School Showcase Feature: Laconia High School

Laconia High School is implementing Performance Based Assessments (PBAs) that tie content learning directly to students’ college and career aspirations. This is done using a vertical design that consistently integrates students’ voices and choices into curriculum delivery throughout their four-year educational careers. In this way, we are working to ensure students graduate from our educational community with the skills needed to move toward their chosen goals.

Laconia High School has been part of the CCSR i3 Network for four years. Our original direction involved the development and implementation of Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs). The philosophy behind ELOs seemed to work well for those students who had the discipline to stick with the work they designed and the structured due dates that came with it. In the last two years, we have worked to integrate that philosophy into our overall four-year program so that students developed the desire to “own” their education. This has resulted in greater student engagement. Students have an increased awareness of the relevance of what they are learning, they are more aware of how their education can be connected to the future they want to have, and they are regularly asked to assess how their current performance is moving them toward or away from the goals they have set.

In the freshman year, all students participate in essays designed to get them to compare and contrast their perceived behavior and motivations with those of characters in the novels they are reading. The task is specifically designed to help students understand personal choice and the logical consequences that occur when these choices are made. During this year, students also participate in CareerCruising and discuss how motivation and choices determine opportunity. These assessments happen in our freshmen Algebra and English classes.

During sophomore year, students engage in the “What is Right for Me” PBA in the social studies program. This multi-week effort requires students to review their educational choices and develop their own college and career plan. Through research and discussion, they design their direction in a real-world way and formally present their projects in class.

As students enter their junior year, they, their parents, and their guidance counselors engage in “The Junior Review.” This is a comprehensive review of a student’s performance and choices he or she has made thus far in high school. It includes an honest discussion of the direction the student’s efforts are moving him or her in relation to the goals he or she set the previous year. In American Studies, our junior-level humanities program, students develop 12 essays that represent their understanding of what it means to be an American. This PBA requires all juniors to present a position paper on how they see themselves as citizens of the United States based on their work in understanding the development of our nation and its interaction with other nations.

We are currently developing a pilot for all seniors that requires them to complete an independent study that engages them in formally planning their post-graduation plans. This PBA, called “Where I am Going Next,” ensures seniors have a plan they understand and own for the day after they walk across the stage with their diploma.

It is exciting to see students engage in their own aspirations through real research and formal presentation. We look forward to sharing our vision with others in the upcoming months.

Laconia High School will be one of 22 schools featured at the Breaking Ranks School Showcase at Ignite ’14. The Woodbridge team will be presenting High School Redesign Through the Lenses of PBAs and Career Pathways on Thursday, February 6th.

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