This week I am visiting the venerable Tower Hill School in Delaware to share thoughts about the status of education in a rapidly changing world, and some vision about how a leading school might impact the big challenges ahead. I was asked to share a few examples of schools that are really leading the way. This is always a difficult task because there are so many, and so many I don’t even know about. Over the last decade there has been a virtual tsunami of K-12 innovation, much of it leading towards a much more student-centric, inquiry-project-experiential learning environment. As I said back in 2012, we are re-finding what edu-leaders like Montessori and Dewey knew 100+ years ago.
So, with apologies to all of the incredible schools that I don’t mention, here is the list of schools that I WILL highlight this week. Check them out; they are all leading in ways that others can replicate:
Bennett Day School, Chicago: Students, teachers, and partners in higher education and business are developing new learning products, apps, and a children’s book. They are great products generated by their internal “lab”, and also a revenue earner for the school.
Design 39 Campus, Poway, CA: In my view, perhaps the leading K-8 school in the country; public school where kids co-design and own their learning in extraordinary ways, including real-world entrepreneurship starting in 1st grade.
Legacy Christian Academy, Frisco, TX: Their high school Professional Schools Program allows students to select a “major” area of focus for four years, including extended externships throughout their senior year.
Miss Porter’s School, Farmington, CN: They have dramatically disrupted the traditional school operating system; departments have given way to thematic learning, and mastery assessments are now standard. And their commitment to becoming an anti-racist orgnization is a beacon for all schools.
Hawken Mastery Campus: A downtown micro-high school where learning is incredibly personalized, students can complete most graduation requirements in two years, and the rest of high-school is passion-based learning with a wide variety of community partners.
Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville, NC: Both on-campus business partners and use of a community-based shared work-space allow students to participate in real-world learning that is increasingly embedded in their more traditional program.
Maine Township High Schools, Chicago area: In a mid-sized public district, every student has access to multi-year internships, selecting across more than 700 partner organizations to find and follow their passions. And all high school families receive consulting about post-secondary choices, including the ROI on college costs and student debt decisions.
Harrisburg School District, Sioux Falls, SD: Perhaps the most impressive example of personalized learning I have seen, in a public elementary and middle school system. The example I share with tuition-charging schools: “If this school opened across the street, you would be out of business in a few years.”
One common thread of these and other great schools: as I wrote last year, these schools help their students find BOTH meaning and purpose (VUCA rt M + P). The two are symbiotic for students to be well prepared for their futures. We have done “meaning” well; purpose not so much. These schools are finding ways to solve that equation!