Glen Taylor, Co-CEO
The pandemic has brought us fresh insight into teaching and education. Parents working at home are watching their kids online, and learning a lot about how their kids learn. Parental input will undoubtedly inform how we personalize learning for students going forward. At the same time, teachers and educators are laser focused on the question of whether schools will open this fall, and how they can do so safely and effectively for everyone. At the heart of this an even larger issue looms: How do we best advance learning?
In 2009, Glen Taylor, an innovative educational leader in Michigan, began collaborating with his fellow colleague Beth Baker on new ways to engage students. They realized their similar passion for learning could empower students. They launched a non-profit, WAY (Widening Advancements for Youth), which over the past decade has impacted learning outcomes for thousands of students. In 2014 they formed Centric Learning, an organization with the mission of developing heroes out of teachers and students. Glen and Beth assembled a creative team to develop a comprehensive 4th 12th grade curriculum around a project based learning model (PBL). And they developed their own HERO learning platform to support competency-based assessment, and make it intuitive for teachers to integrate PBL into their classes. Through HERO, Centric Learning has built a growing WAY network of more than 60 school partners across the U.S. Under the WAY American School brand, England, China and Brazil offer international students an accredited American High School diploma on four continents, enabling graduates easier access to American higher education institutions. Each school partners with Centric Learning differently, but as Glen explains, that’s the best way to approach the whole child in a variety of virtual, blended and traditional environments.
“Beth and I started out asking ourselves a basic question: How we engage students? As a parent, I was thinking about our ideas and assumptions as they relate to my own family. Kids keep you honest, if you just listen to them,” mentions Taylor, the co-CEO of Centric Learning. “My wife and I are passionate about our kids receiving a quality education. We’ve had our kids in both public and private schools, but didn’t feel like everything online and in the classroom was particularly well integrated. That’s at the center of everything we do. We leverage technology to create great tools for teachers and students. But it’s really about creating energy and excitement in learning, and also making it affordable for everyone.”
Delivering a high quality education affordably is a universal goal. Centric Learning partners include private, public and charter schools that vary widely by country and district. Many of them have worked with Centric Learning since its beginning. Preparing students for the future means jettisoning passive instruction from the past.
“We determined early on that we wanted to support teachers by making it intuitive to adapt our curriculum in a variety of online, hybrid and face to face settings. For us, this approach aligns well with students. They get excited and curious as their interests are guided by driving questions. Working with their teachers, students engage in a wide variety of activities to complete projects that demonstrate their proficiency across subjects. Students don’t thrive in front of a computer all day. They need variety, which builds excitement for learning, and engages kids more naturally,” Taylor explains.
For example, he says for students learning about Covid-19, one path of discovery might involve the science behind the virus. Another avenue might revolve around community responses. The students develop a more comprehensive understanding of issues across different subjects. As importantly, they learn what matters to them, how they can write and communicate their ideas more effectively, and take control of their own learning in the process.
After securing accreditation with Cognia (formerly AdvancED), a world leader in educational institutions accreditation, enrollments continue to increase, and partnerships have grown organically by word of mouth.
“At the end of the day, schools continue working with us because they trust us. They see better outcomes with their students. Ultimately, that’s how we help make heroes out of teachers and students,” Taylor concludes.