School Plan

Document ID
MDS-School-Plan
Title
School Plan
Print Date
06/23/2021
Revision
Iteration 1.3
Prepared By
Design Team
Date Prepared
06/23/2021
Effective Date
06/23/2021
Reviewed By 
MDS Board of Directors
Date Reviewed
06/25/2021
Approved By
Design Team
Date Approved
06/23/2021

Preface: 

To Our Community,

The 2020-21 Design Team was tasked with evaluating the School Plan Iteration 1.2 in Milestone’s first year of operation. Iteration 1.2 was the outcome of Milestone’s original Design Team, whom we refer to as the OG Design Team, the first vision of what this school would be. It was published in June of 2020.

It does not need to be explained how drastic of an impact COVID made on the world around us. However, this impact on Milestone is one that we are acknowledging as a Design Team; the learning program as envisioned by the OG Design Team has not been fully enacted. The restrictions of COVID made it impossible to create the experiences as described in the original school plan. There were many discussions on how we, the current Design Team, could evaluate something we haven’t seen. Our task was examining an experimental school model in perhaps the most untraditional school year in modern history. How can we determine if the vision that brought this school to life was effective or ineffective? 

We are publishing the next iteration of our School Plan without many significant changes to the structure of the school or learning program. We feel the OG Design Team had a beautiful vision; it is the reason we are all a part of Milestone. We want to experience that school. 

Our team is made of students, staff, family and community members, and the changes in our iteration reflect the lived experience of our Design Team and Milestone’s first year during COVID. Iteration 1.3 incorporates the voices of our entire student body, the first students to walk the halls at 2758 Dairy Dr. It includes feedback from our first year of Community Engagement meetings, the folks who showed up to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

At Milestone, the most important step is the next one. Our Design Team feels like it is time to step forward, using the path the OG Design Team started.

In Community,

The 2020-21 Design Team

The 2020-21 School Design Team

Zeke Bernstein

I serve on the Design Team because I like to lead and help people.

Roland Kahl

I am a student in Madison, WI. I have been a Design Team member since late September, 2019.

Genevieve Nadolski

I am on Design Team because I want to help school be family-friendly. I want to be on the Design Team to help improve the school. We learn how to start a school from scratch.

Jess Bernstein

I serve on the Design Team because I’m passionate about student-directed learning and am excited to help Milestone make a robust and relevant education possible for a diverse group of students.

Gersely Rios

I was born and raised in Maracaibo, Venezuela. My role in the Design Team is to give experience and feedback for the new culture of our school as a community stakeholder, student, and former designer.

Victoria Zupancic

I serve on the Design Team as the representative from the Educators’ Cooperative. I sit in this role to learn how to shift the power dynamic of schools from that of authority to student voice.

Kyen Schrieber

I serve on the Design Team because I believe that since the majority of the school is students, students should have majority say in what happens.

Ari Lo

I am a student teacher at Milestone Democratic. I serve on the Design Team to facilitate discussions and learn from the students on the team!

Acknowledgements

Milestone occupies ancestral Ho-Chunk land, ceded only under force. As a democratic school, we hope to embody a solidarity that recognizes sovereignty of communities, and acknowledge the contradiction of building and learning on occupied land.

The Design Team would also like to acknowledge the students, families and caregivers, Board Members, community and other Friends of Milestone, and the staff of the first year of operations. Starting a school during a Global Pandemic could not have been done without the contributions of each and every person involved with Milestone. We thank you for your time, effort, and belief in a project where the most important step is the next one.

I. Worldview & Values

Our Worldview / Cosmovisión:

At Milestone Democratic School, we understand our world and our place in it based on a series of knowledge, which are always contingent and emerging. In our present moment, we have consensus on the following:

  • We know that poverty is produced by systemic economic and social inequality—and as such,  an egalitarian environment in which systems are transformed, is the most democratic way to alleviate poverty and the many negative impacts it has on youth and their learning.
  • We know that migration is often necessary for families to survive—and that culture can both sustain migrant youth and isolate them, especially when systems discriminate based on status and ethnicity.
  • We know that race is a social system—and that an anti-racist school must center the voices of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other youth of color in decision-making while also sustaining varied and intersecting cultures.
  • We know that disability often excludes people and prevents them from accessing their rights—and that taking a person’s identity into account is the most democratic way to understand disability.
  • We know that gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation can be used to exclude and marginalize people—and that our school can and must create safe and welcoming spaces for persons of all identities.

We further know that each of these parts of our worldview intersect and overlap in complex and sometimes unpredictable ways. We know that trauma is prevalent and often rooted in oppressive systems, structures, and actions based in these identities, and that our work together can lead to healing only through deep and sustained inquiry into ourselves, our communities, and the structures that shape and frame us. 

