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At Gateway Public Schools, agency is highly valued and recognized as vital for long-term academic and career success. In the Student Agency model, emphasis is placed on metacognition to support students in developing strong academic habits and strategies as well as self-awareness and self-advocacy. 

Through advisory classes and personalized support, students engage in self-reflection contributing to a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. Additionally, Process of Learning (POL) skills are explicitly taught alongside subject-specific content knowledge so that students are equipped with the tools they need to thrive academically and personally. They utilize tools such as rubrics and self-assessments to guide their reflection and monitor their progress. Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) provide opportunities for students to showcase their growth and reflections to their families and community. 

The Student Agency model is currently implemented in Gateway Public Schools’ two sites in San Francisco, CA, where students report positive views of school culture, engagement, strong relationships, and a sense of belonging. Gateway students also consistently demonstrate high levels of college readiness and success. Gateway Impact offers a range of support including free resources, professional development, and site visits to other schools interested in implementing the Student Agency model.

  • Learning Strategies & Habits
  • Goal Setting and Reflection
  • Advisories
  • Resource Toolkit
  • Professional Development
  • School Visits

What Makes This Model Innovative?

Active Self-Direction
Gateway’s Student Agency model encourages students to reflect on their learning progress. This enables students to understand their learning processes and drive their own learning.
Affirmation of Self & Others
Through reflection, students develop and affirm their identities as learners. They know how to support their own learning and respect the different needs of others.
Connection & Community
Gateway’s Student Agency model prioritizes community building as fundamental to empowering students and supporting them to build strong relationships with advisors and peers.

Goals

The Student Agency model builds skills and habits to help students understand their personal POL and take ownership of their education. At Gateway, POL skills are grouped into five categories: Academic Strategies, Academic Habits, Self-Awareness & Growth Mindset, Self-Advocacy, and Collaboration & Community Skills.

Academic Strategies

Students employ effective academic strategies such as note-taking, time management, study planning, problem-solving techniques, critical thinking skills, and literacy strategies to enhance their learning and academic performance.

Academic Habits

Students cultivate positive academic habits, including attending classes regularly, completing assignments on time, staying organized, setting realistic goals, and reflecting on progress toward goals.

Self-Awareness & Growth Mindset

Students demonstrate self-awareness by recognizing their own strengths, weaknesses, and learning preferences. They also practice a growth mindset, believing in their capacity to learn and grow, embracing challenges as opportunities for development.

Self-Advocacy

Students advocate for themselves by expressing their needs, preferences, and concerns to teachers, administrators, and peers. They actively seek assistance, request accommodations, and take ownership of their education.

Collaboration & Community Skills

Students collaborate effectively with others in group projects, discussions, and extracurricular activities. They communicate clearly, actively listen, respect diverse perspectives, and contribute positively to group dynamics, fostering teamwork and empathy. They advocate for positive changes in the community.

Experience

The Student Agency model explicitly teaches students about their POL to help them build ownership over their learning. Students build metacognitive awareness, or learn how they learn, through self-reflection and self-assessment. Students build portfolios of their learning and are empowered to showcase their progress and growth to their families and community through SLCs at the end of each year. Lastly, through personalized support, goal-setting, and social-emotional learning activities in advisory, students develop the necessary skills and mindset to succeed academically and personally.

Understanding how they learn, or building metacognitive awareness, is a critical way for students to have agency over their learning. POL skills are explicitly taught alongside subject-specific content knowledge, ensuring students’ holistic development and empowering them to take charge of their own learning journey beyond traditional assessments and classroom settings. To practice and develop these skills, students engage in self-reflection as well as academic monitoring within their classes and are assessed on both their POL skills and their proficiency in course skills and content. Students use tools to set goals, track their progress, guide their self-reflection, and demonstrate their skills across POL categories. Process of Learning Guide and Resources By emphasizing these skills, the Student Agency model aims to equip students with the tools they need to thrive in school and beyond. 

  • Self-Reflection: Students self-assess their noncognitive skills and habits and continue to progress in skills development through ongoing reflection. Students learn and practice POL skills throughout the school year, focusing on specific skills tailored to each grade level. Emphasis on certain POL skills aligns with a unit’s learning objectives; for example, collaboration skills come into play during group projects. As students develop these POL skills gradually, they can reflect on their progress through weekly Do Now/Exit Ticket Reflections and the Student Agency Rubric. Weekly Self-Assessment Tool Student Agency Rubric 
  • Academic Self-Monitoring: Students monitor their own grades and growth over time using a grade checks protocol. Online Grade Check Starting in 6th grade, students learn to check their online grades weekly, fostering self-advocacy and facilitating conversations with teachers and families about their learning progress and any needs they might have. While the frequency of its use decreases as students progress and develop awareness about their learning habits, the Online Grade Check remains a valuable intervention for students that need it.

