16 Schools Where Students Will Learn Differently

This fall, 3,400 students will experience school in a different way. Sixteen districts and charter operators, with the support of the NGLC launch grant awards announced today, are opening a new school or redesigning an existing one. While the details, context, and strategies vary, these schools all share common design principles of personalized, blended, and competency-based learning, and a commitment to graduating students with high achievement and college- and career-ready skills.

There’s something to learn from all 16 schools. In addition to their design merits, here are a few examples of some of the more unusual aspects of a few of these models and where additional contributions may be made to the field.

  • Valor Collegiate Academies will partner with Vanderbilt University to support the development of specific blended learning skills in new and existing Valor teachers (addressing an obvious and on-going need in identifying qualified teaching talent for Valor, and also providing a resource to schools nationwide).
  • Design Tech High School will foster students’ skills in design thinking and applied problem solving. The school will tap extra instructional support through a partnership with Stanford University’s well known “d. school.” Design Tech staff also will develop online open source content and design thinking modules for users of the CK-12 platform.
  • BattelleEd’s Metro Institute of Technology will significantly reduce the costs of college for students by leveraging the seamless design of a STEM-focused “early college” co-located with Columbus State Community College. The model combines college coursework, industry credentialing, and a statewide system that waives seat time (at the secondary level) and enables easy credit transfer between two- and four-year institutions. The school will also serve as a professional development hub for blended learning teachers in the STEM disciplines. 
  • InnovateEDU, Inc.’s Brooklyn Lab School situates learning in an “ed tech incubator” to develop students’ (and teachers’) entrepreneurial mindset and skills in applied content and problem solving. The school combines the power of extended learning time with high-dosage personalized tutoring to ensure all students master the basics while being stretched by interdisciplinary projects.
  • Piedmont City School District, a small rural district, will structure student learning time more flexibly and based on individual needs. Students access "Class Time" (project-based learning with or without a teacher, combined with some direct instruction); "My Time" (individualized online learning); and "Goal Time" (1:1 personalized goal setting that supports the other two times) and are not bound by subject area or rotation. The school also leverages extra talent in the form of tech student interns from a local college.
  • Magnolia Montessori for All will mix the culture of self-directed learning with that of a no-excuses charter and aim to make this combination accessible to a more under-served group of students than has traditionally accessed Montessori learning. Students at this Austin, TX school will experience the hallmarks of the Montessori model – competency-based progression in collaborative, multi-aged environments – while using a range of learning tools that will include digital and online supports.

You can learn more about all 16 launch grantees here.

I want to congratulate everyone associated with the tremendous achievements of the teams behind these 16 schools. This was the largest and most competitive applicant pool of breakthrough schools reviewed to date. I’m grateful to all the applicants. It’s an honor and privilege to read and review your proposals, narrated slide decks, financial models, and team résumés. I appreciated your vision, tireless efforts, and candid feedback as you interacted with me throughout the process. Thank you.

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