Our Values:

  • We value democracy as the core of this school—if a decision affects you, you should have a say in it.
  • We value the respect for and tolerance of different ideas, perspectives and experiences.
  • We value work ethic, resilience, and the care you give to your work.
  • We value trust, friendship, and loyalty.
  • We value everyone’s right to speak their truth and be heard. Vocalize your thoughts!
  • We value difference, how everybody is an individual, and should be treated as one.
  • We value accountability and self-reflection.
  • We value truthful and realistic learning that will always be engaging and useful.
  • We value a sense of humor.
  • We value generosity and good citizenship.
  • We value all living creatures and treat them with dignity and respect.
  • We value evidence-based reasoning and critical thinking as the foundation of truthful and realistic learning.

II. Services, Care, Climate, & Culture

Possibility Statement: 

Services, Care, Climate and Culture at Milestone can give students support and the resources they need to develop emotionally, socially, and academically, by creating a fruitful environment that cultivates a safe and inclusive learning space for students to thrive.

Plan:

Milestone will support and aid youth of color by actively showing representation through staff members, peers, and mentors to give students an inclusive environment where they feel supported and represented. Through our space and staff, we will represent a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds. We will give students not only a sense of belonging, but multiple life perspectives. By providing resources and opportunities for tangible skill building that can be carried throughout a student’s life and educating students on their history and cultural background, we aim to provide a better understanding of the injustices in today’s society. We know that a positive learning environment and bright future necessitate emotional and mental health support, and we will ensure students have access to wrap-around services they need to thrive. 

Milestone will support and aid students with disabilities by creating a safe, accessible and inclusive space through our diverse staff, students and in our facility. We will strive to never alienate our students, but rather, give them the freedom to express the resources and support they need to thrive in our school and through life. We will invite and welcome mentors with disabilities to give workshops that can provide representation to support our students and help normalize the stigma around disability.

Milestone will support and aid students in the LGBTQ+ community by creating a support system throughout our staff and students to lift up LGBTQ+ students. We will not place pressure on our students to identify a specific way, or at all, but instead we will encourage their independent growth and allow them to change at their own pace. Our instructors will offer mental and emotional support and guidance for those struggling to come to accept themselves, including the privacy and communication skills they need to come out to their families and friends on their own accord. We promise to protect students as they formulate their own identities.

Milestone will support youth with trauma by creating a safe environment for students and having adults they trust and feel comfortable with to confide in (who have been trained in dealing with trauma). We will provide emotional skill building to help each individual student understand and heal from their own personal trauma. To further support the students, we recognize that trauma manifests through exhaustion, anger, depression and more. We will support them by having instructors that take each student’s trauma into consideration, with or without knowing what trauma they have or have not been through, to properly instruct and support our students.

Milestone will support youth living in poverty, by making sure every one of their basic needs are met to allow them to thrive in our school by  providing services such as laundry, showers, meals, storage, and a means of transportation to and from school. We will create an uplifting and supportive environment by educating and reshaping the way our staff and students view poverty and its stereotypes. To create a bright and prosperous future for the students, we must teach and expose them to tangible skill building that they can carry with them throughout life and use to build a career.

Milestone will support immigrant youth by creating an environment where they feel represented, respected and included. We will ensure they gain everything they can from their learning experience by having all learning materials in every language necessary to support our students. We will celebrate the history and culture of our immigrant students and support the engagement of their peers with that history and culture as well. We will give them access to immigration lawyers and other resources, as well as tangible skill building that can be carried throughout life. Our instructors will guide them through their own emotional and mental struggles that come with such cultural changes. For their families, Milestone will ensure that everything is translated by professionals and or fluent interpreters whenever possible, including important events. Milestone will additionally provide at least one designated member of the Educator’s Cooperative for families to reach out to. 

Milestone will extend the support of immigrant youth and families to all youth and families of the Milestone community. We will celebrate all students’ cultural and religious backgrounds. Students will be encouraged to share cultural practices or explore the backgrounds of their ancestors. Milestone will provide an environment where students of all religions—or no religion—feel safe, supported and accepted.  We respect religious diversity and we promote empathy and respectful curiosity among students.

At Milestone, all students will be supported and given the tools they need to thrive. We will ensure that they have opportunities to access extra-curricular and co-curricular experiences. We will set curricular outlets and activities through the faculty, however, students will be given  the freedom they need to create their desired courses including…

  • Athletics—intramural, casual, recreational
  • Arts space, supplies, and training
  • Tutoring for specific needs
  • Music
  • Coding and electronics
  • Fashion design
  • Cooking, baking (Home Economics)
  • Drama
  • Gardening
  • Language learning
  • Woodworking
  • Photography
  • Social Justice organizing
  • And more…

III. Governance

Possibility Statement: 

Governance at Milestone can be fair by following our values and beliefs; a place where students, parents, teachers and staff members contribute, and where they can feel safe sharing their ideas and experiences.

