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 eduleaders 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 organization
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 postsecondary 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!