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Interview with Beth Baker and Glen Taylor, Co-Owners and Co-Executive Directors on Centric Learning, HERO, WAY Program and W-A-Y American Schools.

Jul 11, 2018 by

Beth and Glen, you and your educational programs have been called some of the most forward looking, innovative and creative in the nation and you have steadily expanded domestically and internationally. Your growth appears both organic and sustainable economical – significantly different strategy than other educational programs that burst on the scene, often to as quickly fade away.

You provide quality education to struggling students as “second chance” schools, partner with local US and with international top rated schools to truly add value and make a difference in the lives of students. It is impressive you are able to uses individualized, project-based learning in ways that enrich students performance across the educational landscape.

Tom Watkins, Michigan’s equally creative, innovative former state superintendent of schools recently wrote an article about your efforts and the response from our readers across the globe has been extremely favorable: Education Flattens The World

Our readers are intrigued that you provided education for students that are both remedial and struggling students, as  well as to top rated schools in the US and abroad. Our readers would like to learn more about who you are and what you do. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on education on a local, national and international stage.

Let’s get started:

1. Can you tell us about who you are and what you do?

Thanks for the opportunity to share our “WAY”- Widening Advancement for Youth) story with the tens of thousands of readers of Education News.

In 2008, we were both working with public school districts and were frustrated by the one size fits all approach to education. So, we set out on our own to change education. It has been quite the journey. Through our efforts of starting innovative schools focused on project based learning, we needed an online platform to organize our work and keep track of students progress. That’s where the HERO learning platform came about. Over time, we learned that schools and students in other countries like Brazil and China were very interested in a project based learning approach. So we set about partnering with school networks to offer an accredited American high school with project based learning courses, called WAY American School. Education is clearly one of the most influential enablers in the world today. The individual, community, state, province, and nation with the best education will prevail as the 21st century knowledge economy unfolds. Finding ways to partner to enhance education across borders is a worthwhile endeavor for students around the globe. We approach our work understanding that we are partnering with our host countries and educators in ways that blends both of our best efforts to benefit children. Our belief is, “together we are truly better.”

2. When you talk about “PBL” or Project Based Learning what does that actually mean for the teacher and student?

Project based learning asks student to apply what they learned to real world tasks. It makes learning relevant to the lives of our students. Our students are called “researchers” because they have to use the internet and technology to conduct research— not simply be passive learners. PBL also means 21st Century skills infused into the curriculum so our researchers can be prepared for the new world where ideas and jobs do move across the globe instantaneously.

Our schools regardless of serving struggling students or exceptionally gifted students offer a personalized, project based learning experience .

W-A-Y offers an innovative approach to education utilizing state of the art technology and project-based learning in alignment with state, national, and international standards. W-A-Y facilitates learning experiences that encourage self-esteem, independence, and the development of 21st century skills guiding students to a college education and subsequent career paths. Our students have been admitted to top universities in the U.S and around the globe. W-A-Y is accredited by the top school accreditation body, AdvancEd.

The W-A-Y approach is built on three core components:

1 Project Based Learning: Students explore authentic, engaging, and real-world problems.

2 Competency Based Learning: Students progress by mastering learning standards in their courses.

3 Blended & Online Learning: Students work on online, blended, and in-person courses.

This teaching method truly front loads the excitement of learning and readies the student to matriculate to some of the world’s best universities.

3. I love the statement that your goal is to make every child a “HERO” please explain what this means?

A hero is someone who has a positive impact on others. The greatest goal is for our students to earn their high school diploma and continue their education in order to be a role model for their friends and family, to provide for their family, and to give back to their community. We have made this dream come true for students coming to us from abject poverty and poor academic preparation to some of the top districts in the US and Brazil.

It is our passion and belief that each student has the capacity to be a “hero” and the talent of our exceptional teachers that enable us to create a personalized path to success for our students.

4.  How many students currently attend your

W-A-Y American Schools in Brazil and your startup partnership with Bright Scholar schools in China?

In Brazil we work with about 500 students at 13 locations and partner with four different organizations to offer our program. We’re excited to expand this year to another 15 new locations and offer an online only option to our WAY American School program.

In China, we are starting this year with two locations and about 100 students. We’ve already seen a lot of interest and could expand to another locations soon. Our Chinese partner schools are dedicated, eager to collaborate and excited to expand educational opportunities with their students.

As mentioned, we also partner with local districts in the US as well as contract with local school boards to provide this same personalized, project based learning platform for charter schools. We have found that our personalized teaching method works for struggling and academically advanced students.

We are in conversations now with schools in other South and Central American locations, India and other Asian countries. We believe that we can create “heroes” around the globe and the expansion of W-A-Y American Schools can reach every continent. Our growth is only held back by our dedication to the fidelity of our model and the quality of our work.