Design Criteria:

Governance at Milestone should…

  • Change the traditional education hierarchy.
  • Be transparent and open to students, parents and the public in general.
  • Understand everyone’s different definition of democracy
  • Create safe spaces to make sure people show their true selves without fear of judgment.
  • Be open minded for all cultures, celebrations, knowledge and history.
  • Be a positive, accepting, empowering, respectful, and safe environment for all students, staff, and family members. 
  • Understand that a fair decision is a decision centered in our values.
  • Help community members understand how to live in democracy.

Plan:

Flowchart showing the governance structure between Milestone Democratic School, their authorizer the University of Wisconsin System and school community.

*Diagram of Milestone Democratic School’s governance process.

The governance system at Milestone Democratic Schools is split into five major entities of control.  The five governing bodies are the Design Team, the Governance Board, School Meeting, Community Engagement, and Educators Cooperative.  These five bodies of governance will help make Milestone a school that represents the current student body, their families and communities.

The Design Team’s two main purposes will be to revise and edit the School Plan and make proposals and present them to the meetings of Milestone. Design Team members can serve up to two consecutive school years.  Students, staff, and guardians interested in becoming members of the Design Team will submit their names for a drawing, but preference is given to new members.  Design Team will consist of:

  • a minimum of one and a maximum of three staff
  • a maximum of 12 students will serve on the Design Team; if fewer than 12 students submit their names for drawing, then all students who submitted their name will be selected to serve
  • one guardian of a current student will be selected.

If a member of the Team wishes to leave, they can notify the other team members of this decision at the next Design Team Meeting and leave at any time of the year, but then they cannot rejoin during that school year.  Members can join this Team at any point in the year, so long as maximum numbers are not exceeded.  This Team will be replaced at the end of every school year.  All decisions made will be overseen by the Governance Board to make sure they are legal, in compliance with Milestone’s contracts, and aligned with Milestone’s Values.

The Governance Board’s primary duties are to raise funds for Milestone; oversee the other Milestone governing bodies, make sure decisions are legal and in compliance with Milestones’ contract and values; and raise the profile of Milestone. The Governance Board will consist of one president, vice president, secretary, and one treasurer, as well as up to three other members. The Board should be made up of up to: three students, two, staff members, and two community stakeholders. Board elections will take place in the first term at a Community Engagement session. The Governance Board will be overseen by D.P.I. and Milestone’s authorizers at UW. Community Engagement can “call out” the decisions made by the Board if necessary. Community Engagement can call for a revote or they could call for Community Engagement to make the vote if they receive eighty percent majority.

School Meetings will be held every week with everyone enrolled at or getting paid by Milestone. School Meetings make week-to-week decisions regarding Milestone’s operations and receive reports from each Advisory. The meetings will use a consensus process and ranked-choice voting for democratic decision-making processes. Decisions made at a School Meeting may take effect as early as the day after the School Meeting or as soon as reasonably possible. All proposals must be planned ahead of the meeting. The Governance Board will oversee the decisions made during School Meetings to make sure they are legal and aligned with the contracts and views of Milestone.

Community Engagement will include Milestone Members, staff, parents, students, and other community stakeholders. In these meetings, the community will learn relevant information about Milestone and participate in the democratic process to match the needs of the community. They will use the ranked-choice voting and eighty percent majority using a modified Formal Consensus process. The Governance Board will once again review the decisions made to make sure they are in compliance with Milestone’s contracts and aligned with Milestone’s values. 

The Educators Cooperative will include all people receiving a paycheck from Milestone. Educators Cooperative’s main purpose will be to put into action the School Plan and give reports to other governing bodies. They will decide on the democratic decision-making process they use. The Governance Board will oversee the decisions they make to make sure they are legal, in compliance with Milestone’s contracts, and aligned with Milestone’s values.

Budgeting and purchasing at Milestone will not be in full control of any of the bodies. The original budget proposal will be made by the Design Team. The Governance Board will review, edit and approve the proposal. Community Engagement will be able to propose their own ideas to the Design Team as well.

Staffing Patterns at Milestone will be revised, edited, and placed into the school plan every year by the Design Team and approved by the Governance Board. The hiring process starts with the Governance Board posting a Request For Proposals for an Educators’ Cooperative to deliver the Learning Program described in the School Plan. Once an Educators’ Cooperative submits a proposal that is accepted by the Governance Board, each individual member of the Co-op that will fill a role at Milestone must go through the interview process. First, the Governance Board reviews applicants for legal qualifications. Second, the Design Team will hold the first interview, followed by the School Meeting (or a committee formed from it) holding the second interview. Lastly, the Governance Board will make the final decision. 

All governing bodies, other than the Governance Board, will perform teacher evaluations every financial quarter and when called for by Community Engagement. Self-evaluation will also take place. Recommendations for continued employment  or non-continuation of employment as a staff member of Milestone will be made by Community Engagement to the Educators’ Cooperative. 

Policymaking, guidelines, and rule agreements will be decided by whoever the rule affects as well as any justice procedures in effect.

Milestone community stakeholders apply to the Governance Board for membership. Membership is an option for community members with no affiliation with Milestone. Membership entails the right to vote at Community Engagement.

