Model Schools Portfolio Criteria
Schools in the Innovative Schools’ Portfolio of Model Schools:
1. Offer new and engaging ways of learning for students. Schools using innovative models have redesigned how time, curriculum, personnel, culture, and technology are used to maximize learning. Model schools have a track record of student success that cuts across demographic groups and has been replicated in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
Big Picture: Students spend three days a week in an academic advisory and two days a week out at internship sites. Their passions and internships largely drive their academic program. Advisors who are certified teachers stay with students in their advisories for all four years of high school and guide each student’s academic program through the use of the Student Learning Plan which customizes learning opportunities for each student.
Expeditionary Learning: In depth Expeditions integrate curricula, including the arts, and require case studies, field studies, interviews, and service projects. At the secondary level, EL schools use Intensives in between Expeditions to provide additional opportunities for students to explore and learn in different ways.
New Tech: Integrated subjects and co-teachers provide the opportunity for students to learn in through a curriculum that is connected in meaningful ways. 1:1 computing allows students access to technology to complete research and design products in authentic ways.
Early College: Placed on a college campus, these high schools design their entire schools to be a launching pad to accelerate first generation college students into college coursework. College course work begins in grade 9, with one or two courses. As students progress through the grades, additional college courses are taken depending on the capacity of the student. Through the four years of high school and beyond, the ECHS provides a strong foundation and anchor for first generation college students who may find college overwhelming without on campus support.
2. Go beyond “best practices” by making use of classroom structures and instructional methods that lead to higher student engagement and deeper learning. Instruction often includes Project Based Learning and integrated/interdisciplinary units as cornerstone instructional practices to build connections between content areas. Intrinsic motivation is high because students see relevancy in their work, want to learn, and are engaged in the learning process.
Big Picture Learning and New Tech: Both models use Project–based learning that include authentic problems and challenges that are usually contextualized by the community through partnerships with local businesses. At NT, coursework is purposefully integrated through innovative classes such as Bio-Literacy or Information, Technology, and American History.
Expeditionary Learning: Learning in this model makes use of long, in-depth studies of content that leads to deeper and more powerful learning. The learning is connected to local contexts and relevant to students’ lives.
Big Picture/New Tech/Expeditionary Learning/Early College: Literacy across the curriculum is an ever present tool for learning. Differentiation of content is a natural extension and integrated component of project-based and cross curriculular instruction. Writing to learn and to synthesize thinking is a powerful component of instruction.
3. Overlay core subject areas with 21st century themes such as global awareness, creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration are recognized as skills that need to be mastered in addition to the academic content. Life and career skills are taught in safe contexts to prepare students to live and work in a complex world.
Expeditionary Learning: The learning expeditions in an EL school help students build a connectedness across content areas. Learning is micro-focused on a local issue or person as a case study, but expanded to build connections to larger, global issues. Students collaboratively work to problem-solve and plan ideas for sharing what they have learned, integrating creativity and innovation into their work to benefit the larger community.
Big Picture Learning: Students collaborate with their advisor and internship mentor to develop projects based on their internship site and the state standards. The student works with the advisor to map the project to standards and work collaboratively with their peers. Through the internship process, students are exposed to various careers and have access to community members in those fields to begin a professional network. Through the advisories they are taught the expectations for being in the workplace and given coaching a support to ensure they are successful.
New Tech Network: Academic content is delivered through project-based learning. For each project, students are given a problem that is relevant to their community. Students work in teams to brainstorm ideas, research the issues, solve the problem, and present their results in writing and in presentations. In the scoring rubric, the process is valued alongside the academic content.
Early College: To prepare students for college coursework that often embraces collaborative learning and a team approach, Early College copies this trend. Underclassmen at the high school use projects to prepare them for work ethic and resiliency required to success at the college level. Students who are taking the same college course may work together on projects in the safe context of the high school.
