Monthly Archives: September 2018

District leaders set to apply “Human Centered Design” after participating in Expanding Innovation 2.0

A training session earlier this week found lots of converts to Human Centered Design (HCD). Brownsville Area School District Superintendent Bill King was quick to say why he was one of them.

“It’s friendly, it’s positive, it’s a unique approach to problem-solving,” he explained.

HCD is a discipline of making decisions in service of people. It has proven to be a powerful approach for business leaders attempting to make their companies more customer-focused. Now gaining traction in education, it’s also expected to help district and school leaders put students at the heart of their decisions.

King’s district was one of seven that participated in Expanding Innovation 2.0, an outgrowth the HCD training program for education leaders that the LUMA Institute piloted last year in cooperation with Remake Learning.

The Consortium and LUMA are working in partnership to extend the training to two more cohorts of education leaders in the 2018-2019 school year. Both the pilot and this year’s trainings were made possible with support from The Grable Foundation.

In addition to Brownsville Area, teams participating in this year’s first two-day training session came from Allegheny Valley, Bethlehem Center, New Castle Area, Northgate and Shaler Area and South Allegheny school districts

As part of the training, they learned HCD concepts by tackling simulated problems such a hypothetical situation with a  goal of increasing civic engagement. To address each problem, teams were given “recipes” that required them to use several of the of 36 HCD methods they were learning during the two-day session.  Among the methods are practices such as conducting interviews, undertaking formal idea-generation sessions, doing stakeholder-mapping and others.

Having completed the training, teams now will apply HCD methods on real projects in their districts and schools. LUMA and Consortium trainers will check in to provide support at the 30, 60, and 90-day marks, after which, the teams will reconvene to present their work. The Consortium already is fielding inquiries from districts interested in joining a second cohort of teams that will get HCD training and perform projects in the second half of the school year.

Projects that the teams from the first training session were planning ranged widely—from improving the school cafeteria experience in one district to boosting staff morale in another.

Brownsville’s King said his team plans to use the HCD methods to better align the use of high school library space with student needs. Noting that technology has reduced the space needed for books, he said the library could conceivably incorporate other resources such as technology or other functions, such as career services.

King said he thought HCD would be a good approach because it encourages participants in the process to express ideas without inhibition. “It’s a no-fear response system,” he said. “Everyone can be comfortable because no one idea is right or wrong.”



Consortium adds new Program Director

Christy Kuehn joined the Consortium as a Program Director this month, just as the school year began and just in time to pitch on a number of our initiatives including the Future Ready Alliance, Student Powered Solutions and Educator in the Workforce.

Christy Kuehn, Ph.D., Program Director

Experienced in both academic settings and the nonprofit sector, she brings more than 10 years of experience as a high school English teacher as well as seven years working at the college level as an instructor and academic advisor.

In the nonprofit sector, she has served as a program administrator and overseen numerous after-school and summer programs for K-12 students. Among her nonprofit roles, she served in several capacities with the Neighborhood Learning Alliance on projects in Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Kuehn’s personal and professional goals include advancing equitable access to higher education, empowering educators, and advocating for students. That combination drew her to the Consortium because of its work helping to level the playing field for under-resourced districts.

“The issue that most concerns me in education is equity,” Kuehn said. “I think it’s something we need to address because we see entire populations whose needs aren’t being served.”

“Christy’s background couldn’t be more suited to the work we do,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak. “She’s all about helping kids plan for their futures and equipping educators with the resources they need to help students prepare for post-secondary education and careers.”

Immediately prior to joining our staff, Kuehn was an academic advisor at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) where she also served as an Adjunct Professor of English. In her capacity as an advisor, she helped students set educational goals, connected them with college resources and mentored them toward academic success.

Kuehn holds a doctorate in Instructional Management and Leadership from Robert Morris University. She earned her M.A. in Literature from Arizona State University and her B.A. in English Education from Geneva College.





Looking for mentors!

The Consortium is again recruiting adult volunteers for middle school mentoring opportunities in three districts. In partnership with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, we’ll be offering opportunities to Be A Middle School Mentor (BAMSM) in Clairton City, McKeesport Area and Woodland Hills School Districts.

Additionally, we’ll be working with United Way and YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh to roll out STEM Stars in Woodland Hills. STEM Stars is an after-school mentoring program for intermediate-and- middle school-aged girls. 

The programs offer plenty of support for the mentors as well as the mentees, so there’s no reason to let a lack of experience or uncertainties about working with adolescents stand in the way.

