What happens when you get education enthusiasts from across the country in one crazy, fun and innovative city? You are inspired. You are challenged. You are reinvigorated and most importantly come away from SXSWedu just a little bit smarter.

Whether it was hearing more about the changing trends on college campuses (Grant Hosford, CEO and Founder of codeSpark told us that the single most popular course at Princeton University is now an intro to Computer Science. Dan Leyzberg has redesigned an introductory, flipped model that serves over 40% female students) or learning the three most important techniques of future forecasting and how they may be the new path to building and realizing a new vision for the future of education (if you weren’t on the ground in Austin, check out Jane McGonigal’s keynote) one thing was clear, the future of education is on the minds of some serious movers and shakers and we are excited to see the innovative work of some spread to the masses.

Throughout the week, we heard more about the amazing things happening in schools all over the country. At the close of one session someone asked why can’t we move past the challenges in education and start implementing personalized learning for students now – our response was it’s already happening in ALL types of schools and classrooms around the country!

One of our favorite take-aways from this year’s #SXSWedu is a new group of elementary, middle and high schools and districts to add to our list of sites to visit. Here are a few hidden gems that #SXSWedu attendees want more people to know about. We’ve listed who gave us the hot tip below each school summary.

Science Leadership Academy – Philadelphia, PA

SLA is a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. In this project-based environment students are empowered to run their day. The school sounds like more like a coffee shop or busy company and students are actively engaged in their learning.

–Jaime Casap, Google for Education (See Tom’s trip report)

Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders – Austin, TX

This all-girls public school of choice serves grades 6 – 12 for the Austin Independent School District. Governor Richards help develop this school for students with economically disadvantaged backgrounds that provides the skills and confidence necessary to pursue college educations and careers.

–Aurora Martinez, Curriculum Associates

Rooted School – New Orleans, LA

Will soon be a network of high schools preparing students for college and entry level jobs by connecting to local industries, ultimately paving a path to financial freedom. Rooted hopes to reach underserved communities and equip students with “job skills to beat the streets”.

–Raphael Gang, 4.0 Schools

Blue Valley School District – Overland Park, KS

The district has created the Blue Valley Center for Advanced Professional Center (CAPS) in which business, education and community come together to create an innovative experience for high school students from all over the district.

–Cameron Evans, Microsoft Education

Village Leadership Academy – Chicago, IL

This independent K-8 has a clear focus on social justice and global studies that guides both teaching and learning. The school’s core values play out in a unique grassroots campaigns where every student participates in an ongoing service-learning project.

–Myles Mendoza, One Chance Illinois

Lee Virtual School – Fort Myers, FL

As a K-12 online school, students are able to enroll full-time or part-time. With the ability to teach virtually and in blended settings the school is constantly improving their methods and strengthening the education connection between the student, parent, teacher, and school in general.

–Steve Gross, Calvert Education

The Incubator School – Los Angeles, CA

Blurs the lines between school and the real world. Above and beyond most project based schools the Incubator School empowers students to solve real world problems. Students code with purpose, collaborate outside the classroom, present research at conferences, and pitch business plans to VCs. The real power of knowledge is in it’s application, and the Incubator School is helping to instill a solid entrepreneurial mindset in the context of school.

–Jon Roepke, Belkin Education

The Tiny Schools Project. While these schools aren’t open yet and are in the early stages, we’re excited about the Tiny=Huge program that 4.0 Schools launched this week. Read more in Matt Candler’s recent post What if Unbundling School Made it Better?

We’ve added these schools to our list and can’t wait to visit. What schools are we missing? Who would you add? Tweet us at @Getting_Smart or comment below!

For more on schools and districts to visit see:


Stay in-the-know with all things EdTech and innovations in learning by signing up to receive the weekly Smart Update. This post includes mentions of a Getting Smart partner. For a full list of partners, affiliate organizations and all other disclosures please see our Partner page.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Take a look at The Delta School in Wilson, Arkansas! Also, the Mandela International Magnet School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Very different places and schools but both worth a visit!

  2. My daughter goes to The Incubator School and it is indeed amazing! So fortunate to have her learning from teachers at the bleeding edge of education! Most importantly she is engaged and excited to go to class every day!

LEAVE A REPLY