HQPBL Case Study: ACE Leadership High School

Download the ACE case study

Northwest of downtown Albuquerque, there is a high school of about 400 students, ranging in ages from 14-20, in the day program that is proving project-based learning really is for all students. ACE Leadership High School primarily serves students who have already or seemingly were on their way to, dropping out of high school. On average, students at ACE have been enrolled in three or more high schools and frequently claim that school wasn’t working for them. Many hold jobs, sometimes even two, and typically come from low socio-economic backgrounds.

The founders of ACE knew that high quality PBL was an antithesis to the type of learning experiences these students were used to receiving; instead of trying the same methods with already disengaged and frustrated youth, high quality Project Based Learning would provide them with intellectual challenge, collaboration, management skills, public presentation skills, tactile feedback and reflection. Perhaps most important to founders of ACE, the approach would provide authentic and meaningful learning experiences.

While many aspects of the PBL at ACE are significant, the authenticity and the engagement of students are most notable. Students care about projects they work on at ACE and know that they aren’t just getting feedback from teachers but from real clients and industry partners. Although addressing each of the learning goals and academic objectives each student needs is a challenge, the team at ACE is committed to providing students a rigorous and authentic PBL experience.

Visit hqpbl.org for the full case study and more about the HQPBL campaign.

Download the Case Study

This blog is a part of the HQPBL Campaign supported by the Buck Institute for Education and sponsored by Project Management Institute Educational Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. For more, visit hqpbl.org and follow @hqpbl #hqpbl on Twitter and Instagram.

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Emily Liebtag

Emily Liebtag, Ed.D., is Education Reimagined's Senior Partner for Systems Transformation. Formerly, Emily served as the Vice President of Advocacy at Getting Smart.

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1 Comment

Marie Bjerede

I love this quote (below) from the case study. What if we all pursued the driving question, "How can we create a school environment in which a student cannot fail?"

"At ACE, students literally cannot fail since their grading is based on students mastering skills and identified desired learning outcomes. “Students come to ACE and ask how they can just get a C, and we tell them it isn’t possible,” said teacher Bridget Elliott. “They continually have to iterate on their designs and products until they meet their own standards, our requirements and the industry partners desired product or outcome. This all requires strong cycles of feedback, collaboration and project management.”


Erik Day

Thanks Marie!

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