Adapting the path from high school entry to college-readiness to the highly varied, individual needs of students is a challenge that all high schools struggle with. Principal Seth Schoenfeld at Olympus Academy, a transfer school serving overage, under-credited students in Canarsie, Brooklyn, imagined a school where every student could progress at an individualized pace through a sequence of skills that ended with college-readiness. To begin to do this, Schoenfeld wanted skill maps that would be dynamic and be meaningfully used by teachers and coaches to align curriculum. In 2010, he reached out to Eskolta for help creating these new skill maps.
Using Common Core Learning Standards as a starting point, Eskolta consultant Jessica Furer worked with Olympus teachers to create the maps. The group began by asking teachers to think of the endpoint: “What are the skills that we would expect an Olympus student to be proficient in before they leave?” Following, they prioritized the most important skills with a particular focus on college-readiness, not just high school graduation. English teacher Frank Queris explained, “We needed to really dial in on what skills we felt were the most essential and how to fit as many as possible on our skill map.” Then they figured out the right “size” for a skill or depth of mastery that would be appropriate for each class. The initial focus was on larger, more complex skills like being able to “identify credible research and utilize this in writing” that would later be broken into several smaller skills. They created new rubrics that listed the key skills a student needs to demonstrate progress to “college-readiness.”
Looking back, teachers noted how useful the maps had been to them. “I’ve been able to have more focus and direction with my planning and instruction,” Queris remarked. By drawing on the ideas and input of the educators, Olympus created skill maps that were both useful for teachers and meaningful to students.