Houston, TX — January 25, 2011 Today Microsoft Partners in Learning is announcing a new class of Pathfinder and Mentor Schools, which will be joining the Innovative Schools Program, part of Microsoft’s 10-year $500M initiative to help teachers and school leaders more effectively use technology as a tool for teaching and learning. Houston’s Jane Long Middle School was chosen after a rigorous global application process, and joins a global community of 80 schools in 46 countries. Over the course of the next 12 months, Microsoft will work with educational experts to help Pathfinder Schools through a process of whole-school transformation, aimed at creating a community that is focused on innovative teaching and learning practice.
The Innovative Schools Program is based on the notion that innovative teachers can only thrive with system-level support, so the program gives school leaders the opportunity to learn from other leaders from around the world, as well as from educational experts. With the support of visionary leadership, schools can become more innovative learning environments for students.
Over the last three years, dozens of schools around the world have participated in the Innovative Schools Program. For example, within seven months of being part of the Pathfinder Program, a school in Lithuania realized the technology use in the school dramatically changed with peer coaching, taking many of the teachers from ‘scared of technology’ to advanced users. Ultimately it is the students in a school who benefit from such a shift.
Jane Long Middle School was chosen as a Pathfinder School because of its innovative expanded learning time partnership with Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that runs programs in Houston, Austin and seventeen other cities across the country. The school partners with Citizen Schools to lengthen the school day for all sixth graders by nearly three hours each day, adding extra time for academic support and hands-on, project-based learning, including 10-week “apprenticeships” with local professionals.
Jane Long Middle School is the first school in the Houston Independent School District to implement Citizen Schools Extended Learning Time model, paving the way for other schools to see how a public school can partner with a second shift of educators to increase learning time, close the achievement gap, and make connections between current learning and future opportunities.
Ultimately, the Pathfinder Schools are selected because they can serve as regional exemplars for integrating innovative teaching and learning into the whole school environment. These schools can influence other schools within their own community, country and around the world. To be chosen, the Pathfinder Schools have proven that they have community and professional support for the change process and strong school-level leadership. Leaders at these schools have articulated a vision for what they want to achieve, and the Pathfinder Schools Program will help the school leaders refine the vision, make it stronger and implement it.
After the year-long engagement, some Pathfinder Schools are invited to “graduate” to become Mentor Schools, giving them the opportunity to share the knowledge they gained as Pathfinder Schools with other schools in their country, region and around the world.
The 54 new Pathfinder Schools and 16 new Mentor Schools are part of the Microsoft Partners in Learning Innovative Schools Program, which is designed to help school leaders become change agents within their school communities by providing the tools and resources they need to successfully envision and implement educational transformation.
“While there are millions of innovative teachers in the world, without the support of their schools and school systems they remain islands of innovation in a sea of mediocrity. We believe that system level change and school level support ensure a healthy place for kids to grow and communities to thrive.” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President for Microsoft Education. “Seeing the continued development and adoption of the Innovative Schools Program in so many classrooms across the world is a great indicator to me that we’re on our way to helping students leave school with the right skills to work in a new globalized economy.”
The Innovative Schools program supports unique approaches to assessing, improving, and evaluating schools’ learning environments to successfully move beyond the limits of the classroom and traditional learning models and inspire thought leadership, discover best practices, and create models that any school, any system can use in the future to prepare children for success in the 21st century. With Mentor, Pathfinder and Participant Schools, there are now nearly 3,000 schools in this program.
There are three types of schools represented in the program:
- The Pathfinder Program annually selects schools who demonstrate strong school leadership skills with a proven record of innovation and successful change implementation. The Pathfinder Schools have been chosen because of their vision for learning, and the fact that they have already started on the road to whole school transformation.
- The Mentor Schools are global exemplars of innovative teaching practice. Their innovations in the learning and teaching environment are applied and shared across countries.
- The third level in the Innovative Schools Program is open to any school worldwide. Known as Participant Schools, these schools have access to online resources that are available on the Partners in Learning Network. These schools can use the online toolkit, attending online training events and participate in local Innovative Education Forums.
To see Innovative Schools in action, look at videos on Microsoft’s Partners in Learning Web site. (http://www.microsoft.com/education/pil/ISc_members.aspx)
About Partners in Learning
Since its inception in 2003, the Partners in Learning program has reached more than 196 million teachers and students in 114 countries. Microsoft’s 10-year investment in the initiative is nearly $500 million, underscoring the company’s commitment to helping students and educators around the world realize their full potential. Partners in Learning has reached more than 8 million education leaders, teachers and students around the world.
More information about the U.S. Partners in Learning program is available at http://www.microsoft.com/education/uspil/default.