Notes from the Road: California 2016, Part II

We can’t believe it’s over! Our week in California with the Education Innovation Fellowship was filled with surprises, insights, and amazing experiences. Over the course of the trip, we visited eight school across San Francisco and Los Angeles and were blown away by the many different ways school leaders and teachers are re-thinking school design.

Our first few days in California are detailed in last week’s post. Here’s how the second half of our trip went: 

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 24

Summit Prep Redwood City High School 
This high school was a real treat for us to visit. Summit Prep is where Summit Basecamp—an online tool that helps teachers and schools design personalized learning plans—originated and was first implemented. The demonstration of Summit Basecamp we received at the Facebook offices set expectations very high, but the school was able to deliver on its promise of a truly innovative way of teaching students. We were able to see how Summit allows students and teachers to seamlessly view and track student progress over their entire academic career; students set goals and receive personalized coaching and instruction to meet those goals. 

Khan Lab School
You may be familiar with Sal Khan’s online learning platform, Khan Academy, and Sal Khan recently started his own school based on an idea he calls the “one world schoolhouse.” Khan Lab School is a beautiful, open, one-room, multi-age school where students are placed into “independence levels” rather than grade levels. We saw students tinkering away on projects, working independently on assignments, and challenging each other with interesting questions. 

Rocketship Spark Academy

We were also able to visit a Rocketship School in San Jose. Rocketship has really pioneered the blended learning model and has seen tremendous growth in student performance. Preston Smith, the CEO and co-founder of Rocketship, gave an inspiring talk to the fellows after our tour!

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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25

Incubator School
Incubator School has developed a model that positions students as the “CEO” of their individual learning experiences. Students embark on large entrepreneurial projects that serve as the core of their educational experience. We saw students designing and printing 3D objects to solve problems, teams of students working on animation projects, and students designing flight paths for mini-drones. Sujata Bhaat, the founder of Incubator School, envisions a future where her students will leave high school ready to start their own businesses or explore a diverse array of post-secondary educational opportunities. 

Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts
At Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, students learn through an innovative arts-integrated curriculum that utilizes art as a vehicle to teach all subject areas. The school’s architecture is awe-inspiring, and the interior is full of hanging sculptures, paintings, and large, brightly colored shipping containers that act as rooms. Another interesting tidbit: the school has virtually no walls or closed off rooms, so there is an open, free feeling about the entire space. 


Homeboy Industries
Although Homeboy Industries is not a school, it serves as a powerful example of the impact a community-based organization can have. Homeboy serves people formerly involved in gangs and who have been through the criminal justice system. We started our visit to Homeboy in Homegirl Cafe, a excellent cafe-style restaurant run mostly by women in the program. We were given an tour by a young man whose life story moved us all: After being shot in the head, he lost control of his ability to speak, but he found refuge at Homeboy. He then became a tour guide, where he was able to rehabilitate his speech.  

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26 

Da Vinci Innovation Academy
Our reaction to Da Vinci Innovation Academy was universal: What a cool school! Da Vinci blends homeschooling and onsite learning: Students attend school two days a week and are homeschooled for five days. What we loved about Da Vinci was how each child was valued and affirmed in a very profound way.

Saint Anne School
Our final school tour was also one of the most motivating. Michael Browning, the principal of Saint Anne School, is a fierce and passionate advocate of the blended learning model. The fellows were so inspired by Michael’s vision for blended learning and the impact it has had on the culture and achievement of the school. 

***

In addition to school visits, our week in California was full of powerful conversations about race and equity, educational practice, and school design. It was inspiring for us, the CityBridge staff, to see how eager our fellows are to come back and bring the many new ideas and experiences they have had back to their classrooms. The week was full of laughter, tears, and growing friendships—all of the things that make us a family, not just a fellowship. It has been a privilege to witness this family of educators become even more committed to transforming their communities and their schools.

 

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