Advancing Teacher Leadership to Get Further Faster

MVIFI reinvests a considerable percentage of its revenues into RDI - Research, Design and Iteration. Through a number of grants, MVIFI advances the future making, as well as the current thought and action leadership, of the Mount Vernon Presbyterian School faculty and staff. The MVIFI RDI grants are often launched in the summers, and the grantees continue to play an integral role in the professional learning support throughout the academic year.

2019 Summer+ MVIFI RDI Grants

Competency-Based Learning & Essentializing Learning Outcomes Project

In our School’s strategic vision MVx, we call for innovations in curricula. In the MVx Framework, we challenge and charge ourselves to “Design, reshape and advance programs of study and routes of learning that

  • Extend beyond traditional and discrete disciplines, prioritizing interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary organizations of the curricula to personalize and contextualize learning.
  • Reflect robust, foundational knowledge, developmentally appropriate for diverse learners.
  • Deepen the skills and dispositions of learners through the Mount Vernon Mind, strengthening one’s sense of self and interdependence.
  • Respond to a changing world where learners are able to experience, engage, and impact all scales of community in authentic, real world contexts and/or settings.

In order to extend beyond traditional and discrete disciplines and prioritize cross-disciplinary learning, we believe we need to move ever closer to Competency-Based Education (CBE) and Competency-Based Learning (CBL). Further, we believe that essentializing learning outcomes is a critical path to defining Mount Vernon’s core competencies. As one major approach to achieving the goals above, years ago we started the ambitious Essentializing Learning Outcomes Project. In short, we are working to ensure that we build and iterate the most relevant - and “right sized” - set of learning objectives possible. In the 2018-19 academic year, we clarified a taxonomy to enhance shared understanding of our set of learning objectives:

  • Competency
  • Focal Point
  • Power Standard
  • Primary Learning Outcomes
  • Secondary Learning Outcomes
  • Tertiary Learning Outcomes

Much work has been accomplished to define focal points and power standards, as well as to prioritize the specific learning outcomes within the power standards and focal points. And much work remains to complete the MVPS competency areas that detail the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that are guaranteed by an MVPS education.

We are designing a project team that will work mostly in schools/divisions, as well as coordinate and collaborate across the schools by disciplinary area. The work will concentrate in the summer of 2019 and will likely extend into the 2019-20 academic year. Stipends will be provided to the project team of faculty, and there will be administrative support as well.

Quick View of MVIFI RDI Grants 2019
CBL and Essentializing Learning Outcomes Project

WHY: In order to progress to CBE/CBL and assessment, MVPS needs to complete our organizing and defining of the key knowledge, skills, and dispositions guaranteed by an MVPS education and experience.

WHAT: Continuing the creation, organization, and streamlining of the MVPS learning outcomes documents so that they meet the expectations for classification by focal points, power standards, and prioritized learning outcomes. More specific deliverables will vary by school/division. For this summer, the School is concentrating these efforts in the humanities, while also supporting four disciplines in the Upper School because of the Mastery Transcript Consortium partnership and timeline. Stipends will be $1250 per team member. Full participation is expected.


  • Upper School Grantees: Amy Choi, Brande Jones, Jenn Lloyd, Kiki Rowsey
  • Middle School Grantees: Kimberly Jackson, Dave Leflar, Jayne Liu
  • Lower School Grantees: Jennifer Brown, Angie Bush,Addy DeVore, Eileen Fennelly, Molly Hudson, and Sarah Wright
  • Preschool:Molly Collier,Debbie Markland, Sunshine Osella, Kyla Ravenell

WHEN: Most work will happen in the school/division sub-team. Coordination must occur across the schools/division. Some of this work can happen asynchronously, and some work will be expected to happen in synchronous, face-to-face check-ins, about 90 minutes in length.

