Recently, Chelsea Waite of CRPE reviewed some of the most promising work emerging from the Canopy project, a nationwide effort lifting up knowledge from hundreds of organizations to build open data about schools that are innovating. Excerpts of the piece appear below:
A diverse array of communities are working to reinvent schooling in pursuit of their visions for thriving young people and families. They are challenging five key assumptions about schooling to create more equitable, joyful, and responsive learning environments that reflect community values and priorities:
First is the assumption that learning must happen inside school walls. For instance, Grand Rapids Public Museum High School in Michigan, the Science and Math Institute (SAMi) in Tacoma, Washington, and Verdi EcoSchool in Melbourne, Florida, anchor students’ learning experiences in local institutions like museums and zoos. They are the vanguards of more flexible systems that blend schools with community institutions to create rich learning opportunities.
Second is the notion that virtual learning is inherently inferior. Washtenaw Alliance for Virtual Education, for example, is a virtual program that students in Washtenaw County, Michigan, can enroll in as an alternative to their home districts. Virtual learning programs like these are valiantly challenging the short-sighted conviction that just because fully in-person learning is best for most students, it should be mandated for all students.
Third is the assumption that equity just means closing the academic achievement gap. Rooted School, for example, aims to close the wealth gap for Black students in four communities around the country. And Ke Kula ?o Samuel M. Kamakau, a laboratory public charter school in Kaneohe, Hawaii, immerses students in the Hawaiian language as part of its mission to create a culturally responsive learning environment.
Fourth is the assumption that academic learning can be separated from whole-child supports. At Ember Charter School for Mindful Education, Innovation, and Transformation, for example, educators teach mindfulness practices and use trauma-informed techniques. And Shawnee High School, in rural Oklahoma, has worked with community partners to provide telehealth services for students who lack access or would otherwise have to miss school for an appointment.
Fifth is the assumption that extracurriculars and electives are the only appropriate place for students to explore their personal interests and passions. Highline Big Picture and Gibson Ek High School, two Big Picture schools in Washington State, were important advocates for the state’s first credit waiver program, which enabled the schools to award credit for internships instead of the number of hours students spent in a class. North Edgecombe High School, in North Carolina, is building a new curriculum and schedule in which part of the school day is dedicated to interest-driven projects.