4. Incorporate strong family and community involvement, making parents and community members partners in students’ academic program in meaningful ways. Inviting parents and community members into the school to participate in both cultural and academic programs.
New Tech Network: Businesses in the community partner with teachers to design projects that are connected to the community and make learning relevant to the students. Community members who support the project work as needed and serve as an external evaluator to hear the project presentations.
Big Picture: The community becomes the students’ classroom as they venture out into the community to complete their Learning Through Interests internships. In this work, the community and workplace mentor supports the student as she develops a project that both creates a context for learning academic content and contributes to the internship site. Community mentors, parents, and peers attend student exhibitions to hear the students present their learning.
Expeditionary Learning: In this model, student micro-focus on an issue, historical figure or place, or story closely tied to their local community. These in-depth studies require that students go out and do field studies in the community. Additionally, community members visit the school to talk with students as experts, sharing their knowledge and experiences with students. Each expedition also includes a service project that is linked to what they have learned and serves the community. Parents can visit the classroom as experts, chaperone field studies, and attend exhibitions where the students share what they have learned.
At an ECHS, Parents must sign a letter of commitment as part of the application process, agreeing to support the students’ academic program including afterschool and summer programs as well as homework completion. Parents are in regular communication with the student’s academic advisor around the students’ readiness to enroll in college courses. Given that most ECHS students are first generation college students, ECHS’s often conduct parent support workshops to guide and educate parents around the transition through high school and into college.
5. Embrace high expectations and insist that academic rigor and relevance pervade all facets of the school. Student work and presentations at student exhibitions reflect the school’s commitment to student achievement. College preparedness is paramount, even if the student decides not to pursue college. All curriculum, instruction, and student work is driven by state standards.
Expeditionary Learning: At grades 11 and 12 the school takes students on school trips to visit colleges. The goal of Expeditionary Learning Schools is for 100% of their students to be admitted to college.
Big Picture: All students are required to apply to at least one college. Many students are able to take advantage of dual enrollment due to the flexible schedule of the school, allowing them to take advanced courses in their area of interest, while meeting state standards and earning college credit.
Early College: The vision and purpose of the school is to propel first generation college students into college and support their achievement. Students earn enough credits through dual enrollment to begin their college career as sophomores; some students are able to earn associates degrees by high school graduation.
Students may take advantage of college courses to fulfill academic requirements through dual enrollment. All projects are mapped to state academic standards while also embracing professional industry standards when the project is connected to a local business context.
6. Teach students to self-assess, through meta-cognition and reflecting on rubrics, anchor papers, their own learning. Students often keep portfolios of their best work and are able to articulate the standards for high quality work. Students present their learning at exhibitions where teachers, parents, peers, and community members are able to evaluate the students’ work.
Big Picture: Parents, mentors, advisors, peers, and community members are all invited to attend exhibitions where students defend what they have learned academically and in terms of 21stcentury skills during each internship experience and the project associated with that internship. Student learning plans are tied to state standards and the online student portfolio which links to the students’ artifacts displaying their capacity to meet the standards.
New Tech High School: All student learning is achieved through Project-base learning. Projects are tied to state standards and to real world problems, often with local contexts. At the project’s completion, students present to the teachers, parents, and local business community on what they have learned through the project.
Expeditionary Learning: All expeditions have an exhibition where students share their project and what they have learned. Moreover, most expeditions involve a service component where students will design, produce, market, and sell a product that reflects what they have learned in the expedition (note card, calendars, pens, etc).
One benefit of an ECHS is the development of a students’ self-efficacy – the self-awareness that they can earn college credit and be successful at college. Building self-efficacy requires that students are constantly self-evaluation and reflecting on their learning and progress, beginning in the classroom with assignments and projects and building to a self-assessment of their readiness to enroll and be successful in college classes.
7. Utilize a small school model which fosters a culture and community of caring where all students are known well by adults and mentors. Students are not overlooked and no one “slips through the cracks.” Structures are in place and time is spent building the school culture to assure that students feel connected to the school and to adults in the building.
