Tag Archives: XQ SuperSchools

XQ Prize-Winning School Will Provide Educational Continuity for Disconnected Youth

RISE High, which just won $10 million in the XQ high school redesign competition, was created to address the unique needs of students facing disruptive life circumstances.

School instability is one of the biggest educational issues facing youth who experience crises like homelessness, foster care placement, or incarceration. These youth often miss school frequently and switch schools repeatedly, and, subsequently, they face diminished long-term academic outcomes.

Screen Shot 2016-09-16 at 4.49.34 PMThere are a number of things that schools and districts can do to facilitate attendance and consistency for students whose educations are severely disrupted — things like rerouting school buses, sharing data across agencies, implementing wraparound services, and utilizing competency-based education — but few truly solve the physical challenge of getting students to and from school every day.

Until now. RISE High will have several physical sites, an online learning system, and a mobile resource center. Students will have the option to attend any one of the school’s physical or virtual sites, helping ensure students can access the day’s lessons and/or tutoring regardless of where they may be. The physical sites will be co-located with service providers, and the mobile unit will be equipped with hygiene products, cell phone chargers, and Internet access to solve some of the basic — and often overlooked — challenges these students face.

But RISE High will do more for these students than just meet them where they are physically. Because it is one school, it eliminates many of the common barriers that highly transient students face. Students will be able to maintain consistent enrollment in a single school but attend multiple sites—rather than un-enroll and re-enroll in a new school with each move. Students will not risk losing credits due to course incompatibility between schools or districts. Instead, RISE High will provide each student with a personalized learning plan and allow them to earn credit upon mastery of a unit. This type of competency-based learning can be powerful for students whose life circumstances make it challenging to regularly attend a traditional school with seat-time requirements. And students will have a single record of their coursework rather than a complicated file cobbled together by many schools over time, which can help facilitate high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment.

RISE High has incredible potential to increase the continuity and consistency of the school experiences of youth whose educations have been severely disrupted. With greater consistency comes greater educational success, and, ultimately, more promising life outcomes.

Why Quality Charter Authorizing Matters

Yesterday the XQ SuperSchools challenge — an initiative funded by Laurene Powell Jobs to catalyze the creation and growth of innovative, radically better high school models— announced awards of $100 million to 10 “super schools” across the country, including Washington, D.C.’s Washington Leadership Academy.

As a member of the D.C. Public Charter School Board (DCPCSB), the body that authorizes charter schools in D.C., I’m always excited when one of our schools gains national recognition for the incredible work that so many of them are doing. But I’m particularly proud of Washington Leadership Academy’s award because of the path the school took to get here.

The first time that Washington Leadership Academy applied for a charter, DCPCSB rejected the application. The plan wasn’t thought through enough, and we had a lot of questions about who the school would actually serve and how its model would work. So we gave them feedback and encouraged them to come back the following year. And they did. With a much better plan. Which is what enabled them to win this prize.

This is a great story about how amazing the people leading Washington Leadership Academy are. Their grit, persistence, and willingness to change in response to feedback are a big part of what enabled them to win this award. But it’s also, in a small way, a good illustration of why quality charter authorizing makes a difference. Authorizers are not the glamorous people in education. And that’s as it should be. But at our best, we’re like your middle school English teacher who pushed you to do better because she knew you could and covered your paper with red ink until you learned grammar. In the end, she made a difference. Good authorizing has played a crucial role locally in improving charter quality and growing the supply of quality charter seats in Washington, D.C. And it has been crucial nationally to improving quality and student outcomes across the charter sector as a whole.