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Innovative High Schools to Open Their Doors in 2018

Education Re-imagination

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In our rapidly changing world, today's students face developing technologies, new job markets, and evolving social and environmental issues. Yet, even though there are new elective subjects and ways to earn advanced credit, the basic structure of high school has remained the same since our parents and even our grandparents were students. With their feet planted firmly in the 21st century, many educators believe it is time to create different educational models that will better prepare students to face the challenges of their times.

Next fall, the Bend-LaPine school district will open two new small public high schools. Each school will begin with a maximum enrollment of 200 students for the first year, adding students in subsequent years to reach a goal of 400-500 students per school (in contrast to Mountain View, Summit and Bend High Schools, which have enrollments between 1,450 and 1,745 per school).

What the two schools have in common is their goal of challenging students to play a more active role in their classrooms and communities. Both will offer alternative models of what a traditional classroom looks like as well as how student work is evaluated – although students from both schools will end up with a traditionally graded transcript for college admissions.

Because many of the nuts and bolts of how the schools will operate are still being developed, there are no official locations or names announced just yet. For this article we'll use their working names, "EL High School" and "The Academy."

EL Learning

Bend's EL High School will join a national network of over 150 EL schools (formerly known as Expeditionary Learning) that includes REALMS (Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School), a middle school option for Bend-LaPine students since 2001. EL learning is centered around a philosophy that combines academic challenge, teamwork, service, and active inquiry-based learning. REALMS Principal, Roger White, who will lead the new high school, explained that the school will connect traditional academic subjects with real-world issues concerning the environment and social justice, what he calls "curriculum with a purpose." Teachers will approach core subjects (required for all Oregon high school students to graduate) through an integrated curriculum that includes purposeful fieldwork (think large and small group community service projects). The goal is to engage students and help them understand how mastering these subjects has relevance to their lives.

EL learning also expands the definition of student achievement. In addition to mastering the knowledge and skills needed for academic success in school, the goal is to help students develop character and to graduate from high school prepared to be "leaders of change." Students are expected to present their work to the school and greater community, as well as take part in a unique program called Crew. Crew allows time for students to build relationships with a smaller group of peers, as well as their Crew staff leader. This ensures that each student connects with at least one adult within the school, who facilitates academic progress monitoring, team building, and a positive school culture.

The EL school will open its doors next fall for students in grades 9 – 10, adding one grade level per year to be fully enrolled by Fall of 2020 with approximately 400-500 students.

The Academy

In 2015, a group of educators from Summit High School in Bend entered a national competition called XQ Superschool, aimed at re-imagining high school. While their project did not win a grant, the school district found the ideas generated by these discussions exciting enough to package into a new high school option in Bend. What are today's learning tools? What skills are needed for success in the 21st century? The Academy aims to have students address these questions by allowing more personalization, collaboration, and flexibility to the high school experience.

The Academy will help students devise a high school program based on their interests. Students will still gain breadth in their education (meeting state requirements in core-subjects), but will have greater flexibility to blend classroom, online, and community options with smaller group discussions, internships, and mentorship opportunities. Encouraged to be curious and to find and follow their passions, students will be advised on how to use resources from the community and beyond to instruct them. For example, if a student has a passion for computer game coding, they would be able to design a program that allows them to pursue that particular interest.

Would it help to find an internship, take a COCC class, or participate in pre-professional programs already in place for Bend-LaPine students? Those options are available too. The goal is to get kids out of a static classroom environment and help them develop the problem solving creative thinking, and communication skills necessary to excel in college and in the workforce.

The Academy will open next fall for grades 9 – 12.

Both of these high school programs are still under development, so visit the Bend-LaPine School District website (bend.k12.or.us ) for more information. That's also where you can learn the dates for upcoming public information sessions, and how to enroll students in the schools.You can learn more about EL learning at eleducation.org, and more about the XQ competition at xqsuperschool.org.


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