Portland Public Schools
Portland, Oregon

MLC logoMetropolitan Learning Center

K x 12 student-centered education

2033 NW Glisan St. | Portland, OR 97209
Phone: (503) 916-5737

How We Teach

John Walrod working with 2nd grade students
MLC emphasizes learning by doing, character growth, teamwork and literacy. We connect academic learning to adventure, service and character development. We teach educators to provide instruction in reading, writing, science, math and other subjects through a challenging set of connected real-world projects called learning expeditions. Literacy instruction, embedded in learning expectations, is a special focus of this design.

Among many rich topics, expeditions at MLC have focused on interpretive centers, habitats, insects, dinosaurs, acoustics, flotation, endangered species and the composition and performance of the "Columbia Gorge Suite".

Our design principles reflect the educational values and beliefs of Expeditionary Learning/Outward Bound, a new school model that we were affiliated with in recent years. These principles also reflect the design's connection to related thinking about teaching, learning and the culture of schools.
The Primacy of Self-Discovery
The Having of Wonderful Ideas
The Responsibility for Learning
Empathy and caring
Success and Failure
Collaboration and Competition
Diversity and Inclusion
Service and Compassion
Solitude and Reflection
The Natural World
Kindergarten Through High School
While some students do transfer in and out of MLC at various grade levels as their learning and family needs change, our instructional program is designed to build through the grades culminating in graduates prepared for the wider world of college, the arts and commerce. We foster the development of initiative, self-reliance, entrepreneurship, creativity, and a life-long commitment to learning.

Instructional Teams
MLC is organized by teams: Kx3, 4x6, 7x8 and 9x12. The team approach supports cross-grade experiences and collaborative thinking and planning for rigorous, quality instruction and school activities.

INTRO: Kindergarten and 1x3
Kindergarten at MLC focuses on school readiness and developmentally appropriate activities. Students are given the opportunity to make choices within the classroom structure. Hands-on activities are featured as well as field studies designed to expand the classroom experience. Reading and math skills are introduced in small groups while social skills development are a focus of large group activities.

First through third-grade students spend their days working in large and small groups concentrating on core academic skills. Some afternoon time is spent exploring elective classes. Field studies enhance the classroom experience. Social development includes problem solving, decision making and working cooperatively.

CENTRO: 4x6
Intermediate students spend mornings working on the basic skills of math, reading and language arts. Social studies and science are largely incorporated into expeditions. Afternoon electives allow students to explore areas of interest with teachers and students from other teams. Extended field studies provide opportunity for personal challenge and the growth of healthy interpersonal relationships.

RETRO: 7x8
Middle school students spend their mornings rotating through language arts, math, science and social studies classes. The afternoon program emphasizes individual choice in selecting classes from a wide range of electives. Personal and social development are enhanced by Friday Focus activities featuring service, adventure, stewardship and civic responsibility.

METRO: 9x12
The high school staff helps students build programs designed to meet their needs, abilities, interests and learning styles while completing the requirements for their high school diplomas. Courses address state academic standards, run on a block schedule and earn .5 credit per trimester. Off-campus experiences allow students to customize their learning and include co-oping with other high schools and study at local colleges, universities, galleries and institutes as well as internships and work experience. All students also participate in arts, adventure and service activities. (See the high school forecast guide for additional information.)

Our high school students earn a regular Portland Public School diploma and are well qualified to move on to further studies or the world of work.

Mixed-Age Learning
We believe that students at all age levels benefit from cross-age activities that foster communication, understanding and a safe and positive school climate. Students are in blended classes in grades 1-2, 4-5, 7-8 and 9-12. Electives cross both grades and teams. Each month the entire school gathers to share information, celebrate successes and promote our character traits. School picnics, holiday activities and special events include opportunities for all students as well as families.

Peer helpers, reading buddies, student tutors and teaching assistants all provide opportunities for students to interact across the grades, as does just being together in the halls and cafeteria.

Portfolios
At MLC we value student voice and assessment that goes beyond the limitations of standardized tests. Portfolios provide both and are one of the primary assessment tools used across all grade levels.

Portfolios contain examples of learning collected in binders (or electronically) by students with the guidance of their teachers. They show evidence of our students' developing knowledge and skills and the care and effort given to their work as well as insight into their thinking about their own learning. When teachers, family and community members look at our portfolios they get a broad sense of what MLC students value, know and can do.

At least once each year all students present and explain the work in their portfolios in student-led presentations to their families and to community panels.

Grades
The traditional A-F grading system is not used at MLC. In place of letter grades, each trimester MLC Kx8 teachers either conference with families or prepare individual progress reports for their students.

High school teachers conference or send reports of credits earned. Mid-term progress reports are sent to families in need of additional support.

Electives
The MLC first through eighth grade elective program is multidimensional. Many community members, parents and guardians as well as teachers, provide a wide range of elective offerings. Topic areas include science, social studies, physical education, arts, music, crafts, games, philosophy and literature. Each trimester students choose classes that address their own particular interests. Teaching an elective is a special way to get to know our students and to become an active part of the life of our school.

Over-Night Field Studies
Students in grades four through twelve will have opportunities to participate in extended field activities that support their academic studies and take them to destinations far from the Portland area. These trips require careful and extensive planning and support from our families. They also involve extra costs and specific permission for students to attend and parents and guardians to drive.

Service Learning
Community service is our way of being productive, responsible and appreciative members of our community. Service Learning connects classroom instruction to this important community work. All students at MLC have opportunities and are expected to provide service through expeditions, exploratory or advisory activities or individual projects.

Early Dismissal on Fridays
The planning, coordination and implementation required by our complex, project and community based instructional program requires time for on-going staff development, thoughtful planning and collaborative implementation. In lieu of daily preparation periods, our staff has elected to support early dismissals on Fridays in order to have common, sustained time for the necessary training, planning and reflection.