77 Questions: An Opportunity for Vermont Students to Account for Their Education


Editor’s note:

77 Questions” is the Underground Workshop’s collaborative draft report for the 2022-2023 school year, exploring students’ experience of Bill 77, the law that introduced early college, personal learning plans , dual enrollment, competency-based learning, high school completion program, and other changes to Vermont schools.

Our first workshop for student reporters will take place this Thursday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. Students and teachers: please register here to receive an RSVP.

The first announcement of the project, with a broad overview of its purpose, is here. Today’s post offers students and teachers two resources from the student editors of the Underground Workshop: 1. An example of the descriptive, field-based mode for reporting student experiences in our schools, and 2. An overview of the collaborative reporting process.


Example: PLP at BFA St. Albans


The report of this project is centered on the experience of the students of the law 77.

This is a brief “snapshot” history demonstrating the descriptive and characteristic style of the underground workshop, from student writers Rachel Ledoux and Cooper O’Connell, of BFA St. Albans


Isabel Guerino in class at BFA St. Albans, photo by Cooper O’Connell. Photographs are an essential element for any story seeking publication with Atelier Souterrain. We encourage student reporters to collaborate with student photographers when possible.

On September 13, Isabella Guerino, a sophomore at Bellows Free Academy St. Albans, was sitting in her accelerated English class when she received an email from Elaine Archambault, a guidance counselor.

“Hi Isabella,” the email read, “I needed to get you into a career class as a grade 10 requirement that will also get you into your PLP job.”

The deadline for adding or removing classes was that afternoon and her schedule had been changed.

“It was only for the fact that I had to finish my second PLP,” Guerino said.

This year, BFA made strides to make the PLP (Personal Learning Plan) process more accessible to students by integrating it into a required class, Career Explorations. Guerino had planned to take a band this semester and was confused about the change. Neither she nor her parents received notice. “I just got traded,” Guerino said.

Later that afternoon, Guerino went to the guidance office to figure out what was going on.

“I offered to do [the PLP] outside of class, but Ms. Archambault said that was just not possible,” Guerino said.

At BFA, the past decade has seen the beginning of many attempts to redesign PLPs. This year is no different. Instead of the goal-based PLP document of the past, BFA students will create a Google site to share their goals, interests, grades, and credits in a new format. But as BFA works hard to adjust the process, many students question the priority given to PLPs.

Liam Mahabir is BFA’s Flexible Pathway Coordinator.

“We’re really looking to see more investment in PLPs from students with this new format,” he said. “I hope the students will benefit from it; it is a valuable resource for the university and beyond.

Mahabir noted that the success of PLPs is highly dependent on student efforts.

“I think you take out of the PLP what you put into it,” Mahabir replied. “It’s up to the students to decide whether it’s useful or not.”

Guerino says she doesn’t find it helpful. “I can no longer do my group projects after this year because my schedule has been moved,” she said.

Guerino just bought a new clarinet last year, so when she heard this news, it was even more frustrating for her and her parents.

“I spent a lot of money on my clarinet, and now I’m going to miss opportunities to use it,” she said. “My parents are very upset about this. It’s just not fair.


Students: The piece above is an example to demonstrate the reporting and writing mode for this project, focused on the student experience. The Underground Workshop’s collaborative reporting process combines short articles like this (only 400 words) with articles from other schools, using a comparative approach to explore issues as they appear across the state. This play could also be developed into a longer feature film. What other insights or information could be added to give readers a more complete view of PLPs at BFA St. Albans?


The collaborative reporting process

Student writers Anna Hoppe from Essex High School, Adelle Macdowell from Middlebury College and Anika Turcotte from Montpelier High School.

This illustration is by Anna Hoppe of Essex High School, one of the Underground Workshop’s student writers. We hope that we can involve more students in the creative leadership of this project; for example: how to use photographs and images to explore act 77?

The 77 Questions project will become a series of articles looking at different parts of Bill 77. Each policy (Personalized Learning Plans, Competency-Based Learning, Dual Enrollment, Early College, High School Completion Program, and Work-Based Learning) will have its own article, and most will incorporate stories from several schools. For an example of what this format looks like, see the Climate Report Card, the Underground Workshop’s major project last year.

Students can contribute to the project with small pieces or feature films and in a variety of forms, from traditional articles to photojournalism and videos. Whichever format you choose, your article should focus on the human element of these programs. Policy discussions can often boil down to statistics, and while these are valuable, we want to reveal how these policies impact people on an individual level. People are much more persuasive to the average reader than numbers.

Here are some potential story ideas:

  • What technology center programs exist in your district? What does the daily life of a tech student look like compared to a traditional student?
  • What types of students enter dual enrollment and early college programs? What impact does this have on their future?
  • What is the impact of competency-based learning on students as they apply to college and make the transition to college graduation?
  • How does work-based learning open up opportunities for students after high school? What are these experiences like?

You will write about your school district, and then your contribution will often be part of a larger article, with stories from other schools. Additionally, the Underground Workshop will host a “student press conference” at the end of the series where students will have a forum to discuss their reporting and question decision makers on the future of education policy.

Important dates for 2022:

  • November 17: Initial workshop of the Acte 77 project – Presentations and Ideas
  • December 15: Reporting workshop (sharing of first experiences & challenges, pitching stories

After these first workshops, the Atelier Souterrain will meet every other Thursday and will organize workshops according to the needs of the students. At any time during your reporting and writing process, you can join our meetings for assistance. These meetings are a great place to get feedback and help with your article. We hope to start publishing articles in early 2023 and will air the series throughout the school year.

Register here!

Please contact us at [email protected] with any questions.

We hope to see you on November 17!

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