Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I saw the future and it works

by Olga LaPlante

I am borrowing this headline from Larry Cuban, who borrowed it from Lincoln Steffens.

Larry writes about his visit to a hybrid (charter) school in LA. His observations are curious, and honestly, do not describe a school I would like to send my child to if I had a choice. (My son attends a regular public school).

I suggest you read all three parts of the experience, and get to the bottom of the concept. Does it really work?

Part 2
Part 3

1 comment:

  1. Olga, I have the pleasure of working with an adult ed program that has a model very similar to the Rocketship Schools. There are no "classes", just learning labs. In the labs, each student is given a custom designed experience based on many intake and needs assessment tools (over 12 currently used). The labs house approximately 20 students (sometimes as high as 25 or as low as 10). There is one teacher in the lab and lab periods run for 3 hours with a 15 minute break. There is a morning lab, afternoon lab and evening lab Monday through Thursday (Friday's just have a morning lab). A student's custom built curriculum is often a composite of standards based curriculum that were designed by the adult ed staff. If a student is in the lab for English 1 skills for example, the English 1 curriculum guide lists the study and products expected in chunks. Each chunk equates to approximately 5 weeks (3 hours a week) and has explicit recommendations of what activities need to be done and what learning is to be demonstrated as well as different methods available to demonstrate. Teachers work with each student and use the extensive intake information to customize the curriculum guide into activities that are appropriate to the individual. Learners do not always work in isolation, it depends on the current goals, social dynamics in the class, and student's preferences.

    This system has a 90% success rate average over the last 4 years. Success is measured by students meeting their stated goals on intake and at quarterly review sessions. For some this may be getting a diploma or GED. For others it may be learning job skills or getting certified. The feedback from learners and the data collected by the program indicate that this learning lab system works. Factor in that many of the typical adult ed students struggle with public school, I suggest that the 90% success rate would translate well if this model were applied to the public school in the district.

    This series of learning labs has only been possible with the strong leadership of it's director. He has worked extensively with his staff to develop this concept, train everyone, and set up the materials needed for almost a decade to get it to where it is at now. Even now, the goals and aspirations of the program indicate we are maybe half way to where we want to be. Every month the staff meetings are used to help bring the entire program that next step. By the end of every year, the gains are noticeable in staff attitudes, test data, retention data, learner feedback and most of all in the percentage of learners that are getting their goals met.