“We always say that all you need to do is show up,” said Frank Kamara, a Public Allies intern on staff at the Consortium who helps organize our mentoring programs. “We have everything planned to make the mentors and the kids comfortable.”

Unlike mentoring programs where adults are on their own in creating ways to engage with students, the BAMSM and STEM programs “provide the environment and activities” for interaction, though mentors still get opportunities in those settings for one-to-one mentoring, Kamara explained.

Among other goals, the BAMSM program aims to improve school attendance by helping students understand the important role education plays in their futures and helping them think about post-secondary education and career opportunities. Mentors in the STEM Stars program help interest girls in STEM through activities planned by a teacher leader and discussions.

If you or someone you know might be interested, you can learn more about BAMSM here or about STEM Stars here.

Attend fall training sessions in Project-Based Learning…

The Consortium will again offer training in Project-Based Learning (PBL) during the 2018-2019 school year, both for teachers undertaking projects as part of our Student Powered Solutions program as well as others with a general interest. 

The first two-day training begins with a workshop September 27 and concludes with a second session on October 11. Costs are based on levels of participation described in our fee schedule. (Schools that want on-site PBL training for their own groups of educators also can arrange them through Jackie Foor, the Consortium’s Director of Institutional Advancement.)

SPS pairs classrooms with companies or community organizations willing to offer students authentic problems to solve. But the same training we offer for SPS partners can help any educator who wants to begin learning about and introducing PBL.

Educators new to PBL needn’t worry that the process is too involved or that they can’t modify it for their own purposes,

“If teachers just take what they are already doing that is like PBL and build on it they’ll have a good start,” said Sarah Brooks, a Consortium Program Director who helps facilitate SPS projects, among other responsibilities. “It’s a process, it’s not something that’s either going to happen or not.”

Brooks added that teachers need only embrace a few key elements to begin implementing PBL., such as ensuring that students have a “driving question” to guide their work.

Our upcoming training sessions also will help teachers who might be hesitant to try PBL out of concern that it may limit their ability to cover content and skills dictated by state standards.

“We’ll be helping teachers plan backwards, with an eye on embedding state standards into the projects they design,” said Aaron Altemus, a Consortium Program Director who also helps organize SPS projects.

Trainers also will discuss creating rubrics to assess student learning of content dictated by state standards, he said.

Beyond the training session, the Consortium also offers other kinds of support for educators participating in SPS or other PBL projects.

Altemus and Brooks have done significant research and undergone training in PBL methods. This summer, both attended a week-long program offered by the Buck Institute, whose methods many consider the gold-standard for PBL.





Consortium and LUMA Institute launch Expanding Innovation 2.0

 The Consortium for Public Education and the LUMA Institute are partnering to launch the 2018-2019 version of Expanding Innovation, a professional development program aimed at helping leaders in K-12 education use the principles and practices of Human-Centered Design (HCD) to advance improvements in their districts and schools.

HCD is the discipline of developing solutions in service of people. Just as it has proven to be a tremendous aid for helping business leaders become hyper-attentive to the needs of their customers, it’s now gaining traction in education as a means of helping leaders put student needs at the heart of every decision. 

The partnership is being supported with a grant from The Grable Foundation in cooperation with Remake Learning. It builds on a pilot that Remake Learning ran in collaboration with LUMA during the 2016-2017 school year. As part of the pilot, 17 educational leaders received HCD training through a combination of workshops and coaching. Many districts, including those in the Consortium’s networks, have since expressed interest in advancing innovation through HCD.

Under the Consortium’s partnership with LUMA, two new cohorts of educational leaders will embark on HCD training, putting it into practice in improvement projects they choose for their schools. Seven districts will be represented in each cohort. At least half of the participants will be under-resourced districts with 50% or more of their student populations receiving federally subsidized lunch. Participants in the Fall cohort include: Allegheny Valley, Bethlehem Center, Brownsville Area, New Castle Area, Northgate and Shaler Area and South Allegheny school districts. Districts or schools that would like to participate in the second half of the school year should contact the Consortium as soon as possible because space is limited.

Two Consortium staffers will be certified to co-instruct the upcoming training sessions with LUMA. The onboarding workshop for the first cohort takes place September 18-19. At the two-day workshop, teams of three educators from each participating district or school will learn and apply HCD concepts through projects designed to create new and innovative learning opportunities for students in their schools. Staff from LUMA and the Consortium will support the teams with check-ins at 30, 60 and 90 days following their training. Afterward, teams will convene to give presentations about their work.