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The Best School for Each Student

Sep 28, 2018 2018-09-28

From September 22 through September 30, CoSN educators and technology professionals are on a trip to Finland and Norway to meet with government officials, local leaders and educators to get an insight into the country’s education system and its policies. Members of the delegation are encouraged to document their experiences in a blog.

By Ann McMullan

On Monday, September 24, the CoSN Delegation had the opportunity to visit Elvebakken Upper Secondary School in Oslo, Norway. The students and staff shared the story of Elvebakken’s transformation from a low performing, “not very popular school” in the early 2000s to its current status as the most popular school. At the heart of that transformation was a leadership shift to truly put students at the center of the work for everyone involved at Elvebakken. The school’s approach is to be “the best school for each student enrolled at Elvebakken at any time.”

Students at Elvebakken take an active role in both the design and implementation of the learning process. The administration’s philosophy is “whatever the students propose, the answer is yes.” It is then up to the administration to figure out how to make it happen. Collaboration among students and teachers is the engine that makes the school function. Students typically work in groups of four for most of their learning assignments. Teachers also collaborate in planning and refining their learning interactions with the students. Reflection is an integral part of the collaboration process for students, teachers, and administrators.

The concept of how and when students are graded on assignments is also different. At the start of the school year, students do not get traditional grades on their assignments. Instead they receive feedback. At the end of the school year, they do receive a grade for their cumulative coursework. The thinking behind that approach is that “it is what students know at the end of the year that matters.”

Ann McMullan is the founder and lead consultant of Ann McMullan Education Consultants in Los Angeles, California. Ann serves education leaders, teachers, non-profits and firms doing business with schools and school districts to assist with leadership and strategic planning targeted to making learning relevant for all students.
Learn more about Ann’s thoughts on leadership in her recently published book, Life Lessons in Leadership: The Way of the Wallaby. It defines those skills, which strengthen all leaders’ abilities and help assure their success. For more details, visit

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