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Students who come to Kunskapsskolan (KED) start by setting long and short-term goals with their families and an advisor. They then take assessments to determine what level they will start on and what strategies they will need to reach their long-term goals. This provides everyone with a working plan, which will be divided into medium-term goals for the semester and short-term goals for the week to come. Each step is followed up in weekly 1:1 coaching sessions with a personal learning coach. Unlike conventional schools, outcomes are something the student can identify and influence along the way. Through the Educational Documentation System (EDS) on the school’s Learning Portal, families — as well as the student and the teacher — get a real time insight into how learning is progressing.

Kunskapsskolan schools have few corridors and spaces that are not used for learning purposes. Instead, there are a variety of purpose-designed, multi functional facilities for lectures, group sessions and individual studies. This approach allows the faculty to use the facility optimally for each individual learning task. Besides having an innovative pedagogical design, KED provides a new use of space and creates greater opportunities to convert buildings, originally intended for other purposes, to schools. Thus, creating a learning environment that resembles higher education and modern work life. Adapted from


Rocketship Learning (blended)

Individualized instruction comes in two forms at Rocketship: online instruction in Learning Lab and in a Response to Intervention (RTI) program that offers tutor-led, small-group interventions for the lowestperforming quartile of students. Online learning and tutors help to make a child’s classroom work more productive because (s)he has more 1:1 time to overcome specific skill gaps. Rocketship teachers have more classroom time to focus on extending children’s critical thinking skills. In addition, Rocketship is working to build the Rocketship Individualized Scheduling Engine, which will broaden the information available to teachers so that they can fully understand students learning needs through a full assessment of progress in online instruction and classroom assessments.

The Rocketship “Learning Lab” combines online curricula, independent reading, and tutoring (based upon an RTI model) that strengthens basic skills at the appropriate level for each student. All aspects of the vision—basic skill mastery, higher order thinking, and personal growth—are reinforced throughout the school day in both classrooms and the lab setting, but the vision is for Learning Lab to provide the “lift” so that classroom instruction can focus primarily on higher order thinking and personal growth. Adapted from


High Tech High

Each student at High Tech High (HTH) has a staff advisor, who monitors the student’s personal and academic development and serves as the point of contact for the family. Students pursue personal interests through projects. They compile and present their best work in personal digital portfolios. Students with special needs receive individual attention in a full inclusion model. Facilities are tailored to individual and small-group learning, including networked wireless laptops, project rooms for handson activities, and exhibition spaces for individual work. HTH students experience some of their best learning outside the school walls. Juniors complete a semester-long academic internship in a local business or agency. Seniors develop substantial projects that enable them to learn while working on problems of interest and concern in the community. The HTH facilities themselves have a distinctive high-tech "workplace" feel, with windowed seminar rooms, small-group learning and project areas, laboratories equipped with the latest technology, ubiquitous wireless laptop access, and common areas where artwork and prototypes are displayed. High Tech High teachers work in interdisciplinary teams to develop the program for 50-70 students per team. The schedule accommodates team teaching, common planning time, project-based learning, work-based learning, and other regular interaction with the outside world. Adapted from


School of One (blended)

School of One operates in open spaces, roughly 2000 square feet each, subdivided into stations and organized by modality (online, small group, large group, peer-to-peer, etc.). This design allows for multiple lessons to be taught at the same time in different parts of the room, freeing students to learn at their own speed and according to their preferred learning “modalities.” But this complex process is not left to chance; instead, School of One uses quick daily online assessments and a pioneering learning algorithm to generate a daily plan for each student, drawn from thousands of lessons in a variety of settings, from more than fifty providers across the modalities. These daily plans are projected on large monitors distributed around the space, showing students where to go and teachers whom to expect in which areas at all times. During class, teachers deliver instruction to groups of students who are all working on the same skill; before and after class, teachers analyze data and can adjust the daily student plans recommended by School of One’s learning algorithm. All in all, School of One’s technology streamlines numerous administrative tasks related to grading, assessments, and planning, allowing teachers to spend significantly more time preparing high-quality lessons, helping students to synthesize the material, and diagnosing individual misconceptions.


Lumiar Institute

At the Lumiar schools in Brazil, there are no lessons, fixed timetables or traditional teachers. Instead, one half of the faculty work as advisors, mentors, and coaches, monitoring the students’ progress and supporting them to select three or four projects that they would like to work on every term. The other half of the staff are ‘masters’ of a particular set of skills, such as engineering or piano playing, and work part-time to design and facilitate projects that equip students with these skills. Teachers use a ‘matrix of competencies’ to ensure that students are progressing in all key areas of development, acquiring interpersonal, social and cognitive skills. Assessment is not conducted through tests and examinations but through ongoing observation, interaction and dialogue with students, the results of which are recorded in a learning portfolio that accompanies students throughout their educational journeys. Democratic decision-making forms a vital part of Lumiar students’ education. A typical school day begins with students collectively deciding how to divide up space and resources at the school (there are no classrooms) in order to accommodate all of the projects.


