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The “State of a School” Focused on Authentic Learning

Superintendents delivering a State of the Schools address is not an unusual practice.  What is unique is for an entire State of the Schools address to be focused solely on authentic instructional strategies and why this work is making a difference.  For a district to be this laser focused on their vision means they have done the legwork to create a directional system, they know their mission (not just a link on a website, but a “know-that-you-know-that you know” mission), and they have defined their desired outcomes.  A school to be watching is Fairbanks Local in Union County, Ohio.  Fairbanks is finding tangible ways to have “Pride in the past, passion in the present, and preparing for the future.”

“When you set a clear direction for the student experience, you can create the momentum to get there.”

While watching their State of the Schools Video linked above, you will see how their district is highlighting authentic learning at their high school.  The work to move traditional instruction to authentic learning at the high school level is typically challenging, but 2 years of dedicated work is generating big results. 

The transition is led by staff and students alike.  Teachers share that authentic learning is:

  • Giving students relevant experiences in their learning, 

  • Helping students find what they want to do in their own lives through these experiences, 

  • Meeting state standards in a way that is authentic to students’ lives, 

  • Facilitating projects that have uncertainty and choice because they are more like real life and less like a prescriptive rubric,

  • Providing opportunities for students to become experts on topics not just passive learners of content

Janel Chapman, current High School Principal and soon-to-be Chief Academic Officer in August 2024, says, “The aim of authentic learning is to take course content and apply it to real world learning.”  Based on the State of the Schools video from Fairbanks, we think you will see that they are finding ways to live this out.


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