10 Promising Models & What it Means for Leaders

I’m spending a couple days with the most thoughtful folks in leadership development. We’ll spend part of the time looking at new school models and asking what it means for preparing the next generation of school leaders. Following are 10 school models we’ll be discussing:

1. The Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is Michigan’s school improvement district (like the LA RSD and TN ASD). It operates 12 schools in Detroit that share a student-centered competency-based school model and platform, Buzz. For more see:

2. Cornerstone Charter Academy, Detroit: 3 blends under one roof with a strong character development program. For more see:

3. Summit Public Schools: innovative blend, co-developed platform, sophisticated talent development. For more see:

4. Houston Apollo 20: best practices of top networks infused with blended strategies. For more see:

5. Rocketship Education: top performing elementary network combines engaging and adaptive components with great teaching. For more see:

6. Bracken STEAM, Las Vegas: dynamic component blend (i.e., lots of apps on Edmodo) leveraging grade span teacher leadership. For more see:

7. DSST Public Schools: best high poverty STEM featuring big question, deeper learning, and strong character development. For more see:

8. Flex networks including NexusAdvancePath, & iPrep: combining online curriculum with onsite support and application. For more see:

9. Career Path High School at Davis Applied Technology Center: Early college flex plus model featuring job training. For more see: Career Path High: Career & College Ready Flex.
10. Reynoldsburg High School, eSTEM Academy: innovative big blogs combine team projects and individual supports. For more see:

A deep dive into these new school models suggests 10 element–most common to all of the models:

  • Student-centered environments
  • Personalized learning
  • Competency-based progressions
  • Adaptive & engaging components
  • Deeper learning & character development
  • Rapid & flexible deployments
  • Dynamic models evolving with new tools
  • Platform-centric scaling
  • Leveraging teacher Leadership
  • Best Practices & Innovation

Last week, I explored the Leadership Implications of the Brave New Blended World and suggested that, in addition to personal effectiveness, school leaders need to be strong process managers (e.g., Doug Lemov) and design thinkers and disruptors (e.g., Clay Christensen). That’s a tall order so I made five suggestions that may make the job more doable:

  • State policies that allow reciprocal performance-based certification;
  • Preparation partnerships that aggregate demand and insist on focused and applied learning opportunities;
  • Specialization that recognize that some folks are better instructional leaders while others are great in design and startup mode; some folks appreciate the structure of KIPP while others thrive on the flexibility of Big Picture;
  • Rich and ongoing on-the-job learning opportunities, field trips and broadening experiences; and
  • Distributed and coordinated R&D that shares the load across a district or network and phases it over time.

The shift to digital holds great promise for students and teachers but it will be challenging and confusing for leaders. As the toolset improves, it will become somewhat easier to create high performing platform-centric districts and networks. In the meantime, EdLeaders have a lot of conversations to lead.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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