5. Tell us about your partner school in China- Bright Scholar.

Bright Scholar is the largest and oldest operator of international and bilingual K-12 schools in China. The education company is dedicated to providing quality international education to Chinese students and equipping them with the critical academic foundation and skill sets necessary to succeed in the pursuit of higher education overseas. It also complements its international offerings with Chinese government-mandated curriculum for students who wish to maintain the option of pursuing higher education in China.

Bright Scholar schools consist of international schools, bilingual schools, and kindergartens. They offer a broad range of internationally-accredited curricula in their international schools. Bright Scholar tailors the delivery of coursework to optimize learning outcomes for students and prepare them for higher education overseas. Their bilingual schools place a specific emphasis on developing students’ English language proficiency and non-academic skill sets, offering elective classes in sports, arts and community service programs. We have been extremely impressed with the professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication of all our Bright Scholar colleagues.

6. How do you define success and have your students gone on to higher education and if so, what universities have admitted them?

We’re successful when our students are successful and that means they are prepared for their future. We want to empower our students to succeed so they can solve real-world problems, think critically, communicate well, and be creative. It is our goal to provide all students for their future and not our past.

For our students who want to go on to higher education, we guide them through the process with a college coach. Our students have been accepted to top tier universities including University of Michigan, University of South Florida, and Columbia University.

7. Are you accredited and if so by what organization and what does this accreditation allow you to do?

Our WAY American Schools are nationally accredited by AdvancEd. This accreditation mean that we have met the high standards required by AdvancEd the same accreditation body that accredits top school districts and universities across the USA. This ensures our graduates can benefit from graduating at an accredited high school and our diploma is recognized by top universities from over 70 countries across the globe.

8. Can you go into a bit more depth about WAY American School such as where these schools are located, how do you partner with the host country schools, what is your projected growth in this market and are you exploring other countries to expand your educational model?

Our WAY American Schools are located throughout Brazil and China. We partner with networks of schools who want to offer their students an international high school experience. We offer an in-person American school curriculum and experience that allows their students to earn their local Brazilian/Chinese diploma as well as a U.S. high school diploma. Earning this diploma from an American High School often results in advanced standing, scholarships, or other admissions benefits.

9. Tell our readers about your background, how did these various educational initiatives come about. Who else’s is on your team that is the keeper of the mission and will help propel you forward?

Beth Baker

Beth Baker is the Founder and Co-CEO of Centric Learning. She was served as the Executive Director of Advancements for Youth and Education Reform Consultant for Wayne (Detroit area) County RESA which serves 34 schools districts and 250,000 students. She earned her Educational Specialist from Wayne State University

Glen Taylor

Glen Taylor is the Founder and Co-CEO of Centric Learning. Mr. Taylor also served as the Executive Director of Widening Advancements for Youth. He was also Executive Director of Innovation/State and Federal Programs as well as, a principal, athletic director and teacher.

10. Why China and Brazil?

Well, we had staff members that had strong connections to these countries and shared how schools and students in Brazil and China were very interested in project based learning and an American curriculum. After months of research, our team was able to start partnerships with several private school networks in Brazil and China to launch WAY American School. We believe there is a strong synergy in the philosophy, commitment and desire to educate students to world class standards in both China and Brazil. We are extremely pleased to partner with these exceptional educators in these two host countries to build on the academic success of their students. There is a true partnership with our host schools, their administrators, teachers and parents to propel their students to a success in their academic and life’s pursuits. Together we are truly better. We have created a network of truly global schools that is shrinking the world and propelling learning on the world stage.

11. I understand you have collaborated on writing a book on your vision, dreams and programs; especially for at risk students. Can you tell us about it and how our readers can obtain a copy?

We are very excited to be in the final production stages of our book “Education That Works”. It is scheduled to be published mid September and available at: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 12. After learning about your global learning initiatives, I see another book in your future about this new line of creative global schools you are building with your host countries. When is the

W-A-Y  American “how to” book going to be published?

Thanks for acknowledging our global as well as our local US educational initiatives. Yes, there clearly is another story to be told on how we have blended our experience and knowledge with our colleagues around the globe. Perhaps when we can slow down enough from building these educational bridges we will pull our notes and begin the arduous task of compiling our thoughts on our next book. For now, we are simply too busy doing the exciting work.

13. If our readers wish to learn more about you and what you are doing how can they learn more and contact you?

The best place to go is our website, www.wayamericanschool.com. You’ll learn about our program and latest news about WAY and our global partners.

14. Is there anything we haven’t asked that you want to share with our readers?

 Education is in such an exciting change and transformation at the moment.  Domestically, many traditional programs are beginning to try project based learning approaches in their schools but not at the speed at which other countries are adopting innovation.  Internationally, education innovation is leapfrogging traditional programs due to cost, engagement and student success.  Students are ready and beginning to demand a change in the ways that education is offered and it is up to all of us to listen.

Thanks for sharing your vision and values about how to prepare more and more of our children, here at home and around the globe for their future and not our past. We look forward to hearing more about WAY and W-A-Y American Schools as the 21st century unfolds.

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