The Learning Program at Milestone will include three categories: Goals, Experiences, and Assessments. All decisions will be set by the Design Team in the School Plan and reviewed by the Governance Board.

The school yearly calendar will be made by the Design Team and reviewed by the Governance Board. When adjusting the yearly calendar the Community Engagement will make the final decision. Daily schedule adjustments will be proposed to the School Meeting by the Design Team. 

Decisions regarding the maintenance of Milestones facilities will be made by the Design Team.  

Proposed events will be reviewed, edited, approved or denied by Community Engagement. 

Transportation services, purchases, or contracts will be the responsibility of the Design Team to propose and then be reviewed by the Governance Board.  

The responsibility of all other decisions not specified will be the responsibility of the Governance Board.

IV. Justice

Possibility Statement

JUSTICE at Milestone can be equitable, inclusive, and rooted in care, where everyone feels safe while being held accountable, and all voices are heard.

Design Criteria

Justice at Milestone should…

  • Be understanding of one’s present and past.
  • Hold people accountable for their actions.
  • Help people take responsibility for themselves,
  • Give anyone who wants to lead the skills and training they need.
  • Be forgiving and understanding.
  • Take each person’s boundaries into account.
  • Be open and transparent.
  • Provide safe space to understand and work toward eliminating biases.
  • Keep us as individuals and a community safe. 
  • Be aware of systemic and structural oppression and violence.

Plan

At Milestone, justice is framed by the rights we respect for each other, and the responsibilities we all share. Members of our school community will be held accountable to prevent conflict when possible, resolve conflict when it occurs, interrupt harm as it happens, and help to restore and heal from harm after it has been done. The following rights and responsibilities are not exclusive, but they are guaranteed:

Students have the right to: Students are responsible for:
Prevent conflict byTalking to others to express emotionsSharing their concerns for their well-being.Choosing to be trained in restorative justice practices.
Resolve conflict byHaving a safe space to take a break or time alone to reflect.Expressing their emotions in a safe way.Having a healthy sit-down with the people involved and a mediator. 
Interrupt harm byDefending themselves.Talking from their point of view. Verbally intervene to de-escalate a situation.Anonymity whenever it is possible.
Restore from harm byHaving time to heal.Asking for a restorative justice circle or another mediation process.
Preventing conflict byThinking wisely before actingSharing their concerns for their well-being or the well-being of others.. Resolving conflict byHolding themselves accountable and reflecting on their actions.Entering each space without negative preconceived notions of others. Interrupting harm byNot escalatinging the situation.Informing any of the staff members as soon as possible.
Restoring from harm byIf the student caused harm, by making it right with the people involved.Coming up with a plan to establish boundaries where all people involved feel comfortable to move on and their mental health is protected.
Staff has the right to:Staff is responsible for:
Prevent conflict byCo-designing guidelines for accountability in partnership with students.Working with students to de-escalate before conflict erupts.
Resolve conflict bySeparating students when needed .Involve families or community support systems when needed.Asking another staff member for support or to facilitate mediation. 
Interrupt harm byPhysically separating individuals when needed, but only with Nonviolent Crisis Intervention strategies.  Restore from harm byHold individuals accountable through community processes like mediation.Remove individuals who cannot be safe from the school community temporarily or permanently, but only after exhausting all other options, getting consensus from the Educators’ Co-op, and getting input from School Meeting.  
Preventing conflict byMaking sure they are trained on how to provide safe learning spaces.Proactively checking in with students. Being observant about what’s happening in our school.Using trauma-informed, brain-based, social-emotional learning with all students.
Resolving conflict byUsing de-escalation strategies as a first step.Provide space for students to calm down and de-escalate. Facilitating the use of Restorative Circles or other mediation tools. 
Interrupting harm byUsing de-escalation strategies.Using Nonviolent Crisis Intervention strategies. 
Restoring from harm byFacilitating Restorative Circles. Allow people involved time and space to recover. Centering survivors and their needs first.Facilitating mediation. 
Families have the right to:Families are responsible for:
Prevent conflict byProtecting and advocating on behalf of their child’s well being. 
Resolve conflict byDefending their students, without causing physical or psychological harm to other students or staff. Being actively informed about any conflict their student is involved in, in a way that doesn’t violate other students’ rights.
Interrupt harm byBeing informed about actions taken by staff in a way that doesn’t violate other students’ rights. Bringing concerns to the Educators’ Cooperative, the Governance Board, and the Authorizer’s office whenever they feel it is needed.
Restore from harm byBeing actively informed of all details of the conflict or harm, as well as a plan to restore relationships between students and staff, in a way that doesn’t violate other students’ rights.Participating in any mediation process, so long as all participants are comfortable with families’ presence.
Preventing conflict byBeing transparent with their students and staff regarding their concerns about conflict before it takes place.
Resolving conflict byNot escalating situations their students are involved in. 
Interrupting harm byTrusting advisors versed in nonviolent crisis intervention to handle situations appropriately.
Restoring from harm byMeeting with their student, to better understand their perspective.Engaging in and trusting the process used by the staff and students.
Community Stakeholders have the right to:Community Stakeholders are responsible for:
Be aware of what is happening in the school, without violating any student, staff, or family’s rights.Respecting student, staff, and family privacy.Being involved in a respectful and kind way that does not cause further harm.