  • Synchronous Calendar (prefer face-to-face on campus; can video call in):
    • Thursday, May 9, 3:30 p.m. - Quick launch meeting
    • Wednesday, May 29, 12:10 - 1:00 p.m. - Post-planning check-in; includes lunch
    • Friday, June 14, 10:00 a.m. - Cross-divisional collaboration, checkpoint
    • Week of July 15 video conference call (TBD) - Check-in
    • Wednesday, July 24, 10:00 a.m. - Showcase of progress to Summit Team (academic leadership team)

WHERE: Grantees will most likely work by school/division at their own schedule and locations. Meetings for the entire grant team will occur in the Hive, (New) Middle School Building.


2019 MVIFI RDI Grant as Google Doc

2018 Summer+ MVIFI RDI Grants

For the 2018-19 school year, MVIFI seeks to engage RDI Grants in three major categories (see columns below). Faculty and staff who are interested in submitting proposals should send an email by Monday, May 14, to C.L.I.O. Bo Adams, C.I.O. Nicole Martin, and the appropriate division head and HOLI (or a comparable head of a department). In the email, please include a link to a Google doc that is one-page maximum in length, detailing your proposed idea, plan of implementation and set of deliverables. Collaborative groups may submit one document together.

Courageous Conversations

Navigating Challenging Topics of Our Day

How might we improve our abilities to have civil discourse within and among our community? How might we ensure a commitment to anti-bias behavior, genuine empathy and inclusion with all of those who hold various backgrounds, beliefs and opinions? How might we enhance our capacity for discussing the various controversial subjects that arise in our country and our world? This grant ideally involves 1-2 faculty per school (PS, LS, MS and US) and 1-2 staff members, for a maximum of 10 people and $1000/each for funding.

Grants Awarded To: Molly Collier, Shann Acevedo, Debbie Markland, Alex Blumencranz, Taryn Rumph, David Leflar, Nikki Rucker and Deairra Hobson.

Inquiry-based Learning

Going Deeper with IBL to Transdisciplinary Work

MVPS has been using inquiry-based learning methods for years, and MVx calls for us to expand and deepen our strategies with a variety of inquiry techniques in instruction. MVIFI is offering four (4) $1500-$2000 grants for exceptional work to provide PD for faculty in advanced IBL methods and practices, which can include summer immersions for the grantees in "apprenticing a problem" that could provide network connection and material for authentic, community work for our student learners.

Grants Awarded To: Liz Aull, Anne Riley, Eileen Fennelly, Jennifer Brown, Kat Matimoe, Larisa Pender-Healy, Jenn Lloyd and Amy Choi

Assessment and Grading

Mindset Assessment and Standards-based Grading

During the 2017-18 school year, MVPS advanced its long-standing work with the MV Mindsets by including them in reported assessment. Much work remains to improve our practices with assessing the Mindsets, and this grant will provide opportunity to lead in those efforts. Additionally, MVIFI wants to seed fund continued work in our developing understanding of standards-based and competency-based grading, so that we can expand the use of SBG alongside our other grading practices. Grants are available for 4-6 people, and up to $1500, depending on scope of work.

Grants Awarded To: Addy DeVore, Meghan Fedor, Lindsey Whitehead, David Leflar, Josh Powell, Bryan Schomaker, Jayne Liu, and Robin Mathews

Summer 2017 MVIFI R&D Grants

Whole-School: Learner at the Center

Learning-centered & Learner-driven


LEARNER in MVx Strategic Center


What does it mean “to learn?” How might we transform MV to be even more learning-centered and learner-driven?


