝 The importance of advisory structures to build relationships
  • 🎯 Collaborative teacher development of projects and portfolio assessments
  • 🖼️ Iteratively developing a learner-centered culture and portrait of a graduate focused on broader competencies rather than content mastery
  • 👨‍🎓 Melissa’s vision for an education system that privileges authentic learning over grades and curriculum

Related Resources:

  • Hispanic Heritage: Lincoln High School principal on a mission (KPBS).
    Melissa was featured by San Diego’s PBS affiliate during Hispanic Heritage month where she shares where her core motivations as a learner-centered educator were born from.
  • Toolkit: The Foundations of Restorative Justice (Learning for Justice).
    Learn more about the foundations of restorative justice practices in schools, including relationship building, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and community involvement.
  • Melissa Agudelo Spoken Word on Leadership (Big Picture Learning).
    Recipient of the 2020 BPL Seymour Sarason School Leader of the Year Award, Melissa shares her view on leadership, the good and the bad, through spoken word. Presented at the 2020 BPL Leadership Conference.

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