A month ago, I suggested that readers stop asking me what’s a good school and come up with their own ideas. I wanted fresh concepts, including some that were already operating and producing better achievement without putting too much strain on staffs and students.
I gave two thriving models as examples, the New York Performance Standards Consortium and the KIPP schools. Reader suggestions poured in. Some were crazy, but so what? Look for details on my blog on Friday. Here are the ones I thought most interesting. What do you think of them?
Quest Early College High School, Houston (submitted by Katie Test of the ASCD educational leadership organization). This 16-year-old public high school focuses on both academic and emotional needs with an advisory program that keeps students in regular contact with educators and emphasis on health, including a personal wellness plan. They start college courses freshman year and do community service every Friday.
One World Secondary School (submitted by Bruce William Smith). Smith played a central role in the teachers’ revolt to reform Locke High School in Los Angeles. He is proposing a new school resembling an American version of the International Baccalaureate program as offered in the United World Colleges, although under his curriculum the students would study 10 or 11 subjects in the last two years instead of the IB’s six subjects. The school would spend as little time on state tests as possible. At least one course, usually geography, would be taught in a foreign language. Smith would use UCLA professor William Ouchi’s ideas on staffing and scheduling to minimize each teacher’s total student load.
No Max School (submitted by Stephen Frank). This proposed school provides more time for teachers to work with small groups of students, as well as collaborate with each other, by having teams of three or more teachers group and regroup students through the day. If a teacher has to lecture one period, that class would be big, maybe 60 students, with an assistant to monitor behavior. Much work would be done in a computer lab with room for 50 students.
Uplift Education Schools, Dallas (submitted by Britni Bradford). These charter high schools emphasize careful selection and clear professional pathways for teachers, as well as regular formative assessments to catch learning problems early. They recruit disadvantaged students and have counselors at each school assigned to provide emotional and academic support to graduates when they are in college. All 26 graduates in 2010 of one Uplift School, Peak Prep, went to college and all have stayed for sophomore year.
New Tech Schools (submitted by Lydia Dobyns). The New Tech Network partners with 87 schools in 16 states to create project-driven learning. It is similar to the High Tech High network, with 11 schools in San Diego County. One 11th-grader at a New Tech school in Carrollton, Texas, said that “collaboration, presentations and evaluations have become an everyday thing for me. . . . Students learn through projects, presenting their proposals and evaluating their peers.”
Alice in Wonderland Schools (submitted by John F. Lyons). This Olney parent and grandparent sent in a list of “six impossible things” his ideal school would do. They include assessing prospective teachers with old SAT tests, teaching only calculator use until sixth grade and building critical thinking by handing out SAT answers and telling students to provide the questions. My favorite — because it seemed completely daft before I thought about it — was making the grade of each student the average of what the class got. Peer pressure would kick in, Lyons said, and achievement would rise.
Notice the themes here — close teacher-student contact, teamwork, projects. The best schools of the future might take different approaches, but these seem promising.