  • Throughout MVx, we draw attention to learning and the learner. Learning is incredibly complex, and the times in which we live demand proactive, responsive and adaptive learning. Through this RESEARCH effort, we will develop more thorough understanding and organized expertise at MV around the topic of learning. This could include research on neuroscience and human development; connected topics such as motivation, self-initiative, self-efficacy, autonomy, play, purpose, mastery learning, etc. What we need to do is provoke questions for further R&D, so this inquiry driver might also bridge into the questions that arise such as: 1) how will being more learner driven affect curriculum development?, 2) how will being more learner driven affect assessment practices, 3) how will being more learner driven affect instructional methods?
  • While the different school divisions would work with the same high-level topic and driving question, the inquiry will be sustained because each division will contextualize the research for their particular niche in the whole-school environment. While this research question seems broad and the possibilities seem vast, it is intended to provide voice and choice to the researchers, and allow a diverse set of voices to inform our pathways forward.


  • Two co-researchers from each division:
    • PS: Liz Aull and Shann Acevedo
    • LS: Angie Bush and Ann Marsh Rutledge
    • MS: Samantha Flowers and Sophie MacColl
    • US: Deairra Hobson and Jenn Lloyd
  • Point Person for Admin Support: Bo Adams


  • MoVe Talk, 10-15 minutes in length, to showcase key findings, research discoveries, and suggested R&D to continue
  • At least 5 sessions for additional faculty professional learning throughout the 2017-18 AY, such as faculty meetings, article clubs, MVIFI shares, etc.
  • Community partnership connections - key contact(s) and a “meeting under the belt”


Preschool Grant

HMW use current knowledge and research around authentic, formative assessment to more effectively plan curriculum and monitor children’s progress?


Emphasize instructional designs focused on inquiry-based learning (e.g., design thinking, project-based learning, project approach, visible thinking routines) that

  • Adapt to curiosities and passions of learners.
  • Optimize full engagement, deep learning, and high contributions of learners.
  • Draw on research in neuroscience and human development.
  • Strengthen local and global networks through a myriad of experts in diverse industries and environments.


HMW use current knowledge and research around authentic, formative assessment to more effectively plan curriculum and monitor children’s progress?


  • By piggy-backing on the work of one of the PS R&D Teams this year (“Projects through the lens of assessment/LOs”), the creation of systems to allow teachers to more seamlessly blend our current assessment systems (portfolios, anecdotal notes, checklists, kaymbu, etc) with project work will emphasize the importance of authenticity in instruction and assessment.
  • By more fully incorporating Developmental Learning Progressions into progress reporting and creating a prototype of preschool “seasons” of assessment, planning, reflection (teacher and student), and iteration and some structures for teachers around that, the instructional design will become more comprehensive and cohesive.


  • Two co-researchers from Preschool - Kate Canady and Anne Riley; Lower School liaison - Melissa Goodell
  • Point Person for Admin Support: Erin Carey


  • Present to Preschool Faculty during pre-planning -
    • Choose and disseminate a Pre-Read article around topic of research during grant
    • Information gathered during the summer
    • Prototypes of:
      • Authentic documentation/Assessment systems for teachers based on LOP’s
      • Progress reports for fall and spring
      • Weekly lesson plan template(s)
      • Project Reflection Template
      • Ask for feedback to continue to iterate
    • Plan further dates throughout the year to continue the research, design, and iteration process.

Lower School Grant

We design the future… Considering the strategic initiatives of MVx, how might we design and deliver an iterated, learner-driven progress reporting system/dashboard?


Discern, map, and inform a vigorous learning journey by

  • Documenting demonstrations of learning and progressions toward mastery through a learning and assessment dashboard
  • Revealing next steps to catalyze future learning


We design the future… Considering the strategic initiatives of MVx, how might we design and deliver an iterated, learner-driven progress reporting system/dashboard?


  • We value people-centered design principles that guide teaching and learning. Through this ITERATION effort, we will design a learner-driven, progress-reporting system that discerns, maps, and informs students’ own vigorous learning journeys. We strive to give students more of a voice in talking about their own experience, setting their own goals, and synthesizing their own learning. Together students and teachers will document demonstrations of learning and progressions towards mastery. We need to set conditions to capitalize on feedback from a network of multiple sources, collaborators, and mentors in future progress reporting efforts.
  • Developmental needs at differing grade levels will require varied systems and structures but they will all start with the learner, encourage more voice and choice, and adapt to curiosities and passions of learners.


