It is pretty easy to run a secondary school using open math content. There is Khan Academy, CK12, NROC, and more. But it seems to be harder to find open education resources (OER) in English language arts.


Startups get all the love on the blogs. With the slow demise of print, the big guys are negotiating the long uneven edu-version of the Innovator's Dilemma by cannibalizing existing revenue streams with converted or acquired digital product lines. In between, a handful of midsize companies are innovating and delivering value at scale.


The innovative Bay Area school network is a pioneer in blended and competency based learning. CEO Diane Tavenner launched Summit Prep, the organization's flagship school, a decade ago. With each new school, Diane and her talented team continue to innovate on the secondary school model. Here's the ingredients of the current blend:


"The company that has transformation opportunity," said Peter Cohen of McGraw-Hill Education (@MHEducation). Cohen joined McGraw in March as President of K-12 School Education. "It was a chance to work in a nimble organization with great digital products," said Cohen.


Blended learning isn't just handing kids a laptop, it's new school models that incorporate differentiated and distributed staffing strategies--educators of different levels and in different locations--to boost learning productivity


Local philanthropic partnerships can leverage resources to attack big problems but they are challenging to create. Between us, we've created hundreds of local and initiative-based funding alliances, so we've seen our share of good and bad marriages.


Over the summer we interviewed two dozen school and network leaders producing strong academic results and developing powerful young people. Considering their leadership stories, we found ten things in common:


Having read a few thousand grant applications I can tell you that most suck. John Bailey, a former grant maker and current policy advocate, said something similar noting that most policy proposals were also weak and wandering. In contrast, he noted, the venture pitches at accelerators like Y Combinator and ImagineK12 are uniformly good--and often great.


Stories of innovative classrooms and schools may be dismissed as irrelevant or unscalable because they are powered by superstar teachers. But districts and networks are making it increasingly possible for all of their teachers to achieve great results with common frameworks, big goals and good plans, strong development systems for adult learners, and learning platforms


Eva Moskowitz opened Harlem Success Academy opened in 2006. With nine new schools opening in the next few weeks, Success Academy Charter Schools will have 22 New York City locations and will serve 7,000 students. It is clearly one of the three best K-8 school networks in the country and with plans to open 6 new elementaries, 3 new middle schools and their first high school in 2014.


The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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