The 2019-20 school year opened and closed as differently as anyone could have ever imagined. The science of learning and belonging remained at the center of our academic work. Our efforts at Graded went much deeper than simply facilitating learning in the moment, as demonstrated by test scores. We strived to facilitate deep and enduring learning – learning that sticks.
Graded’s Teaching and Learning Department continued its partnership with Dr. Kevin Mattingly of Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Mattingly guides and supports our faculty as they teach students how to apply cognitive science principles. In addition, the use of design thinking processes is helping faculty configure and implement learning science approaches in the classroom.
Our seniors continue to receive strong acceptance results from top-tier international colleges and universities. Graded maintains its excellent reputation among university admissions offices as an institution that produces thoughtful and principled graduates.
In February, we began to realize our world was changing. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was making its way across the globe. Graded began to design and plan for what we anticipated was coming. We built a comprehensive distance learning plan and provided professional training prior to the spread of the virus within our community. We were prepared to close our campus, and did so on March 17, 2020. Later that evening, the São Paulo governor closed schools statewide. We migrated to a distance learning platform and continued to offer faculty support. During the remainder of the academic year, we administered multiple distance learning satisfaction surveys for students, parents, and faculty, which guided our adaptations and improvements from March to June.
The Graded community unified and rallied to support one another. Recognizing that the shutdown of schools across Brazil impacted public school students much more so than our own, we decided to take action and offer our expertise in support of students in need. A volunteer group of faculty launched the Graded Beyond Boundaries initiative to assist public school students who, due to school closures, lacked access to learning. By training public school teachers on rich online resources, educators could more effectively reach their students. In addition, we offered them technological support and classroom observation opportunities. Meanwhile, the Graded PTA sprung into action, raising funds for cestas básicas.
To further connect our community, we launched the Graded From a Distance section of our website to provide enrichment opportunities, information, and resources to students and parents. Hundreds of community members engaged, participated, and grew together.
The plan focused on solutions to on-campus, distance, and blended models of instruction. Our work, recognized by educators around the world, led to a series of international webinars hosted by Graded and the d.school. Our early adoption of “convos,” small isolated groups of learners, was replicated by international schools around the globe.
Operating optimally in normal times is a challenge for any organization. Doing so during a worldwide health and economic crisis takes incredible communication and collaboration. The Graded community – students, parents, teachers, administrators and Board members – came together as one school, one community, and one Graded – in its truest manifestation.
As we closed our academic school year in June, while many schools were facing significant enrollment challenges and disconnected communities, we experienced record enrollment interest, demonstrated by the longest waitlist in seven years. I believe that it is our collective commitment to educational excellence, coupled with the sense of belonging we have fostered, that enabled Graded to persevere during a tremendously challenging time.
It was an honor and privilege to serve our community this year. Without question, this was, for me, the most challenging year of my professional life, and I would have preferred to be in no other place.
With tremendous pride and solidarity,