V. Learning Program – Experiences

Possibility Statement

Learning Experiences at Milestone can expose students to critical thinking, and social and emotional skill-building, give students a broad and complete view of the world, be based in relationships with the students, and be personalized for each student. 

Design Criteria

Learning Experiences at Milestone should:

  • Be based in real-life situations.
  • Use critique, debate, and reflection often.
  • Involve conversation, collaboration, and independent learning.
  • Include community-based learning outside the school.
  • Allow each student to plan their own learning.
  • Be facilitated by a trusted and understanding advisor.

Plan

With gratitude for inspiration: Clark Street Community School (Middleton, WI), Escuela Verde (Milwaukee, WI), Avalon School (Saint Paul, MN), Expeditionary Learning, Big Picture Learning (and especially The Met school, Providence, RI), Eagle Rock School (Estes Park, CO), Valley New School (Appleton, WI), and Sudbury Valley School (Sudbury, MA)

Milestone Democratic School provides a curriculum framework where students are empowered to build their own learning experiences based on their individual strengths, talents, and interests in order to define their VOICE and their CONTRIBUTION to a better world.

Advisory System: The “Hub” of Learning

Advisories

Advisories are the central “Hub” of relationships and learning at Milestone. Each Advisory is made up of one Advisor who works exclusively with a small group (no more than 22) of mixed-age learners. The main objective of the Advisory is to provide a trusting community that supports academic, social, and emotional learning. Students remain connected to their Advisory for the duration of their time at Milestone Democratic School. 

Each Advisory is responsible for democratically designing its own structures, schedules, agreements, and practices, including the schedules for when the Advisory meets. The Advisory is the time and place for students and Advisors to build community and culture, understand identity, and practice deliberation and democracy. It is also the time and place for reflection and check-in circle. The Advisory becomes a collective, and the forum for developing, reviewing, and revising Personal Learning Plans and more specific learning experiences and having one-on-one/ small group coaching meetings between advisors and students.

Advisors

Advisors play a critical role in the Advisory. Advisors are the main point of contact for their students and their families. They are mentors, confidants, guides, and motivators for their students. Advisors may teach lessons or units within their Advisory, they may offer small group projects or learning experiences that allow their students to meet Learning Goals, and they may host guests from the community—all as decided by the Advisory community.

Students work with their Advisor one on one throughout their school career to develop, revise, assess their Profile of a Graduates, Personal Learning Plans, and Learning Experiences. Advisors help guide democratic processes within their Advisory and help to sustain a positive and safe space for learning to take place.

Profile of a Graduate of Milestone Democratic School

Each learner begins their experience at Milestone by designing their personal Profile of a Graduate. This document, co-created by the student, their advisor, and their family, represents sets of attributes, skills, and knowledge that will prepare them for the life, work, and/or study beyond high school that they envision for themselves. This Profile of a Graduate is developed in the first year of entry into Milestone, and is assessed and adjusted with each school year as the student becomes increasingly aware of their strengths, interests, talents. The Profile of a Graduate serves as a framework for the student’s Personal Learning Plans (PLPs) and helps to assess the student’s progress towards their desired outcome. 

Personalized Learning at Milestone

Each student, working closely with their Advisor and with input and guidance from their family, writes a Personal Learning Plan (PLP) each term they are at Milestone. Personal Learning Plans become the curriculum that a student will follow and their Advisor will support throughout a learner’s experience—they are the foundational document that guides, assesses, and curates learning. A PLP starts with a student’s learning goals and interests, and also allows the student to achieve them in a way that works best for them.

Personal Learning Plans include:

  • Alignment with Profile of a Graduate.
  • Learning Goals that the student aims to meet.
  • Outline of potential learning experiences.
    • Student-Directed Projects
    • Courses, seminars, and/or forums offered at Milestone
    • Courses pursued at partner sites and/or online
    • Independent studies (solo, partner, or small-group)
    • Community Learning experiences (internships,  job shadows, field trips, observations)
  • An anticipated timeline for the Plan.
  • Suggested methods to assess completion and quality of the learning. 

Learning Experiences at Milestone

At the center of every learning experience lies an opportunity for students to:

  • Engage in Critical/Higher Order Thinking Skills (CHOTS): Synthesizing, Analyzing, Reasoning, Comprehending, Application, and Systems Thinking.
  • Integrate Global Service Learning, Arts-based projects, and Civic engagement/social justice opportunities.
  • Learn and improve specific (academic and workplace) skills and knowledge.
  • Increase basic literacies.
  • Utilize technology.
  • Engage in a variety of learning materials. 
  • Demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

With the support of the advisor, students are encouraged to create challenging and dynamic Learning Experiences that support their PLP while exploring learning strategies that work best for each individual student. 