Students prepare and present their goals and progress toward them to teachers, family, and community members once a year during SLCs. To do this, students set goals and reflect on their progress. Reflections and artifacts are assembled into a portfolio, which is shared with family through a presentation. For example, middle-school students typically spend 2–3 weeks of daily work, around 30 minutes per day, assembling and practicing for the SLCs in advisory and core classes. 

  • Goal-Setting: Students set goals for their SLCs twice a year so that they have time to monitor their progress. Initial goals are created at the beginning of the year during the Fall Family Conference. These goals address both POL skills and academic goals and are designed to allow students to authentically reflect on their learning aspirations and needs with the support of adults. For example, a student might express a goal like, “I aim to enhance my math proficiency by applying problem-solving strategies when faced with challenges.” At the midyear point, and in preparation for SLCs, students reflect on their Fall goals. During this time, they assess progress on their Fall goals, then set new goals for spring or the upcoming school year. Students also consider resources, potential challenges, and strategies for self-advocacy. Student-Led Conference Goal-Setting
  • Portfolio Preparation: To prepare for SLCs, students create a portfolio, with the guidance of their advisor, to present to their families. In preparation, students collect a range of documents to assemble into the portfolio. These include written reflections on work artifacts from all their classes, community contributions, and family letters explaining their achievements. Students use a checklist to organize the required artifacts and create their portfolios. Student-Led Conference Portfolio Checklist
  • Practice Presentations: To prepare for the presentation, students rehearse with a friend, get feedback from older students, give feedback to younger ones, and foster a supportive peer community.

Advisory is a fundamental pillar to student growth and empowerment in Gateway’s Student Agency model. Regular advisory meetings prioritize community building and social and emotional learning (SEL), as well as goal-setting and reflection. Advisory sessions offer opportunities for students to set their SLC goals, reflect on their portfolio of work, and prepare presentations. 

Additionally, through periodic one-on-one check-ins with their advisors, students receive personalized guidance to keep them engaged and on track academically. They can also use these check-ins to assess progress toward their SLC goals. To prepare, students complete a brief reflection form, which helps advisors guide the conversations. Advisory Reflection Tool They may focus on specific classes or aspects of student growth, such as community involvement or club participation, all of which support their SLC goals.

Supporting Structures

The Student Agency model can be adopted into any existing school structure but requires shifts to instruction, adult roles, and scheduling.

POL skills must be integrated into all curriculums and instruction. 

Instruction, across all content areas, focuses on developing POL skills. To strategically develop and support POL skills across the curriculum, educator teams need to develop a shared vision and have time to discuss how they are supporting students to develop POL skills across classes (e.g. common prep periods, grade-level team meetings, subject-area team meetings).

Schools must foster a culture where students can develop agency through choice and self-expression. 

To foster student agency, teachers should prioritize creating a classroom environment where fundamental needs like autonomy are met, informed by insights from the SCARF framework (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness). SCARF Classroom Environment Planning Tool Strategies such as flexible seating arrangements and opportunities for self-expression play a vital role in designing classrooms that support student autonomy. Additionally, teachers should promote a sense of belonging and fairness that encourages a supportive learning community where all voices are valued. 

In the broader school context, facilitating student voice through avenues like student councils and other feedback mechanisms can be useful to empower students to contribute to curriculum development, policies, and decision-making processes. Incorporating student-led initiatives allows students to actively shape their educational experiences, fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusivity.

Teachers take on the role of advisors to build relationships and provide guidance to their students.

In the Student Agency model, for students to develop agency requires them to have access to advice and guidance from a dedicated teacher. The advisor provides support for student goal-setting and reflection across all subjects and skills. Regular check-ins with students are required to ensure that they are making progress toward their learning goals. Advisors adapt goal-setting and reflection strategies to each individual student and are key in ensuring that students are prepared for the SLCs at the end of each year. Additionally, advisors maintain a strong relationship with student families so that families can be active participants in their students’ growth. Educators also need to be supported to grow in their role as advisors. At Gateway, this includes orienting new teachers to their role as advisors, facilitating professional development focused on leading advisory and providing curricular resources and support to advisors.

The Student Agency model recommends frequent advisory classes to ensure multiple student and teacher touchpoints as well as in-depth learning. 

Multiple advisory classes each week are recommended so that students have a regular touchpoint with a dedicated advisor to support their learning journey. At Gateway, middle-school students have daily advisory and high-school students have advisory twice per week. Advisory provides a safe space for students to get to know their peers and advisor and reflect on their learning. Frequent advisory classes also support teachers and students to develop and practice routines for community building (e.g. circles) and self-reflection (e.g. academic check-ins and preparation for SLCs).

Family participation is critical for student goal-setting and reflection.

