Milan is not only considered has a global leader in the fashion industry but is also renowned for offering excellent educational opportunities to students worldwide. The leading schools of the city offer academic and infrastructural facilities of global repute. One such prominent school, which is embracing academic excellence while providing students with tremendous opportunities to grow and make a mark in their career, is The American School of Milan (ASM).
The school was founded in 1962 by a group of American families looking for an English language educational opportunity for their children. Since those humble beginnings, the school has enjoyed the role of educational leader in Milan and the entire country of Italy. Today, ASM has 820 students from PreK through 12th grade, graduating about 70 students per year. Its mission guides its daily work and its long-term strategic planning: “The American School of Milan ensures a modern and rigorous education for International students to excel in the changing world of tomorrow.”
ASM offers the IB Diploma programme, and its graduates attend top universities around the world, including Stanford University in the US, and Oxford in the UK. ASM is one of only two non-profit, truly diverse international schools in Milan. It currently has students from over 50 nationalities enrolled. The school serves the diplomatic community of Milan, including the US Consulate.
ASM has a purpose-built campus located approximately 8 kilometres from Milan city centre. Located in the neighbourhood of Noverasco, ASM is flanked by a golf course and features a wide-open soccer pitch. It has two full gymnasiums and over 50 classrooms, including well-equipped science labs. The school’s library serves all students from PreK to 12th standard. It also offers excellent food in its top-class school cafeteria. ASM opened a 500-seat auditorium in 2019, capping a five-year expansion that saw new classrooms added, the cafeteria remodelled, and several infrastructure upgrades related to the needs of a growing campus.
Prioritizing Excellent Learning Outcomes
Team ASM believes that curriculum is the invisible backbone of any school. Course objectives and learning outcomes are an integral component of any curriculum as they provide the point of arrival for learning. Without course objectives and learning outcomes, teachers are at risk of creating a raft of activities that do not combine into a meaningful whole. Backwards planning is a principle that the school adopted many years ago. It helps ASM to design the learning journey to make sure that the learning puzzle fits together, and students are able to build an understanding of meaningful content, skills, and concepts that are regularly assessed.
At ASM, the ultimate academic objective is the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Thus, its course objectives and learning outcomes are selected to make sure that there is alignment and adequate preparation for success in the Diploma Programme.
The school has created a systematic curriculum review cycle that provides it with opportunities to regularly review its outcomes and objectives to ensure that its programmes are at the cutting edge of international education. During department meetings, teacher teams share representative student work from each grade level within divisions to look for progression and appropriate skill level. The standardized tests ASM selects help it to compare its achievement to the scores of international peer schools to benchmark its programmes and make adjustments accordingly.
“We thoughtfully design course objectives and learning aligned to our values in order to provide a coherent learning experience for our students, so they are prepared for the pace of change demanded by the 21st century and develop the dispositions to take positive action,” opines the management.
The Passionate Leader
Wayne Rutherford has been ASM’s Director since August 2019. He arrived in Milan from Cairo, Egypt where he was Head of School for seven years. His crisis management leadership during Egypt’s second revolution (Summer 2013) had somewhat prepared him for the crisis leadership necessitated by the COVID pandemic. Milan and Lombardia were the first places hit by the coronavirus in February 2020, and ASM was among the very first schools to be shut down due to the virus. It successfully turned to online learning (losing only one day of instructional time for teacher preparation) and emerged as a leader in the early days of online learning. Mr. Rutherford had several articles published about school leadership during the pandemic and leveraged the international network of schools to help ASM become a recognized leader in covid crisis management and online learning.
ASM not only focuses on academic development of the students, but, also provides them with ample opportunities to shine in the extracurricular arena. Extra-curricular activities provide opportunities for leadership and personal growth. The ASM sports and after-school activities are designed to provide students with a variety of activities wherein students can learn new skills, develop their talents, and socialize with friends. The activities fall into three main categories: active, creative, and academic. Students are encouraged to take the opportunity to participate in at least one activity during the school year.
The Wall of Fame
Owing to its dedicated educational endeavours, ASM has received various noteworthy accolades. The school is accredited by the American Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as by the International Baccalaureate Office, which authorizes its IB Diploma programme. ASM is an Eco School, recognized for various initiatives towards green operations. It facilitates the 5th and 8th grade Italian exams for the Italian students wishing to maintain their Italian credentials. ASM is a member of the Mediterranean Association of International Schools (MAIS) and the Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS).
Prepared for the Pandemic
Team ASM has learned a lot about operating a school during a pandemic. Last year’s lessons along with the most recent Italian government edicts and the latest science guide the school’s efforts to always keep the students and the whole community safe and healthy. For most part, its approach is the same from the time the pandemic began: a proven, multi-layered set of procedures and requirements that combined, allow it to avoid any on-campus transmission of COVID. Team ASM plans to continue to carry out temperature checks, masks, social distancing, and frequent hand sanitization.
“Although history has shown us that school systems are slow to change, the pandemic has taught us that schools can indeed be agile”, shares the management. At ASM, necessity was indeed the mother of invention. It has learned from Early Childhood to Grade 12 that putting student learning and happiness at the forefront of its priorities and monitoring its systems and protocols accordingly is the recipe for success.
Building Bright Careers
The goal of ASM’s university counselling office is to help its students identify the appropriate ‘fit’ for all postsecondary options. ‘Fit’ is defined as finding an institution that meets the academic, emotional, geographical, and financial needs of the student. This improves a student’s likelihood of graduation from a chosen college, as well as ultimate success in their chosen field of work.
Moving forward, collaboration will continue to be a hallmark of how ASM operates. During the lockdown, teachers were given more time online to collaborate as they had to adapt a curriculum designed for on campus learning to an online model. “Since we emerged from lockdown, we have created more middle level leadership positions and provided more grade level and subject level meeting time within the school schedule to allow for cross pollination of ideas and putting plans in place for supporting students,” states the management.
Data informed instruction in the school’s teams has helped it respond to where students are in their learning. Targeted small groups have helped ASM to support those who struggle as well as enrich academic learning for those who need it.
“Social emotional learning and support of it in order to foster the dispositions we think that our graduates will need to be successful in our uncertain world are now integrated into our school programmes,” the management expresses. ASM has committed to professional development for all its upper school teachers in integrating the skills and dispositions of collaboration, communication, self-management, and thinking skills. This is because, it believes that the students will leave the school with those dispositions and attitudes equipped to be lifelong learners rather than masters of specific content.
Marching ahead in these uncertain times, ASM will be a nimble, collaborative, data informed, and socially supportive community of learners.