Student-Directed Project-Based Learning

Students have the freedom to design their own independent or group Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences around their interests, with the guidance of an Advisor. No student is required to do projects if they can meet all their learning goals through other experiences (classes, internships, for example). Before a PBL experience can begin, students work together with Advisors to create a detailed proposal, or “Statement of Intent,” describing how their learning experience will go, including:

  • What essential question or possibility their project will address.
  • What learning goals they will meet by doing this project.
  • A rough timeline of activities.
  • What resources they’ll need.
  • What products and reflections will result.
  • How it will be assessed.

In concluding a PBL experience, students come together with their Advisor to discuss what they learned and gained, and are given the option to share with their peers.

Courses, Seminars, and/or Forums Offered at Milestone

Classes at Milestone take a variety of forms, whether based around required Learning Goals or electives. No student is required to take classes if they can meet all their learning goals through other experiences (projects, internships, for example). Classes may be designed by staff, or in a partnership between staff members and students, who create the class together, deciding what learning goals will be available through the class, what teaching strategies will be used, and what evidence of learning will be produced. Classes must be open and accessible to all learners at Milestone who want to participate, with no mandated prerequisites or restrictions; students will work with their advisor and course instructor if prior knowledge is required before taking a course. Once classes are designed, they must be proposed and adopted at School Meeting the term before they are offered. 

All first-year students are encouraged to take a class called “Milestone 101” which guides students through the experience of personalized learning.

Courses Pursued at Partner Sites and/or Online

Milestone constantly builds partnerships and agreements with other sites of learning in our communities, and students may initiate new partnerships as well. Off-site and on-line courses can be part of any student’s Personal Learning Plan.

Independent Studies

With the support of the advisor, students are encouraged to create challenging and dynamic assignments, inquiry and research work, and units of study that support their PLP while exploring learning strategies that work best for each individual student.

Community Learning Experiences 

“Leaving to Learn” is a core experience at Milestone, as we know the deepest learning happens in real-life, hands-on practice in the community with mentors. Students take the lead, aided by advisors and Milestone’s Community Learning Coordinator, in connecting with learning experiences outside of the four walls of Milestone, with the goal of nourishing their interests and helping further their goals and advancement in their learning plans. Students can have individual Community Learning (“CL”) experiences, or come together with their peers who share their interests to engage in experiences that support their educational needs and wants. Before entering a CL, students and advisors work together to create a detailed plan that includes how they will take advantage of the CL to best benefit their learning plans. In the conclusion of a CL, students meet with advisors to share and reflect on what they learned and gained, and how they grew from this learning experience. 

Community Learning Experiences may include:

  • High-quality internships: Find, apply for, and take an active role in a workplace, supported by your Advisor and a dedicated mentor at the internship site. 
  • Field experiences and studies: Get out into the world, natural and man-made, to answer a driving question.
  • Service projects: Contribute hands-on work to an organization or community need, host a “teach-in,” present your learning at a conference, make the world a better place.
  • Shadows, observations, and trips: Learn what interests you, broaden your understanding of the world. 
  • Retreats and residencies: Find and pursue longer-term out-of-school learning opportunities.

Democratic Self-Governance

Students learn hands-on democracy at Milestone by doing democracy in real, meaningful ways, and can use these experiences to meet their learning goals:

  • Advisory structures and practices are designed through deliberation and consensus of each advisory, where democratic skills can be practiced and developed every day.
  • School Meeting happens every week, where each student and staff member have one vote and anyone can make proposals for action.
  • Community Engagement meetings happen every month, where students, staff, families, and community stakeholders come together to discuss and vote on important issues.
  • A Design Team, made up of students, staff, family members, and community stakeholders, is responsible for observing how well this School Plan is working, and then re-designing any parts of it they decide need to be changed, by consensus.
  • The Governance Board is legally responsible for all operations of Milestone, is elected each year, and at least three of the seats on the Board are reserved for students.

Learning with Dignity and Respect

At Milestone Democratic School, each learner is valued as an individual and as a member of our learning community. Empowerment is treated both as an expression of a person’s rights to guide their own life and learning, and also as a way to ensure that learning is engaging, everyone has a voice and all voices are heard, and the most important step is the next one.

VI. Learning Program – Goals

Possibility Statement

Our Learning Goals can help students create a plan for their future life after school, feel empowered to use their rights and responsibilities in their communities, and be conscious of their resources and how to use them wisely.

Design Criteria

The Learning Goals of Milestone Democratic School should:

  • Bring out students’ passions and connect them to their personal, career, emotional, and physical needs.
  • Teach students how to navigate complex systems.
  • Encourage students to become engaged global learners.
  • Help students develop and maintain leadership momentum throughout their lives.
  • Improve students’ innovation and creativity.
  • Cultivate students’ professional development.
  • Foster curiosity and inquiry.