Big Picture: Advisories where teachers work with a small group of 15 students throughout the four years of high schools, guiding their academic program. A Big Picture school is no more than 400-450 students. Advisors loop with their students through all four years of high school
New Tech: As a small school model, there are no more than 500 students in a New Tech.
Expeditionary Learning: Students in secondary grades are divided into Crews. In elementary grades, the self-contained classroom is a single crew. Crews at all levels work hard on team building and developing relationships between students and students and between teachers and students. Crews also go together on Outward Bound adventure trips together to build the team.
Early College: A small school model with no more than 500 students.
8. Value their teachers and embrace professional development as a vehicle leading to students’ academic success. Teacher learning is paramount and instructional coaching to ensure implementation is a critical facet to the success of the professional development program. Model schools encourage a culture of collaboration among teachers and leaders, developing learning communities among professionals with student learning at the heart of each team’s meeting.
Big Picture: Conducts the Big Bang – three full days of PD in the summer, mandatory for new school faculties and strongly encouraged for existing school faculties. Through the year there are principal’s retreats and regional events to bring teachers and leaders from Big Picture Schools together.
Expeditionary Learning: The EL network sponsors a National Conference each year that EL schools are encouraged to send teachers and leaders to. They also have regional events. At EL schools teachers are encouraged to attend these events as often as possible. In each school, the year’s PD events are focused around the EL Core Practices and looking at student data to align curriculum and instruction to the students.
Early College: The national partner, EdWorks partners with the school implementing an Early College to support teachers as they develop a Portrait of a Graduate to guide the work of the school. From this portrait, teachers work together to develop curriculum maps, assessments, and classroom instruction that is fully aligned to this portrait. All professional development, curriculum development, and school activities focus on making the Portrait of a Graduate a reality.
New Tech: When a school begins their journey as a New Tech High School, the teachers and school leaders begin by “shadowing” teachers and leaders at a model New Tech High School. This learning is enhanced by a one week training seminar on Project-Based Learning several months prior to the school opening. Semi-annual regional ‘Meeting of the Minds” conferences allow New Tech teachers to gather in content speciic groups to learn from one another and share ideas. A National Conference each summer is also available to continue to build teacher and leader expertise.
In all models: Schools adopting a model are provided with a coach who provides on the ground support. This person knows the model well and helps the teachers adapt the model to the local context. The precise number of days for coaching varies from model to model, but generally includes intense work with teams of teachers over time.
9. Measure student success through multiple measures: a student’s performance on the state assessment, performance-based assessments, competency measures, and other measures both academic and cultural. Oftentime, the measures of student success challenge traditional models of grading student work, but better reflect what students know, understand, and are able to do.
Big Picture: As students strive to reach standards by following their interests, they are not marched through a standard curriculum, but work to meet the requirements of the Student Learning Plan. Assessment is paramount to ensure that students are successful and includes rubrics for projects, exhibitions, and writing. State assessment data certainly figure into the mosaic, as well as checklists for academic requirements, formative assessments, and test grades (if given). These data points are managed by the student’s advisor to record a much more complete picture of a successful student.
New Tech Network: Assessment of the project-based work at a NTHS requires teachers and peers assess both the academic content and the 21stcentury skills such as collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, and communication. Students score their peers and community experts who participate in exhibitions also score the student project work. In all cases the process of developing the knowledge and creating the final project is scored along with academic content. Students are supported in literacy across the curriculum and assessed for reading in the content areas.
Early College: Assessment is critical in Early College as students work to transition from the high school into college. Students must be ready to go into the college in order to experience success. The students are assessed on multiple measures such as academic readiness as well as ability to be a critical thinking, work collaboratively, and manage their time. As students transition into the college, their assessment data becomes especially important to ensure they are receiving adequate support to be successful.
