By: Tom Vander Ark & Emily Liebtag

Dr. Nicole Assisi and her team are building a network of schools located in some of San Diego’s highest-need communities—neighborhoods where parents have few quality options.

“The school came into the community through grassroots leaders working to have educational options. Our neighbors demanded educational choices, and Thrive worked with a community center to make it happen,” said Assisi.

We are fortunate to have visited Thrive as they have grown over the years and were enthused from the second we entered the newest site, the K-8 located on Comstock Street in the Linda Vista neighborhood. Why? For starters, the school is co-located with the Bayside Community Center. There is a shared community room located on the first floor that regularly hosts parent meetings, informational events and is used by students during the day.

Teachers at Thrive work in pairs and use their connected classrooms to collaborate on integrated projects. Classrooms also have a conjoining space called the “Collaboratory” that is dedicated for small groups and team projects.

They use the mixed seating spaces to vary learning environments for students, more than 20% of whom are receiving additional supports and assistance (see the photo below of the sensory path created for students). Assisi is proud of their dedication to serving all students and providing even though without identified special needs flexibility and adaptations so that they feel supported throughout their learning journey at Thrive.

Thrive students receive both dedicated math and literacy instruction as well as time spend engaging in PBL. PBL helps engage students and create deeper learning. Targeted math and literacy instruction builds foundational skills. Assisi knows that either one without the other is insufficient (see more about her thoughts on this in the HQPBL Case Study).

The team at Thrive uses an online learning platform equipped with a range of tools, including Zearn, Lexia, Achieve 300 and ST Math. Educators drive teaching and learning from the data and information they glean from these tools, their individual guided groups and what they observe when students interact during the PBL block. Students are well-versed in G-Suite and regularly use Google docs to communicate and share with each other and teachers.

Along with her team and School Director, Shelli Kurth, they have shown to improve student growth on math and literacy measures by a 30 percent increase after two years and by 50% in three years. Engagement is strong and students are actively involved in their learning.

Parents, too, are encouraged to participate and be the leading voice of the school. The Family Action Network is one effort to ensure parents aren’t left to feel like an afterthought. The Thrive Family Handbook also articulates what families can guarantee their student will experience while at school and what are avenues they can advocate for, and with, their student for the learning they’d like to see. Three keywords underpin the entire handbook: Discernment. Agency. Empathy.

As Thrive grows, the entire team is cognizant of how important it is to remain key to their goal and commitment to serving students in highest need. We can’t wait to see what graduates of the network accomplish during their time at Thrive and beyond!

For more see:


This post was originally published on Tom’s EdWeek Channel.

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Tom Vander Ark
Tom Vander Ark is author of Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and Learn Capital and serves on the boards of 4.0 Schools, eduInnovation, Digital Learning Institute, Imagination Foundation and Charter Board Partners. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.
Emily Liebtag
Emily is Director of Advocacy at Getting Smart. She believes every young person deserves a world-class education and partners with educators and education-focused organizations to try and help make that a reality. Emily usually is researching and reading about project-based learning, global education, teacher preparation and place-based education. Connect with Emily at @EmilyLiebtag.

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