Plan

Students at Milestone will work towards mastery of specific competencies and standards every day. These will be aligned with eight Credit Areas, which describe what a Milestone graduate should be and do. Within each credit area, there are “Foundational Credits”; these 31 credits are the requirements for graduation from Milestone. Credits are broken down into 4 competencies, each of which is evaluated at Student Exhibitions. Students can be marked as “In Progress” or “Mastered” for each competency as determined by the Exhibition Panel. 

Students are encouraged to create and introduce “Advanced Credits” as they work on learning experiences in the PLP’s or develop interest in a subject beyond the Foundational Credits.

Credits and Competencies: Milestone Democratic School

VII. Learning Program – Assessment and Evaluation

Possibility Statement

Assessment and Evaluation at Milestone can be based on one-to-one communication, provide meaningful feedback for everybody involved, and reflect students’ personal goals.

Design Criteria

Assessment and Evaluation at Milestone should:

  • Hold high but realistic expectations 
  • Be based on love and care, not fear or stress.
  • Use multiple formats and platforms to share how a student is doing with specific details.
  • Be clear and consistent so that anyone can understand how learning is being evaluated.
  • Work along a personalized timeline for each student’s learning.
  • Allow students to grow and learn deeply.
  • Be based on authentic performance of student learning.

Plan

Learning at Milestone will be assessed and evaluated using the Learning Goals. Assessment and evaluation will be based on artifacts of student experiences and students’ ability to explain and defend their learning. Each learning experience will result in an artifact—some classes may culminate in exams, projects may end with a finished product, or an internship may result in a written reflection. All kinds of artifacts can be considered for assessment and evaluation.  Students will compile these artifacts into a portfolio.

Students will self-assess regularly to determine how they are doing in meeting the objectives in their Personal Learning Plans. Advisors will encourage a variety of reflection strategies for self-assessment.  Students will add these reflections to their portfolio.

Students and Advisors will meet one-on-one at least weekly to assess student learning and progress toward the objectives in their Plans.  In preparation for these meetings, students will update their portfolio for the current term to include their recent reflections and artifacts for their advisor to review and provide feedback.

At the end of each term, there will be school-wide Exhibitions. Exhibitions will be planned at School Meeting but will generally involve students delivering public presentations of their learning to an audience of Milestone members. At Exhibitions, students will explain their learning and defend the competencies and credits they want to earn based on their work. Competencies and credits will be judged and awarded by a panel that includes the student’s advisor, any required content-area experts, at least one community stakeholder, and any guests, family or community members the student would like to invite.

VIII. Facilities

Possibility Statement

The facilities of Milestone can provide great accessibility, provide comforting and calming spaces, and be inclusive, integrated environments.

Design Criteria

Facilities at Milestone should…

  • Reflect the community and its experiences, while also being sensitive to trauma.
  • Provide calm environments for students and comfortable learning spaces for engagement and meet everyone’s sensory needs. .
  • Be filled with inspiring art, especially student-made art.
  • Include a comfortable space for eating, plus kitchen and cooking spaces.
  • Be welcoming and engaging
  • Provide Spacious and flexible classrooms.
  • Not disable any person.
  • Be clean and sanitary.
  • Include outdoor space that enables movement, nature connection, growing food, social connection, and play.

Plan

Our school facilities will begin with essential spaces:

  • Three “advisory” classroom spaces.
  • Bathrooms, including gender-neutral bathrooms.
  • Conference / quiet work rooms.
  • Open administrative office space.
  • Secure entryway.

Other intended spaces include a kitchen/laundry, “makerspace” arts and crafting space, and a commons area. These will be developed and reimagined each year by the Milestone Design Team as the school grows.

IX. Food

Possibility Statement

Food at Milestone can be culturally sustaining, fresh, and fulfilling.

Design Criteria

Food at Milestone should…

  • Be grown locally whenever possible.
  • Give people options.
  • Engage students in learning about food and making food..
  • Taste good.
  • Be culturally influenced.

Plan

How food is treated at Milestone 

Food at Milestone is treated as a human right, something that sustains our cultures, as a learning tool, and as nourishment. Food should not be wasted.

When, how, and where food is available and served

Full, hot meals are available at the beginning of the morning and during mid-day. We aspire to provide take-home meals available for all students as they leave at the end of the day whenever possible. There are also snacks available around the school throughout the day. Food is served in the common areas whenever possible, and if needed it can be served in Advisory rooms. 

Participatory menu planning

There is a Food Committee of School Meeting, which is made up of volunteer students and staff. The Food Committee proposes three different types of menus for each week following our Food Design criteria. The School Meeting will use a modified version of Formal Consensus  to decide which menu to have for the following week. 

