Partner Profile: East Palo Alto Academy

The Envision Learning Partners are entering our second year of partnership with the East Palo Alto Academy High School. They have been collaborating with Deeper Learning Coach, Morgan Vien, to develop their graduate profile and, due to distance learning, were forced to pivot and reimagine how to do their defenses of learning. Read more here from EPAA principal, Amika M. Guillaume, on what they’ve learned in this process and the impact on their teachers, students, and even Amika, herself.

How are cohort participants redesigning and/or advancing their systems to provide rigorous and equitable capstone experiences for their students?  Is there one story you can share that illustrates how this work is benefitting schools, students or teachers?

We had an awesome experience working with Morgan Vien to carefully consider our language and priorities it represented.  This was accomplished through a walkthrough and deep analysis by a design team composed of teaching colleagues and administration.  After a deep dive and some tough choices, we were able to create one of many drafts, representing our EPAA Graduate Profile.  It was reassuring to see that the overall design was something that clearly defined what we believed as a school and desired for our students and community.  The entire process was inspiring how it helped galvanize our team and drive our approach to curriculum and instruction.  We are all excited about the impact this will have on teaching, learning and authentic assessment. 

During Distance Learning we were forced to pivot and re imagine how to do a portfolio defense of learning, for our first time, and from afar.  To do so we identified a group of rising seniors to beta test our graduate profile.  During one of our many Zoom classes one of the students said the most important and profound statements that defined this entire experience.  “Our other exhibitions were about researching and learning something new.  It was interesting and we learned, but it wasn’t as hard or important.  This time we are talking about our learning and our thinking.  This is much harder and better.”

What have you learned during this process?

Perhaps the most important part of this work is around using a graduate profile to drive instruction that is about deep and rigorous learning.  As a school we have been very driven by our school vision (All students will graduate college-ready, empowered with the knowledge, skills and passion to positively impact their own lives, their community and the global society.), be it in student essays, reflections, decisions about course offerings, and the partnerships we pursue.  We are also driven by our Bulldog Way: love, attitude, mindset, grit & power, but nonetheless we didn’t have something driving the kind of instruction, learning and assessment we knew we needed for our students’ long term success.  We are extremely proud of and motivated to move forward with the portfolio defense of learning, based on our graduate profile

What is the impact you are seeing on leaders, teachers, and/or students?

It was so important to do this work as a design team that later engaged the rest of the staff in digging deep to develop our graduate profile.  We are confident that once we begin to design our lessons with this profile in mind, we will be even more aligned and confident in our ability to push our students in a rigorous way.  In our work with students we saw them thinking differently and more carefully about their learning.  It was inspiring to see students pushing not only their own thinking, but also that of their classmates through the facilitated work in beta testing the defense of learning.  

What has been the impact of this work ON YOU? Is there one story you can share that illustrates this?

I don’t know where to begin, but I know Morgan can also speak to this.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic, but that didn’t stop us.  We engaged in deep learning from afar, thanks to Zoom and dedicated teachers, students and Envision Learning coach extraordinaire, Morgan Vien.  We had students going deep in their reflections, their learning and their collaboration.  There was the day that Deisy ran in late from her workplace, you could see her removing her “Mr. PIckle” apron and getting situated in front of her camera.  This, after she submitted her slides (yes SLIDES) using her PHONE because the internet was so terrible from her home.  Slides, which by the way, became our exemplar for its use of storytelling, visuals, succinct descriptions and overall impact.  The two before her who presented their learning reflection on the theme of “growth mindset” did a solid job, but it was this student, who is working DURING A PANDEMIC, rushing to join us in the meeting ASAP, about 30 minutes late, who leaves us speechless with her prowess, determination and getting it DONE despite all obstacles.  We had goosebumps.




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