Winter Learning Sessions Offer Bright Spots for Freshman Success and College & Career Readiness

Grade 9 SuccessPostsecondary Readiness

Last month, we held Winter Learning Sessions to lift up promising practices and innovative responses to shared  challenges. This year, we are responding to new obstacles, and by learning from our collective bright spots — both big and small — we sought to inspire and catalyze more success. Both our College and Career Readiness (CCR) and Freshman Success sessions were designed to reinforce our shared belief that continuous improvement requires both the courage to act boldly and the humility to know our work is never complete. Understanding and learning from our successes support our collective efforts to better meet student needs and improve student outcomes.

During our CCR and Freshman Success sessions, we grounded the conversation in author Dan Heath’s idea of “bright spots”. In his book, Don’t Solve Problems – Copy Success, he states that: “In tough times, we’ll see problems everywhere, and ‘analysis paralysis’ will often kick in…And that’s why bright spots are so essential: They provide the road map.”  To this end we chose to spotlight several different schools to lift up successes in responding to student needs and advancing our core goals of Grade 9 on-track achievement and college and career readiness. We know that we operate best as a network when we put our educators in the lead, and many gave feedback similar to this note from a Teacher at Hartford Public High School: “I love listening to other schools. Sometimes just hearing simple ideas from another school becomes no brainers for our own school.” 

In total, 91 educators joined these learning sessions, and the idea of bright-spotting practices seemed to resonate with our Network. A teacher from Platt High School stated that the “reminder to focus on strengths …put me in the right frame of mind. I think at this point of the year I keep concentrating on how to encourage and help students that are struggling that I tend to ‘forget’ to give love and positive feedback to students that are doing great”. 

We know that this year has been anything but easy, and the challenges faced by our schools – and the communities that they collectively serve – are many. But, as one presenter noted, despite all of this being true, “We have seen improvements in our practice from the constraints of the pandemic…in discussions with other colleagues, we realized that a lot of best practices have emerged during the pandemic that we hope will be everlasting.” 

Network learning sessions will return for our final sessions of the year in mid-May, where educators will gather once again as Freshman Success and CCR communities to reflect on the year and prepare for next school year together.

Winter Learning Sessions Materials

Freshman Success Bright Spots & Materials

College and Career Readiness Bright Spots & Materials

  • Session agenda and slides
  • EHHS – “The Hornet Approach” for Targeted Postsecondary Supports, with Danielle Levasseur and Norberto Candelario-Crespo (slides)
  • Platt – Senior List Meetings Taking CCR to the Next Level, with Abby Marcantonio, Kristin Mona, Marc Guidone, and Pete Civitello (sample meeting agenda)
  • Manchester – From “College Essay” to Personal Narratives, with Amanda Navarra (slides