How our food is sourced

There will be a school garden where students can eat the food that they grow. Caterers who prepare the meals for Milestone will be hired to use the food from the garden whenever possible. Partnerships with other community organizations like gardens and urban farms will also be used to get fresh local food whenever possible. 

How our food is cooked and prepared

Our food will be cooked by caterers who have the right license and are affordable within our budget. They must be willing enough to use the ingredients we provide (from our garden), and to make food from the menu approved at School Meeting. They also should be cooperative with students to help with food preparation.

How our food areas are maintained

Students and Staff maintain all food service and eating areas at Milestone on a day to day basis. 

X. Staffing Pattern

Possibility Statement

Staffing at Milestone can create the equitable, personalized, inclusive, and welcoming school culture that students need to thrive; can model the responsible, democratic agency that students are asked to learn; and can meet all the needs and requirements of our School Plan, state and federal laws, and our authorizer.

Design Criteria 

Staffing at Milestone should:

  • Provide one academic/social/emotional Advisor for every 22 students (maximum).
  • Provide generalist educators (who know a little bit about a lot of different things) alongside content-area experts.
  • Include at least 1 math-instruction expert.
  • Include at least 1 reading-instruction expert.
  • Be able to award academic credit in math, science, reading, writing, geography, and history.
  • Be diverse and representative of the educationally-disadvantaged youth we serve
  • Include as many multilingual staff members as possible, with at least 1 native/fluent Spanish speaker.
  • Be large enough to be able to provide the Learning Program described in the School Plan, and also manage the business and operations of our school.
  • Be of sufficient scale to ensure that all staff are paid adequately and comparably to other schools.

Plan

In order to live out our democratic values and commitments, the Governance Board of Milestone Democratic School Incorporated will not act as a direct employer of any staff working at the school. Instead, the Board will contract for these services with an explicitly democratic staffing entity, such as an Educators’ Cooperative (“EC”) and/or a Teacher Professional Practice (“TPP”). The agency or entity which provides staffing for Milestone Democratic School must provide competent and responsible individuals and teams well-equipped to deliver the following services to the students, families, and Governance Board:

  • Academic / Social / Emotional Advisors
  • Social Services Navigators
  • Mental Health Navigators
  • Career & Postsecondary Counselors
  • Food services & Food Curriculum Coordinator
  • School Finance Manager
  • Director of Special Education
  • Special Ed Case Manager and Instructor
  • Math Instruction Expert
  • Reading Instruction Expert
  • EL Coordinator
  • Internship & CTE Coordinator
  • Front Desk Attendant
  • Attendance and Enrollment Manager
  • Health and Wellness Attendant
  • Transportation Coordinator
  • Course Instructors
  • Justice Coordinator
  • IT Coordinator
  • District Assessment Coordinator
  • Staff Assessment and Evaluation Coordinator
  • Design Team Facilitator
  • Substitute Teachers

In order to arrive at a contractual agreement with an entity capable of providing this staffing, the following procedure and timetable will be used:

  • As soon as a School Plan with a Budget and Learning Program has been created, reached consensus of the Design Team, and been approved by the Governance Board (no later than May 1st), Milestone will publish a public Request for Proposals for staffing.
  • The Board will review proposals received and make a determination (no later than June 1st).
  • An EC and/or TPP that has been selected will be notified and invited to enter into contract negotiations with the Board.
  • Once contracted for services, the EC/TPP must submit all individuals (members, employees, or subcontractors of the EC/TPP) for interviews and approval for service at Milestone via the following steps:
    • The Governance Board will review each individual’s credentials, licensure, and background checks for eligibility to work in a public school.
    • The Design Team will conduct interviews with each individual, and review their resumes and references, making a “Yes/No” determination for their service at Milestone.
    • The Governance Board will review the Design Team’s recommendation to ensure compliance with laws, existing contracts, and Milestone’s Values, and inform the EC/TPP accordingly.
  • In the event that the contracted EC/TPP can not provide individuals that meet the requirements of the Design Team and Governance Board, any governance body of Milestone may solicit the application of potential staff, and submit them to the interview process above. An individual who meets approval of this process will be required to obtain membership, employment, or subcontract with the EC/TPP as part of that body’s agreement with Milestone.

XI. Calendar & Schedules

Possibility Statement

The calendar and schedules at Milestone Democratic school can be flexible, healthy, and inclusive for the needs of all families and students, and they can fully support the learning program.

Plan View full-size calendar here 

Milestone Democratic School Weekly Schedule

Total hours of instruction must be greater than 30 hours within one week.

View full-size schedule

XII. Budget

Possibility Statement

The budget can ensure Milestone is able to pay essentials on time, is able to provide for all students needs, and is able to prepare us for the unexpected.

Post-script: Forward!

This School Plan is a living document. As the Design Team grows (let us know if you want to join!) and the planning process for Milestone continues, we will continue to practice democracy in our design work to ensure that this school serves young people and their communities in the best way possible.

Last updated bySean Anderson on July 16, 2022
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