  • Meghan Fedor and Kate Jarrard
  • Point Person for Admin Support: Nicole Martin


  • Iterated tools and/or systems of student progress reporting. This may include a redesign of conferencing approaches and schedules, quarterly progress report tools and Platform, and facilitating an additional phase of e-Portfolio implementation
  • Co-lead professional learning within the Lower School to train the team on new tools and systems.

Middle School Grant

Challenging the assumptions of existing assessment practices, how might we design a progress monitoring system that provides a more detailed and accurate picture of student growth and learning?


  • Research, Design, and Iteration: As a dynamic learning environment, Middle School is actively seeking ways to grow and better itself. As producers of research and design, we are committed to tweaking certain systems and methodologies, adopting new approaches and/or thinking.
  • MVx Framework/Assessment: The means and methods for knowing what someone is learning. At the macro level, the tools and systems for knowing how an organization is learning.


How might we reimagine our current assessment practices (including classwork, homework, quizzes, tests, etc.) and reporting system to provide more valuable feedback to teachers, students, and parents, as well as strategies for driving learning forward?


  • How might we empower learners by providing a transparent learning journey, including process, product, and progress? Assessment offers a way to measure, document, and share feedback on that journey. Traditionally, the product has been assessed by the teacher as a summative check on student learning, while process and progress have been the focus of limited attention and feedback.
  • How do our current assessment practices assist learners in understanding their own progress, growth, and development? What changes to our current assessment practices would provide students with the most valuable feedback for shaping their individual paths of learning? How can assessment be more reflective of learning? How can assessment be used to facilitate learning? Who should be assessing student work? How can progress and mastery be documented and reported?


  • Jayne Liu
  • Katie Cain
  • Emily Trenney (LS Connector)
  • Point People for Admin Support: Angél Kytle and Amy Wilkes


  • Design an assessment and progress monitoring system prototype that combines numerical and standards-based grades to be implemented by a small test group of teachers and students during the 2017-2018 school year.
    • This system should include strategies for tracking and reporting growth in the areas of mindsets, knowledge, skills, and dispositions.
    • Develop a prototype of an assessment reporting system compatible with our PowerSchool gradebook platform that extends beyond traditional categories and prioritizes the learner and his or her progress toward mastery.
    • Drawing on research in neuroscience, human development, and best practices, research how we might hack traditional homework practices; design a tool for teachers to assess the efficacy of their homework assignments in supporting and deepening individual learning
  • Collect regular feedback, reflect on our progress, and iterate the system design throughout the year
  • MoVe Talk, 10-15 minutes in length, to showcase key findings, research discoveries, and suggested R&D to continue
  • Co-lead professional learning within the Middle School (and potentially with other colleagues across divisions) on the discovery work, design, findings, and iterations of this action research

Upper School Grant

How might we use our current system of reporting progress to provide feedback on growth in the areas of our six mindets?


We Ship Ideas...We research. We go for volume. We take calculated risks. We are responsive. We aim to achieve more and get further faster by testing our hypotheses. Two hypotheses we have currently are: 1) If Mount Vernon desires to assess not only content knowledge, but also skills and dispositions of learners relative to real world demands and expectations, we must consider more relevant systems of grading beyond the current, traditional approach. 2) If Mount Vernon says the MV Mindsets are a desired outcome for each student, then we must provide timely and targeted feedback on growth and progress towards mastery now.


  • Considering the strategic initiatives of MVx and Mount Vernon’s commitment to the Mastery Transcript Consortium, how might we expand our understanding of why standards based grading might be a desirable alternative (long-term) to the current numerical system including its advantages and disadvantages?
  • Also, how might we support teachers in the implementation of MV Mindset reporting and assessment using previously unexploited features in PowerSchool this August?