Expeditionary Learning: Learning through expeditions requires that teachers assess both the content students are learning and their ability to make connections between content areas and the topic of the micro-study and its application to the global community. Assessment includes creating a product that includes writing and visual arts to display learning. Students work on the product overtime to internalize the standards for excellent work and to review their product to meet standards.
10. Utilize student data in meaningful ways with teachers so that planning and instruction is based on student needs and actual performance. Formative data is of primary importance so that the learning journey may be adjusted to maximize student learning. When using data, teacher teams take ownership of all of the students on the team, problem-solving to meet the needs of all of the students, not just the ones assigned to his or her classroom.
Expeditionary Learning: In EL schools, grade level teams meet weekly in Professional Learning Communities to review student data and to adjust instruction. There is sense of working together for “our children” – not just the children assigned to their classroom.
Big Picture: The student’s academic program is driven by the Student Learning Plan – a document that is a repository for data. Test scores, courses taken, rubrics, and grades, among other data points, are collected on the Learning Plan. This plan is reviewed regularly by the student, his advisory, and parents. When needed, the plan can be adjusted to better match the student’s learning needs.
New Tech: Projects describe the work that needs to be done and the final product the team needs to produce. However, the work is scaffolded and differentiated based on student data. Student data is regularly reviewed by the instructional team so that instruction and support can be adjusted as needed by the students.
Early College: A student’s transition out of the high school component of the program and into the college is determined by data. Before a student can attend the college course, she must be ready. While this determination is based on multiple measures, the instructional team meets with the student and his parents to plan for the transition based on the data. The leader of the Early College meets regularly with the college liaison to review how students are doing and how both the college and the high school can better support student learning.
11. Demonstrate restorative justice and creative problem solving in the approach to discipline, working to solve the root problem of the student’s misbehavior and helping the student plan for similar situations in the future. Model schools recognize that a school’s culture, community, and academic program all contribute to the student’s behavior.
Big Picture: When there is a discipline issue at a BP school, advisors work with the student, the school leader and parents to figure out the root cause of the student’s misbehavior. Find the root cause opens up the opportunity for problem-solving so that students can prevent the misbehavior in the future.
Expeditionary Learning: Two Core Practices of the EL community are active pedagogy and learning expeditions. Students are not bored, because learning is active and connected across content areas and throughout the school day. The culture of the school creates a feeling of belonging. When misbehavior does occur, students are lead through a process of reflection on how to make a better choice the next time, and if needed, an apology.
Early College: The goal of graduating from college always in front of the students. They are motivated by the opportunities for dual enrollment and graduating with college credit.
New Tech: Students are held to high standards by their classmates through their joint work on projects. The consequences of their misbehavior are felt by the team if consequences prevent that student from participating in the work. The student must make amends not only with the person offended, but also the team.
12. Develop leaders and leadership skills across principals and teachers. Model schools recognize that strong and capable leaders must be distributed across the school and there is an intentional plan to develop leaders. Principals and teachers together are responsible for student achievement and everyone must own and lead a facet of the school operations and/or academic program.
New Tech: The New Tech Network is beginning to think about how a single New Tech High School could serve as a lighthouse within a district. In some districts, the NTHS has become training ground for project-based learning. Teachers from other schools come to the NTHS for professional development and to view projects in action with kids.
Expeditionary Learning: EL schools send representatives to national, regional, and local training and leadership events. Teachers are encouraged to take on leadership roles as team and content leaders, instructional coaches, and local experts on pedagogy. Leaders from one EL school may move to other schools in the network to share practices. Principals collaborate across the network.
Big Picture: Principals in the network are given several opportunities each year to meet for a long weekend focused reflection, learning, and collaboration. Coaches within the network have been developed to specially work with principals on leading a Big Picture school. Regional leadership events allow leaders to meet as critical friends groups to collaborate and problem-solve.
Early College: Leaders of ECHS’s have access to an expanded network of support through EdWorks annual leadership conferences. Also ample support is available through the network of Early Colleges across the country.