School visits are the best way to stretch our conception of powerful learning–to learn from the best innovations in learning around the country and around the world. This year, we’re excited to add 16 schools to our running list of Middle and High Schools Worth Visiting.

Middle and High Schools

1. STEM Partnerships. School of Innovation (@WES_Innovation), part of Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools (east of Cleveland), is a 3-8 school (growing to 3-12) in a former corporate training facility (below).

2. Scheduling. Intrinsic Schools in Chicago feature big integrated team-taught blocks in big open spaces in a cool converted lumber yard (see our feature on them).

High Schools 

3. Big Interdisciplinary Projects. Del Lago Academy in Escondido (just north of San Diego) is a public high school of about 800 students focused rich interdisciplinary projects often in the applied sciences. To assess what students were doing throughout the scientific process they created Competency X, a badging system (see a tenth-grade example, this feature, and the picture below).

4. Community Engagement. Making Community Connections (MC2) is a student-centered competency-based high school with two New Hampshire campuses (they were recently featured in a great podcast from Shift Your Paradigm)

5. 21st-Century Turnaround Program. Colleton County High School, despite a high level of poverty in Colleton County, is a turnaround school focused on project-based learning (part of the New Tech Network) and STEM. Educators are help expose students to opportunities to participate in courses that expand understanding and support them in getting into and through college. As Secretary Richard Riley said in a documentary featuring the school, “the difference in these improving rural schools is that students now know why they’re learning, what they’re learning–and why it matters in the world.” (See our feature)

6. Network for Good. DaVinci Schools is a network of six innovative Los Angeles high schools including XQ grantee RISE High, a unique school that partners with community agencies to meet the needs of homeless and foster care students. NGLC winning DaVinci high schools are charter schools authorized by the Wiseburn Unified School District, which adopted the high schools and became a unified (K-12) district. They are co-located just south of LAX (see our feature). The high schools are all good examples of personalized and project based learning.

7. Multi-Faceted Approach to Design. Design Lab High School in Newark, Delaware (@DesignLabSchool) combines design thinking, project based learning, and service learning around STEM content. They are also an XQ Grantee.

8. Large-Scale Personalization. Union High just south of Tulsa is a big school that feels personal. The leadership team is laser-focused on 100% graduation with college and career readiness. The district embraces the Community Schools concept to promotes early learning, mental and physical health, youth development, and lifelong learning. It’s a supportive environment with a great guidance center (below). Check out our feature on them.

9. Real-World Focus. Energy Institute High School (@EnergyIHS) in Houston is creating opportunities for students to engage with businesses, corporate partners and leaders in the field of energy through high-quality project-based learning (see feature and picture below).

10. Community & Place. Blyth-Templeton Academy is a place-based microschool in Washington, DC, focused on community engagement and real-world outcomes (see our feature).

11. Personalized Outcomes. Springhouse Community School help learners discover their unique gifts and become passionate problem-solvers, skilled innovators, effective collaborators, and articulate leaders (listen to this podcast).

12. Big Projects and Life Skills. Iowa Big is based in a dynamic coworking space in downtown Cedar Rapids, attracting students from across the region and connecting them with projects sponsored by local businesses, nonprofits, and government partners.

K-12 Schools

13. Blended PBL & SEL. Thrive Public Schools was launched with an NGLC-winning elementary school that combines project-based, blended and social-emotional learning. Now a sophisticated K-12 network (that functions largely as one school with multiple campuses), Thrive serves diverse students in east San Diego (learn more in our podcast and case study).

14. Integrated Coding. Village School in Houston is a great example of coding and computational thinking P-12–see our feature and Tech Blog Writer’s podcast.

15. PBL for Students Who Need It. Winton Woods City Schools, in northern Cincinnati, serves students living in poverty. With support from a state-level innovation grant, the district adopted the project-based approach from the New Tech Network (see 10 more New Tech schools with unique missions).

International Schools

16. Student-Centered Design. The American School of Paris (@asparisofficial) features design studios and projects in 1:1 classrooms that promote creativity, innovation and connected learning.The leadership team is adopting broader measures of success, supporting more student-centered learning experiences, and striving to make the campus even more inclusive (see feature and podcast).

17. Public Products. School 21 is a non-selective 4-18 school in Stratford, East London, with an impressive take on HQPBL and rigorous “public product” requirements (see our feature, which highlights their big “public presentation night”).

Cool Schools We Can’t Wait To Visit

  • DSX in Oakland looks super cool
  • Proof School, the San Francis school for kids that love math
  • Khan Lab School, a laboratory school in Mountain View, California associated with Khan Academy
  • Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy Career Technical Education program based at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta
  • The Phillip J. Patino School of Entrepreneurship in Fresno, California. (nominated by Brett Taylor)
  • We recently chatted with Robert Beatty and Michael Lauro of Atlantis Charter School (Executive Director and Associate Executive Director, respectively) in Fall River, MA, about their focus on design thinking and STEM partnerships. They just opened an impressive new campus funded largely by businesses in the community.
  • NEXT High School features an Impact Based Learning model (nominated by Chris Beyerle).
  • Vancouver School of Arts & Academics in Vancouver, Washington is a 6-12 school opened in 1996 with a focus on the arts: visual, performing, literary, musical, moving image and recording. VSAA teachers are practicing artists who can advise on the creative process. While creative work is at the center of the interdisciplinary curriculum, all students also study science, math, social studies, English and a  student-centered, project-based experience called Core (nominated by Tom Hagley)

International Schools We’d Like to Visit

The American School of Bombay is a leader in bringing innovation, technology and a forward-thinking pedagogy to international school students in Mumbai. Nominator Matthew Ruffle said,

“With our remarkable educators, intentional internationalism and unique learning spaces, we treat each student as an individual and empower our students to pursue their dreams both on our campus and beyond the classroom.”

International Community School of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, is led by Dr. Timothy Stuart, a leader on professional learning communities. Inquiry, research, problem solving and an updated learner profile are embedded into instruction at all levels of the school.

Coming Soon

New Harmony High (@NewHarmonyHigh) in Venice, Louisiana is a school on a barge that will allow students to research, learn, and seek solutions in the Mississippi River Delta. The school will connect students to “place” in a way that is flexible and dynamic. Principal Bobbie Hill proclaims, “We will make it real for kids as they do the work of the future in coastal restoration. We want the passion to happen in the real world in real-time.”

Powderhouse Studios in Somerville, Massachusetts will emphasize exploration, research, and design, featuring student-led projects. The school is committed to “finding out what students are interested in and what they’re priorities are and build a program about them.”

For more, see:


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