Families play an important role in helping students set goals and reflect on their progress. During the Fall Family Conference, one of two student goals is created in partnership with family members. Families also attend portfolio presentations, asking questions and providing feedback to their students. They have strong relationships with advisors so they can be active participants in their students’ progress.

POL skills must be integrated into all curriculums and instruction. 

Instruction, across all content areas, focuses on developing POL skills. To strategically develop and support POL skills across the curriculum, educator teams need to develop a shared vision and have time to discuss how they are supporting students to develop POL skills across classes (e.g. common prep periods, grade-level team meetings, subject-area team meetings).

Schools must foster a culture where students can develop agency through choice and self-expression. 

To foster student agency, teachers should prioritize creating a classroom environment where fundamental needs like autonomy are met, informed by insights from the SCARF framework (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness). SCARF Classroom Environment Planning Tool Strategies such as flexible seating arrangements and opportunities for self-expression play a vital role in designing classrooms that support student autonomy. Additionally, teachers should promote a sense of belonging and fairness that encourages a supportive learning community where all voices are valued. 

In the broader school context, facilitating student voice through avenues like student councils and other feedback mechanisms can be useful to empower students to contribute to curriculum development, policies, and decision-making processes. Incorporating student-led initiatives allows students to actively shape their educational experiences, fostering a culture of collaboration and inclusivity.

Teachers take on the role of advisors to build relationships and provide guidance to their students.

In the Student Agency model, for students to develop agency requires them to have access to advice and guidance from a dedicated teacher. The advisor provides support for student goal-setting and reflection across all subjects and skills. Regular check-ins with students are required to ensure that they are making progress toward their learning goals. Advisors adapt goal-setting and reflection strategies to each individual student and are key in ensuring that students are prepared for the SLCs at the end of each year. Additionally, advisors maintain a strong relationship with student families so that families can be active participants in their students’ growth. Educators also need to be supported to grow in their role as advisors. At Gateway, this includes orienting new teachers to their role as advisors, facilitating professional development focused on leading advisory and providing curricular resources and support to advisors.

The Student Agency model recommends frequent advisory classes to ensure multiple student and teacher touchpoints as well as in-depth learning. 

Multiple advisory classes each week are recommended so that students have a regular touchpoint with a dedicated advisor to support their learning journey. At Gateway, middle-school students have daily advisory and high-school students have advisory twice per week. Advisory provides a safe space for students to get to know their peers and advisor and reflect on their learning. Frequent advisory classes also support teachers and students to develop and practice routines for community building (e.g. circles) and self-reflection (e.g. academic check-ins and preparation for SLCs).

Family participation is critical for student goal-setting and reflection.

Families play an important role in helping students set goals and reflect on their progress. During the Fall Family Conference, one of two student goals is created in partnership with family members. Families also attend portfolio presentations, asking questions and providing feedback to their students. They have strong relationships with advisors so they can be active participants in their students’ progress.

Supports Offered

Gateway Impact offers the following supports to help you implement their approach.

Gateway Impact: Student Agency Resources
Free

Gateway Impact offers free resources and tools that can be used to support student agency. The website includes a range of strategies and tools that help students develop the noncognitive skills that are essential for long-term success.

Gateway Impact: Professional Development
Cost Associated

Gateway Impact provides customized professional development or consultation. 

In addition, Gateway Impact also periodically hosts educator convenings to create spaces for educators in sharing practices.

Site Visit
Cost Associated, Free

Gateway Public Schools offer site visits to see the Student Agency model in action. Schedule a visit to their middle school or high school located in San Francisco, CA.

Reach

2
Schools
800+
Students
80
Educators
50%
Students FRL Eligible

Impact

The Student Agency model has demonstrated impact on school culture, engagement, relationships, and belonging at the founding schools, Gateway Public Schools.

  • 90% of students report that there is a teacher or some other adult from their school who really cares about them.
  • 91% of students report that there is a teacher or some other adult from their school who tells them when they do a good job.
  • 90% of students report that there is a teacher or some other adult from their school who believes that they will be a success.
  • 85% of students report that there is a teacher or some other adult from their school who checks on their progress and how they are feeling.
  • 86% of students report that they’II try hard to make sure they’re doing better at their schoolwork.

At the founding schools, Gateway Public Schools, students are also seeing academic and postsecondary success.

  • Students at both Gateway High School and Gateway Middle School outperform students across the state on Common Core tests (as measured by percent proficient or above) by an average of 15%.
  • Since Gateway’s founding in 1998, 96% of Gateway’s graduates have gone on to college, double the statewide rate. Approximately 40% of college-bound alumni are the first in their family to attend.
  • In a recent survey of alumni, 91% reported that they felt “prepared or highly prepared” for the rigors of college.

Contact

Aaron Watson
Director of Schools and Partnerships