Olympus Academy

Olympus Academy, located in Canarsie, Brooklyn, is a unique, personalized high school whose mission is to help students reconnect with their education. Olympus serves an over-age, under-credited student population, starting with the belief that school must meet all students’ needs, emotionally as well as educationally. The school offers internship programs, small and individualized advisory programs, and blended classroom environments that use iLearnNYC’s online learning platform to deliver personalized instruction to each student.

In Mr. R’s classroom at Olympus, students choose or are placed, based on pace and mastery, into four tables or groups. Two groups work on Regents-based content that Mr. R developed himself in iLearn’s online platform , while another works on skills (e.g. argumentative writing), and a fourth engages in small group discussion around a topic the teacher presents. Unless students are missing skills that were taught early in the school year, they can choose what days they will visit the skills group and the discussion group. With this model of blended learning, students can work at their own pace and are not hampered by the pace or skill level of their peers. Students work independently, but Mr. R is available in the room if they need additional assistance.

Online group 1

Skills group

SMART board

Online group 2

Discussion group


“Hole in the Wall”

First built by the computer scientist Prof. Sugata Mitra in a slum in Kaskaji, New Delhi, this is a rugged outdoor computer stuck into a “holein-the-wall” in a playground where it is accessible to all children. The computer has software that encourages self-led, collaborative, playbased learning. There is no “training” for the kids, and no compulsion. The educators simply set up the computer (which looks quite a lot like a cash machine) and let the kids work out how to use it.

The communal space offers a host of other advantages. Unconditional access to Learning Stations ensures that both children in-school and outof-school can use them. Another advantage is that the unstructured nature of this setting also ensures that children themselves take ownership of the Learning Station by forming self-organized groups who learn on their own. Finally, an unsupervised setting ensures that the entire process of learning is learner-centric and is driven by a child’s natural curiosity. The learning station fosters collaborative learning among groups of children. The station fits in nicely with traditional schooling and seeks to reinforce structured learning through peer discussions, increased curiosity and better retention. The Learning Stations are also used for various real life projects. These projects are designed to engage children in authentic tasks relevant to their daily lives.


Carpe Diem (blended)

Carpe Diem’s innovative online/on campus curriculum combines flexible, customizable “anytime, anyplace” learning with one-on-one instruction from highly qualified instructors. The school’s building has 300 individual cubicles and computers housed in a central learning center, which is similar in layout to a call center. Students attend class four days a week, although the days are longer (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Students attend 145 school days per year and receive a total of 1,007 hours of instruction. Typically there is little or no outside homework. Students rotate throughout the day between online activities in the learning center and face-to-face classroom instruction, where a “coach,” or teacher, re-teaches, enhances, or applies the material introduced online. Carpe Diem uses e2020 for content, which it prefers because of its multi-modal pedagogical approach; students must type, listen, watch video instruction, read text, explore links, and take short-cycle assessments. Each rotation lasts 55 minutes. Students complete the online/face-to-face cycle two to three times a day. During online instruction periods, “assistant coaches” offer direction and help. Assistant coaches are highly qualified paraprofessionals in accordance with state standards, but are not necessarily certified teachers. The school has two administrators, one serving as principal and the other as guidance counselor and office administrator. The guidance counselor helps place students in the right courses for their ability—so that students can advance at their own pace— and arranges for community internships.

Adapted from Innosight Institute


New American Academy

When you visit The New American Academy, an elementary school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, you see big open rooms with 60 students and four teachers. The students are generally in three groups in different areas working on different activities. The teachers, especially the master teacher who is floating between the groups, are on the move, hovering over one student, then the next. It is less like a factory for learning and more like a postindustrial workshop, or even an extended family compound. The teachers are not solitary. They are constantly interacting as an ensemble. Students can see them working together and learning from each other. Like the Waldorf schools, teachers move up with the same children year after year. Like Hogwarts, students are grouped into Houses. Like Phillips Exeter Academy, students are less likely to sit at individual desks than around big tables or areas for teacherled discussions. The students seem to do a lot more public speaking, with teachers working hard to get them to use full sentences and proper diction. The subjects in the early grades (the only ones that exist so far) are interdisciplinary, with a bias toward engineering: how flight, agriculture, transportation and communications systems work. The organizational structure of the school is flattened. Nearly everybody is pushed to the front lines, in the classroom, and salaries are higher (master teachers make $120,000 a year). New American Academy focuses on nurturing relationships. Since people learn from those they love, education is fundamentally about the relationship between a teacher and student. Adapted from a column, “The Relationship School,� by David Brooks, in the New York Times

Innovative School Models (national and international)  

Browse these cards for models of innovative practice.

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