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Tallmadge City Schools Shares Their Authentic Learning Journey

Updated: 3 days ago

On May 9, educators from across the state joined Kathy Meyer, Ellen Erlanger and

Emmy Beeson on a virtual trip to Tallmadge City Schools, which is located in northeast

Ohio. The Virtual Visit Video spotlighted teachers, administrators, students, and

community members as they shared their district’s authentic learning journey.


filming set up in auditorium

Their journey began approximately six years ago when stakeholders came together to discuss what they wanted the Tallmadge experience to be. Superintendent Steve Wood shared that it was the Tallmadge community values of faith, service and education that underpinned a shared vision and the subsequent creation of the Tallmadge Portrait of a Graduate and Directional System. These two documents were instrumental in their process and continue today to serve as the North Star for every decision the district makes, from hiring to the educational opportunities teachers provide their students.

Thomas Rozborski, high school English teacher, shared that once the district

collectively determined what the educational experience at Tallmadge should be, they

then committed to taking the steps necessary to get there. Authentic learning became

the vehicle to do exactly that, and the pieces and parts were put into place to support

the operational changes. In addition to new elementary and middle school buildings

designed to enhance authentic learning experiences, two key supports implemented

were the creation of a K-12 Leadership Team and ongoing coaching/professional

development with Partnerships for Authentic Learning and Leadership.

Curriculum Director Courtney Davis credits the K-12 Leadership Team for keeping the

district’s Portrait of a Graduate and Directional System at the center of every decision.


“We are moving beyond tests and textbooks and moving more into real world [learning] and connectedness to our community and standards. The K-12 Leadership Team has been integral to the progress of this experience. They take their passion back to their respective buildings and encourage their colleagues to take risks as well."

She goes on further to say that the district wants to truly transform education.

Additionally, administrators and teachers alike share the belief that the ongoing, multi-year professional development and coaching have been critical components in the journey. “It has been refreshing to know our commitment would continue from year to year,” stated Jon Bryan, teacher and K-12 Leadership Team member. This is in stark contrast of the typical “one and done” professional development opportunities often experienced in schools.


tallmadge city schools

The benefits of the six year commitment to incorporating authentic learning is apparent. Elementary teacher Sara Courie knows that moving from a focus on test scores to the soft skills students need to be successful after leaving Tallmadge Schools “…has enabled our students to show more than academic achievement. They are able to do more than we have ever seen before.”


adam booth tallmadge

That puts the district right on track to meeting their goal of preparing students for the next step, whether that is employed, enlisted or enrolled shared Adam Booth, Tallmadge Elementary principal. “Our authentic learning vision has answered the questions of where does this apply and how am I going to use this in life. With the authentic learning vision that our district has, we have answered those questions at all levels.”

 

It goes without saying that challenges and obstacles have existed along the way. Authentic learning is messy at times, and that means having to “embrace the chaos.”

"But whether the challenge has been scheduling or finding time for collaboration, identifying each and coming together to find a solution has been a powerful part of the journey."


As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, and that “pudding” for Tallmadge City Schools is the students. Davis stated that their students feel more empowered and connected to their learning and about what their life looks like after they leave Tallmadge. They know they can be changemakers, leaders and thinkers.

 

We encourage you to take some time to “visit” Tallmadge City Schools so you can experience their journey for yourself. You will be glad you did! The video includes explanations of many of the projects taking place, some practical advice on how starting small and taking risks can lead to big changes as well as a Q&A session with Tallmadge leaders.





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