Clay Christensen talks about innovation occuring at the margin–often the choice between something and nothing. That’s certainly true in education where we’ve seen innovation start in alternative or special education.
Neil Shorthouse co-founded Communities in Schools, the most respected dropout prevention network in America. After three decades of working in and with public schools in Atlanta, Neil identified the need for an alternative setting and approach and created Performance Learning Centers. CISGA says:
PLCs are small, non-traditional high schools geared toward students who are not succeeding in the traditional school setting. They create a business-like environment and emphasize personal support and an intense academic program anchored by an online instructional system and project-based learning.
The network includes 22 Georgia sites with replication occurring in at least five other CIS states with similar models being offered by education service providers including AdvancePath and Mavericks.
Neil recruited Reginald Beaty, a PLC graduate and decorated military officer, to return and run the PLC network. Reggie is a dynamic speaker, passionate leader, and now serves as EVP and COO of CISGA. Reggie is investigating a middle school model for 8th graders not ready for high school.
When I talk about blended formats–school formats that combine online and onsite learning–people ask for examples. For more than a decade, PLCs have demonstrated the power of sustained adult relationships, personalized digital learning, and real world connections. Ten years from now, most secondary schools will be blended formats and we’ll have Neil, Reggie, and CIS to thank for the improvement.