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EL and Harvard Graduate School of Education Announce the Center for Student Work

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    Alexis Margolin



Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and Expeditionary Learning (EL) this month announced the Center for Student Work (CSW), the largest online resource of exemplary student projects. A collaborative project betwen the faculty at HGSE and EL, the CSW aims to raise the bar on student achievement by helping teachers improve teaching and learning.

On May 18th, a diverse group of 40 leading educators convened at HGSE in Cambridge, MA to investigate the CSW and discuss what standards can look like when they are met with depth and imagination.

The meeting, entitled "What Do Standards Actually Look Like?" sought not only to unpack what achieving standards looks like in practice, but also, how we can change the conversation about standards in classrooms, schools, districts, and schools of education.

By providing teachers and students with models of exemplary student work, the CSW offers educators a new lens through which standards can be viewed. Through examples of high quality work, educators are privy to a whole a multifaceted look at what it means to successfully achieve a standard.

Attendees explored a variety of exemplary student work. After an entertaining reading of “The Dancing Prince,” a standards-aligned piece of writing by a first-grader named Nate, the group launched into a lively conversation on the insights this particular model could offer other first graders, working to achieve the same standards.

“Models bring things to life… There is nothing [in a standard] that says ‘be funny, be vibrant, have a turn of phrase, be joyous.’ Models allow us to see that joy,” commented Thabiti Brown, Principal of Codman Academy Public Charter School.

“If teachers could see this type of work, they might be able to better imagine what a first grader could do,” added Stephanie Cox Suarez, associate professor at Wheelock College.

At the close of the event, the group shared ideas on how their respective school communities. professional networks, districts, and organizations may be able to benefit from the CSW. Attendees spoke to the importance of lifting up models of exemplary student work to inspire, not only students, but teachers as well. “We need to empower our teachers to take risks. Building this culture takes a lot of work and can take a long time. Being a teacher is so much about reflecting. We need to model what taking risks, and sometimes making mistakes, looks like to our students,” added Jovanne Buckmire, a first grade teacher at Conservatory Lab Charter School.

At the meeting, attendees also viewed short films created by HGSE students who analyzed examples of student work. The films were created this year as part of their class "Models of Excellence – Illuminating Standards and Inspiring Learning with Outstanding Classroom Work" led by Steve Seidel, Bauman and Bryant Senior Lecturer in the Arts in Education at HGSE, and Ron Berger, EL’s Chief Academic Officer. The films, which debuted at HGSE in April, can be viewed here

Explore the rich resources and exemplary student work that the CSW has to offer by visiting www.centerforstudentwork.elschools.org.