XQ Institute awards Elizabethton High School $2.3 million

Published 12:46 pm Monday, October 1, 2018

Because of its success in its first year and growth this year, Bartleby at Elizabethton High School was awarded the largest grant in school history.

It is now on track to serve every student in the school. The XQ Institute awarded the school $2.3 million, putting EHS on par with the 17 other XQ Super Schools in the country, and enabling the program to serve all students with high quality resources, training, technology, and infrastructure.

These funds were awarded for new collaboration and presentation spaces, Makerspace, Virtual Reality lab, amphitheater, television studio, student technology, school-wide teacher bonuses for teaching project-based learning (PBL) curricula, Bartleby teacher support salaries, PBL training for teachers, student trips to colleges, and classroom supplies.

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Bartleby is a model for public education that is project-based, passion-driven, community-focused, and interdisciplinary. It was designed to give students an active voice and role in their education and to empower teachers to create an authentic and relevant learning experience.

Students say the classes in the program’s first year helped equip them with skills they need to be successful in the workforce. Senior McKenna Kiser, who is in the Community Improvement class for the second time, noted skills like public speaking, collaboration, multi-tasking and effective communication. “With passion-driven classes and project-based learning, I have never been more engaged in my education,” she said. “I have given presentations in front of hundreds of people, met local and national policy makers, and asked tough questions that challenge traditional thinking.”

This year, Bartleby is launching more than a dozen new courses, continuing new courses from last year, and revising existing courses. Students are also now able to earn a Bartleby Diploma Seal, which guarantees them certain admissions benefits to regional colleges.

Bartleby began in 2016 after students submitted a winning proposal in the XQ Super School Project. Most of the Super Schools are new high schools, but Bartleby is one of three Super Schools transforming an existing high school. The goal is to become a student-centered experiential learning hub that prepares students for the opportunities of the 21st Century. The program strives to help students discover their passions, to allow those passions to drive learning, and for learning to make a real impact in the community and world.

Speaking from her experience, Kiser said, “Bartleby has been a key tool to my development and preparedness for the future. My hope is to see every student connected to their community and ready for life after high school.”

What to expect in 2018-2019:

• New & Revised Courses: Blended US History and English III (juniors), 13 new 4th period Enrichment Courses (Tier I students), Bartleby Cyclone Experience (freshmen), Senior Capstone (seniors), Community Improvement & Entrepreneurship (juniors, seniors)

• Infrastructure & Technology: Virtual Lab, Makerspace, Amphitheatre, Outdoor Classroom, Collaboration Classroom, Presentation Space, Television Studio, 3D Printers, Software, Laptops

• Learning Management System & Bartleby Online: The LMS will allow standards tracking for projects, and the online program will give schools statewide access to Bartleby curricula.

• Pathway to Bartleby Diploma Seal: Students with this seal are guaranteed certain benefits at area universities that have signed on as Bartleby College Partners.

• Teacher Training & Support: New Teacher Coach, Projects Manager, and Community Partnership Coordinator will support teachers with PBL curricula. All EHS teachers participated in training with Buck Institute and will receive job-embedded training. EHS teachers will receive bonuses for teaching project-based learning (PBL) curricula.

Bartleby just wrapped up its first year with two courses that will continue this year: Community Improvement and Entrepreneurship. Through these courses, students created more than 14 new community projects and five new businesses — many of which are still maintained, though the courses have ended.

One example is the teen support group S.T.R.I.V.E. founded by then junior McKenna Kiser in the Community Improvement class. Through her project, she discovered that students are more successful when they participate in projects that yield more significant results than a letter grade. In the class, she was able to turn what had been a personal struggle into a support system for other teens. She said this ownership in her education and application allowed her to develop skills that she could not have learned in a traditional classroom setting.

This PBL approach to education is spreading school-wide with teacher training, new PBL courses, and bonuses for teachers implementing a PBL curricula. Many teachers have already been actively using PBL both in tested and non-tested subjects.

One example is Alex Campbell, who teaches History, Sociology and Bartleby Entrepreneurship. His students have completed semester-long projects including the students’ original Bartleby proposal in the XQ Super School Project. They also created a profile of a 1980s serial killer that brought awareness to unnamed victims and united law enforcement in three states. Additionally, his class organized a remembrance ceremony for an EHS alumnus to celebrate his life 25 years after his death at the Waco Siege with friends and family from as far as Alaska.

The result? Students are more excited about learning.

“I think they feel that it pertains more to them personally and to real-world problems,” he said. “I also see that when they accomplish big projects using concepts from multiple subjects, it builds a massive amount of confidence, agency, and empowerment that they can actually do real things in the community and affect real change.”

The partnership with the XQ Institute has inspired Elizabethton City Schools leaders and Board members to actively rethink high school. In fact, the board has held workshops with Bartleby students to outline a vision for a Super School Board and system-wide Bartleby program. This year, T.A. Dugger Jr. High School launched its own Bartleby program with two PBL enrichment courses. In addition to this, students in EHS Bartleby Community Improvement class have continued another student’s project from last year called Bartleby Junior, which offers Bartleby-style enrichment courses to elementary students twice weekly.

“We are very fortunate and honored to be able to work with such outstanding organizations as the XQ Institute and Emerson Collective, and with such an incredible person as Laurene Powell Jobs,” said Bartleby Director Terry Smith. “What they are providing for students and schools across America is immeasurable, and we thank them so very much for partnering with us on this wonderful and amazing journey.”