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A More Personalized Learning Experience at Nipmuc

The Mendon Upton Regional School Committee received an update on a new Advisory Program that went into effect at Nipmuc Regional High School this year during their December 9 meeting.

Nipmuc Principal John Clements and Dean of Students Mary Anne Moran presented the new "comprehensive" advisory group that they have put into place for a "more personalized learning experience" for the students. "This is a chance for students to connect with adults outside of the traditional classroom," said Clements.

The program includes the chance for students to meet in small group settings of 12-15 students with an advisor that has been assigned to them for their entire Nipmuc career. Advisors include teachers and administrators, including Clements himself. Clements said that logistically, they have blocked out in the student's schedule a 30 minute period once per week for the group to meet and discuss various topics that are not taught in conventional classes.

Along with addressing bullying at each of the grade levels, each grade level has a list of topics to discuss during their small group settings. In ninth grade, Clements and Moran told the Committee topics include time management, test taking strategies, and decision making; in 10th grade topics include improving organizational skills and team building; in 11th grade topics include resume writing, career education, and personal finance; and in 12th grade topics include employer expectations, interview skills, and financial literacy.

Students will also have the opportunity to meet formally up to four times per year with the School Counselors to discuss career interests and with the Adjustment Counselor once, who will touch on topics such as stress, anger management, and conflict resolution.

Clements said that the program was developed from extensive research on existing school districts that have adopted similar plans, collaborating with their faculty, and by incorporating feedback from the Guidance Department on areas they felt the students needed additional support. The new program was rolled out to the teachers this summer, and Clements said that it has received support from the staff. "We have heard nothing but positive comments from our teachers since day one," said Clements.

Clements told the Committee that they had tried to implement an Advisory Program at the high school a few years ago, but it was not sustainable at the time so it was cancelled. Although he felt that personalized learning was always a "strength" at Nipmuc, Clements said that they wanted to go a step further. "We see [personalized teaching] all of the time with our teachers and coaches; it is part of our culture. However, we wanted a more formal program," he said.

The next steps for the program are to survey the students and parents to get data on the effectiveness of the program and to collaborate on writing the curriculum for the program for the future. Clements said communication will be ongoing with the parent community to disseminate and to develop community partnerships.

"This was a huge undertaking....we are very pleased with the results, but know it is a work in progress," he said.

School Committee members praised Clements and Moran for their work on the new Advisory Program.


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