  • We design the future…Traditional grading on a 100-point scale has been the primary method of feedback on student learning for over one hundred years; however, there is not much research that supports its effectiveness in communicating student growth especially as collaborators, communicators, ethical decision-makers, innovators, creative thinkers and solution-seekers. Mount Vernon’s new strategic plan (MVX) calls for us to be more intentional about assessing not just knowledge, but also skills and dispositions of learners relative to real world demands and expectations, as well as documenting these demonstrations of learning and progressions toward mastery through a learning and assessment dashboard. So what does that look like? How might we iterate how we assess mindsets and support one another so that students and parents receive progress monitoring on the MV Mindsets feedback via PowerSchool?
  • What can we learn through our pilot of assessing the mindsets that could help us better understand ways to disaggregate single scores in our classes?


  • Robin Mathews and Zach Strother
  • Point People for Admin Support: Chip Houston & Meg Cureton


  • Develop a set of clear rubrics to assess MV Mindsets across any disciplinary, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary course.
  • Experiment with the PowerSchool discoveries made in Terrain this year to help set the expectations and processes that teachers will use beginning this August to provide timely and targeted feedback on the MV Mindsets.
  • Conduct research regarding the advantages and disadvantages of standards based grading as an alternative to the current, traditional grading system used in the Upper School. Interview Lower School teachers and admin to discover how they implemented a SBG system and what insights they have gleaned over the past several years.
  • Lead a 60-90 minute workshop in pre-planning to showcase the key findings of the SBG research, findings from Lower School’s experience, and step by step instructions for Upper School faculty to launch the MV Mindset/PowerSchool initiative.
  • Continued leadership through faculty meetings and professional learning sessions throughout the year.

Summer 2016 MVIFI R&D Grants

Grant Type 1: MV Mindsets

Nurturing Deep Understanding in the Habits of Mind

How might we enhance our use of the MV Mindsets so that learners are even more able to advance and progress in these essential, developing habits of mind?

For Summer 2016, MVIFI is awarding grants to each of the four divisions of MVPS for R&D work to advance our use of the MV Mindsets. Grantees will work in 3-4 person teams by division, and a “team leader” from each division team will coordinate communication among the four division teams so that inquiry, innovation, and impact cross-pollinate across the whole-school effort.

This particular Mindset grant will concentrate on the “Four Cs” of our MV Mind: Communication, Collaboration, Creative Thinking, and Solution Seeking (which many educators elsewhere refer to as Critical Thinking).


  1. A version 1.0 collection of teaching tools and resources that faculty and facilitators can use to make more explicit the “component parts” of a Mindset’s development. For example, what are the essential sub-skills that one must exercise to grow as a collaborator? And how does the progression from Preschool to Lower School to Middle School to Upper School look for these sub-skills and component parts? Assembling and/or creating these tools and resources can and should draw on existing sources, such as EdLeader21, Buck Institute for Education (BIE), Lucy Calkins, 6+1 Writing Traits Rubric, etc. An analogous provocation: In a similar way that we have the MVIFI Design Thinking Playbook of tools, what would a set of tools look like for the 4Cs at Mount Vernon?
  2. A prototype for how we might better assess the MV Mindsets and include systemic feedback in our progress monitoring system (which includes components such as progress reports, conference forms and templates, comment writing, etc.).
  3. Co-facilitation of a session at Faculty Preplanning in August. More details about this will come later. The goal is to cascade the work accomplished and spread the tools and resources among the faculty.
  4. A blog post (or short series) to share on the MVIFI blog about the work and R&D advancement by the team.

The 21st Century Mount Vernon Mind

Grant Type 2: PBL Resident Experts

Providing In-House Expertise to Support Our Work

The MVPS Faculty and Staff Summer+ Learning for 2016-17 focuses on PBL. This focus will further our work as a School of inquiry, innovation, and impact, especially given our design principles and practices “Curiosity and passion drive learning” and “Learners apply knowledge to make an impact.”

