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School Adopts Expeditionary Learning in Turnaround Effort

One rural Colorado school is trying to turnaround its performance and prevent state takeover by becoming an Expeditionary Learning school.

Expeditionary Learning is a nonprofit that was established in 1992 and has expanded to more than 160 schools serving 53,000 students in 33 states. The group grew out of a collaboration among organizations looking to create a comprehensive "break the mold" school reform to improve achievement in the country's lowest performing schools.

"Students at expeditionary learning schools spend six months to a year completing a comprehensive unit on a single subject, known as an 'expedition,' that crosses academic fields and culminates in a trip to a relevant location or in a visit by experts to the classroom," according to a story about Lake County School District on Chalkbeat Colorado.

Expeditionary Learning schools also receive a "comprehensive suite of professional development, coaching, and online tools to improve curriculum design, instruction, school culture, leadership, and assessment practices," according to the organization that works with new and existing rural, urban and suburban schools.

The Chalkbeat Colorado story describes how the model is working to encourage high-level thinking and real-world ties at Lake County's elementary and middle schools, which have struggled with poor performance. Some of their efforts sound similar to place-based education, which is when teachers use students' surroundings as a vehicle for instruction with the hope of increasing students' participation.

State officials say the district is the first in the state to take a "comprehensive, proactive approach to turnaround," according to the Chalkbeat story.

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