The Stark High School’s NextGen Education Initiative, launched in 2014, has enabled us to enhance our students’ learning and to better inspire their academic, personal, and religious growth. Our guiding principles in this effort have been to:
1. engage students in meaningful, authentic learning across all disciplines
2. develop a culture of student ownership of, responsibility and passion for their learning
3. better prepare students to adapt and excel in their careers with “21st century skills” such as critical thinking, collaboration, AND communication
4. consistently meet the needs of as many students as possible through the most efficient learning possible
Structures: Blocked Periods
After a successful pilot last spring, we introduced 80 minute blocked periods in many classes to give teachers and students the time to engage in deeper learning. Teachers spent significant time engaged in professional development opportunities throughout the year to collaborate, share ideas, and design new lessons. Based on surveys we conducted, our students enjoyed and benefited from the changes.
Some examples of activities that blocked scheduling enabled included:
- In humanities classes, Socratic seminars- structured, student led discussions- gave students the opportunities to build their listening and discussion skills.
- In Jewish history classes, flipped learning- video based mini-lectures- allowed for more time to be spent on collaborative projects that asked students to analyze and apply their learning.
- In Hebrew classes, students worked with NETA’s new technology enhanced resources that incorporating more listening, writing and personalized activities in the classroom.
- In Tanach and Gemara classes, students developed their ability to prepare and apply their Torah learning through more consistent use of chavruta.
- Throughout all disciplines, students had time to create products that demonstrated their learning in more authentic ways and through a variety of modes including writing, presentations, art and videos.
- Throughout all disciplines, teachers had more one and one time to provide feedback and build relationships with students as they worked.
We look forward to continuing with blocked scheduling next year and supporting teachers with additional time and resources to plan engaging and meaningful assignments. We will also be piloting a new set of exciting enrichment courses for students to pursue areas they are passionate about beyond the core curriculum.
Relationships: School Culture
In our efforts to strengthen our sense of community and build a culture of respect, we introduced our Mizrachi Cares initiative which included:
Weekly “shout outs” gave teachers and students opportunities to demonstrate hakarat hatov, gratitude, by recognizing each other’s successes, efforts, and support.
- Judaic faculty hosted students for chagim, shabbatot, tishim and seudah shelishit, fostering stronger, more personal relationships outside the regular school day.
Teacher-parent communication was enhanced through the introduction of progress reports (EdClick).
The new schedule provided additional opportunities for individual teacher-student meetings both in and outside the classroom.
A Theme of “Relationships” was highlighted during programming throughout the year, especially during our annual retreat and color war.
FIRST STEPS OF AN ADVISORY PROGRAM WERE PUT INTO PLACE, GIVING 9TH AND 10TH GRADERS CONTEXTS TO DISCUSS ACADEMIC PROGRESS AND CHALLENGES.
We will be furthering this year’s initiative by continuing all aspects of the program, formalizing and building the advisory program and introducing a new form of student government.
Based on the model of successful innovative high schools like Hawken and High Tech High, we integrated English and History for 9th and 10th graders to create Humanities courses. These co-taught classes helped students see the connections between literature, writing, and history. Highlights of each class include:
Reading, analyzing and writing their own Romantic poetry followed by an analysis of the way historical context influences poets’ writing
through literary analysis of jane eyre and the history of industrialization, students recreated inventions from the Industrial Revolution and discussed how technology impacted production and daily living.
Three major research papers including many stages of revision, theses, drafts, and bibliographies
Weekly current event roundtable seminars and a public exhibition in January
Students writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books on the Cold War Era which they then read to mizrachi 3rd graders!
Funded by an Avichai Foundation Grant, The Tanach department worked with consultants from the Tanach Standards and Benchmarks Project to plan high quality units and collaboratively develop clear criteria for student learning. Through intensive seminars and regular meetings, teachers helped each other align meaningful assessments and engaging classroom activities with those criteria. Besides focusing on the text of the Tanach, teaching and learning began revolving around essential questions like:
How can great people make mistakes and still remain great?
What makes family relationships so complicated?
How do you inspire people to change their beliefs and practices?
How can people’s biases impact the way they perceive reality?
Next year, the department looks forward to continuing their work together as they further develop a learning continuum of skills for 6th-12th grade and focus on how to foster more meaning-making, personalization, and reflection with those skills.
With grant funding from the JECC, the math department worked with an expert coach to enhance our 6-12 math curriculum. Individual courses will are being reformatted to align with Ohio’s Common Core math standards , with a focus on rigor, depth and understanding. Teachers also learned how to use MAP computer-based, standardized testing to better assess student growth and needs within the new curriculum. Their work will raise the level of math at Mizrachi for all types of math students, better preparing all learners for success on ACT/SATs, in college and beyond!
We look forward to continuing to work with our consultant next year as implementation of the new curriculum begins and teachers work on developing pedagogy and monitoring student progress.
The Hebrew department designed an exciting schoolwide Hebrew PBL (Project Based Learning) unit that concluded with our first Hebrew exhibition in February entitled “Yisrael: Az V’HaYom”. Students developed their Hebrew reading, writing, and speaking skills by working in groups to research different current and historical aspects of Israel which they then presented to the Junior High. Topics included sports, technology, cuisine, fashion, and more!
For our most advanced Hebrew students, teachers worked to develop new courses that allowed students to read, write, and speak Hebrew in more authentic contexts:
- 11th grade honors students worked with a new online platform that gave them access to articles, videos from Israeli news, and cultural sources.
- 12th grade honors students focused on designing solutions for challenges facing Israeli society today. They researched, wrote about, developed and presented possible solutions for each of their challenges- all in Hebrew! Topics included child poverty, the cost of living, the housing crisis, and religious-secular relations in Israel.
In line with best practices in science education, our science department worked to integrate more writing, technology, and project based learning throughout the curriculum. Some highlights include:
AP Biology students published a journal of their original research
Student in our new Forensics course presented profiles of serial killers to our AP Psychology class for analysis
Biology students wrote about the science and experiences of people with genetic diseases
We look forward to enhancing our science department next year with new course offerings in Anatomy, Engineering, and Computer Science.
Blocked scheduling facilitated a greater emphasis on chavruta-style learning, which enabled our students to engage directly with the gemmara and to better build their own textual and critical thinking skills. In addition, the Gemara department worked together to introduce a pre-Pesach project that led to a schoolwide exhibition. Students examined different aspects of the Pesach experience through the sources and prepared very creative ways to share their learning with classmates and faculty!
NextGen Project Guiding Principles:
1. ENGAGE STUDENTS IN MEANINGFUL, AUTHENTIC LEARNING ACROSS ALL DISCIPLINES
2. DEVELOP A CULTURE OF STUDENT OWNERSHIP OF, RESPONSIBILITY AND PASSION FOR THEIR LEARNING
3. BETTER PREPARE STUDENTS TO ADAPT AND EXCEL IN THEIR CAREERS WITH “21ST CENTURY SKILLS” SUCH AS CRITICAL THINKING, COLLABORATION, AND COMMUNICATION
4. CONSISTENTLY MEET THE NEEDS OF AS MANY STUDENTS AS POSSIBLE THROUGH THE MOST EFFICIENT LEARNING POSSIBLE