To build additional capacity in several faculty leaders across the school, MVIFI is funding grants for PBL resident experts. These resident experts will go beyond the Summer+ Learning “minimum expectations” to dig deeper into research and practice behind PBL, BIE resources, especially the PBL Gold Standard, and facilitation for continued learning in how to design and implement PBL in our classrooms and learning environments.


  1. Concise, written briefings of the best resources that you identify related to PBL and specific implementation for your division.
  2. Prototype(s) of “lesson plans” for facilitation of PBL faculty session(s) at Pre-planning.
  3. Co-facilitation of a session at Faculty Preplanning in August. More details about this will come later. The goal is to cascade the work accomplished and spread the tools and resources among the faculty.
  4. Suggested sessions for ongoing PBL professional learning at faculty meetings during the year.

Summer 2015 MVIFI R&D Grants

Upper School R&D Grants 2015

  • Innovation Diploma Program Architecture
  • (i)Project Program Framework Advancement
  • Interdisciplinary Unit Designs
  • Advisory Program Development

Middle School R&D Grants 2015

  • Progress Monitoring: Badging
  • Progress Monitoring: ePortfolios
  • Progress Monitoring: Student-Led Conferences
  • Progress Monitoring: Formative Assessment

Lower School R&D Grants 2015

  • Student Progress Monitoring Redesign
  • (i)Project Mini / Interdisciplinary Unit Study
  • Lucy Caulkins: Literacy Unit Planning

Preschool R&D Grants 2015

  • Interdisciplinary Project/DT Project Starters 2.0
  • Progress Monitoring: Mindsets Infusion

Summer 2014 MVIFI R&D Grants

Global (All-School) R&D Grants 2014

For summer 2014, MVPS and MVIFI created a global (cross-divisional) R&D team to explore and determine enhancements for a collective set of school practices that all work interdependently to communicate more clearly a student’s learning and assessment map, as well as empowered engagement with the student’s own learning journey.

Instead of new initiatives, however, efforts focused on “tangible upgrades” to existing focus areas, such as parent teacher conferences, progress reporting, ePortfolio, and homework practices, just to name a few. By concentrating on the overarching topic of student-centered learning, expected practical and exciting iterations to our existing expressions of the student learning map. For example, how might we continue to develop things like:

  • Parent-Teacher-Student Conferences 2.0
  • Progress Reports 2.0
  • Homework 2.0
  • ePortfolio 2.0
  • MV Mind and Mindset Rubrics

Initial Challenge Statements:

  • How might we redesign the parent-teacher conference experience so that students take a more participatory role in those critical conversations? What are the developmental considerations to explore? What coaching and advisement would students need to set them up for success?
  • How might we go deeper with the ePortfolio as a self-reflection and communication tool for student learning and demonstrations of growth? In what ways could an ePortfolio be used in conjunction with student-parent-teacher conferences?
  • How might we design a “My Learning Dashboard” that weaves together threads of school-based learning, recreational sports, individual hobbies, homework experiences, online learning, etc., so that a student and his/her parents and teachers could see a more holistic picture of how the student is developing as a collaborator, ethical decision maker, etc.?
    • What is a dashboard?
    • How do we use a dashboard?
    • How does it inform students, teachers, parents?
    • How does it relate to the ePortfolio?

Special consideration and intentional connectivity should be created relative to our strategic vision, and sections of (i)Plan 17.

Upper School R&D Grants 2014

  • Innovation Diploma Program Architecture
  • Transdisciplinary and Capstone Project Development (TDed)

Middle School R&D Grants 2014

  • Innovator's DNA Study
  • Digital Life Program Development
  • Service and Service-Learning Opportunities

Lower School R&D Grants 2014

  • Curriculum Unit Planning and Annual Project Scope & Sequence

Preschool R&D Grants 2014

  • Project Plans - Authentic Learning
  • iExplore and Discovery Curriculum Integration