School visits are a great way to learn and key to developing an innovation mindset. Based on a couple thousand school visits and with help from colleagues and readers, we’ve compiled a list of 100 schools worth visits. Far from exhaustive, our list includes schools that achieve extraordinary results, create powerful learning experiences, and/or have created innovative technology blends.
1. Rocketship Education (profiled here) has 9 Bay Area high-poverty high-performing blended elementary schools–take your pick. If you have to pick one, try Rocketship Spark Academy in San Jose, a beautiful new building opened in 2013 and authorized by Franklin-McKinley School District. This year Rocketship opened schools in Milwaukee and Nashville. Rocketship uses a lab rotation model to extend the day and the reach of great teachers. Content includes DreamBox, ST Math, i-Ready, and Rosetta Stone (See Rocketship’s Preston Smith on Investing in the Art of Teaching).
2. KIPP Empower in LA (profiled here) was the first blended school in the KIPP network. The station rotation model runs on a Education Elements and Agilix platform and features DreamBox, iStation and Compass Learning. All 5 elementary schools in this region have implemented similar models with success. For example, KIPP Comienza Community Prep scored an API of 978, making it the third highest performing school in LAUSD and was also the #1 performing school serving at/above 60% ELL in the California.
3. KIPP Ascend Primary, Chicago, has station rotation model during math and literacy blocks. They use Lexia Core5, Reading Assistant, ST Math, Think Through Math and Khan Academy. KIPP Austin Obras features dual language school that uses station rotation model in both Spanish and English (ST Math and Istation). (See Hechinger feature.)
4. Ingenuity Prep, in Washington, D.C, is a NGLC winner that will serve K-1 students next year. They plan to grow into a K-12 school in DC with a four-tiered staffing approach (from resident to master teacher) and small-group blended learning instruction.
6. Success Academy is redefining success in public education with 28 elementary, 3 middle, and one high schools in NYC. Visit to learn about sophisticated teacher development, inspiring science instruction, and a powerful culture. CEO Eva Moskowitz explains, “We have a culture of daily mastery–we believe children should intellectually struggle with challenging content and the teachers should insist on mastery.”
7. Achievement First operates 29 schools in Brooklyn, Providence, and Connecticut. The flagship Amistad Academy, “Opened in New Haven in 1999 to prove that urban students can achieve at the same high levels as their affluent suburban counterparts.” A new K-2 school (growing to K-4), AF Providence Mayoral Academy, is worth a visit to see “joyful, student-centered, rigorous instruction.”
9. Gilroy Prep is the highest performing new elementary school (it will be K-8 in 2018) in California and the anchor of Navigator Schools. The ST Math program is discussed here and the lab rotation model is profiled here.
10. Cleveland Elementary School (featured here) was the lowest performing elementary school in Santa Barbara district until they launched a blended math program powered by DreamBox Learning. The adaptive math program is used in a station rotation model.
11. Cornerstone Madison-Carver Academy is a k-6 school in Detroit (featured here). Cornerstone features a lab rotation in primary grades and a class rotation in intermediate grades–and a strong culture and well developed character development program K-12.
12. All students at Wade King Elementary School, Bellingham Washington, are learning Chinese. Students are able to work at their own pace, and benefit from individualized instruction, access from home, and coaching from a native speaker. King Elementary was featured in recent paper, The Next Generation of World Language Learning.
13. Colvin Run Elementary School, Fairfax County Virginia (also featured in the world language paper) expanded their existing Spanish curriculum in blended classrooms. After 13 weeks, 90% for the students improved oral proficiency by at least one level. They also used Rosetta Stone to create an independent study program for languages like Chinese.
14. KM Explore is one of three very interesting district sponsored charter schools west of Milwaukee. The open plan multiage blend features high engagement projects. They also figured out what to do with those old textbooks.
15. Hartland School of Community Learning (profiled here), also west of Milwaukee, is a grade 3-5 multiage charter school use trimester targets to set weekly and monthly academic goals for themselves to guide their learning. Each day students stop, drop, reflect for the last 40 minutes of the day.
16. St. Louis Language Immersion Schools (@SLLIS) include a French, Spanish and Chinese immersion elementary schools, and plan to open an IB secondary school next year. We agree: every student should be globally competent, world language fluent.
17. Visitors to Aspire Titan Academy in LA saw 100% student engagement during a recent tour. Hanley is one of 2 schools opened two schools in Memphis this year by Aspire Public Schools (profiled here and here). Their proven “College for Certain model” offer a “rich STEM-focused education, individualized technology rich learning opportunities, and explicit instruction in computer coding skills.” The rotation model features i-Ready and DreamBox Learning. For the full story read Liz Arney’s new book, Go Blended.
18. Cornerstone Academy Preparatory School, San Jose, was a traditional high performing elementary school founded in the Building Excellent Schools network that was recently transformed to blended learning and is getting exceptional results with a low income, ELL population.
19. Quitman Elementary School in Newark is making good strides in a tough place. Blended partners include Education Elements, Core Knowledge and Expeditionary Learning (love that), GoMath, FastMath , Reading Eggs, Study Island and BrainPOP.
20. Randle Highlands in Washington DC recently hosted a visit from the League of Innovative Schools visited recently and they were impressed. In 2013-14 the school worked with Education Elements to to deploy eight computers. ST Math, Lexia, MyON, and i-Ready. Each school day has 90 minutes of blended math instruction and 120 minutes of blended ELA instruction. (See an AEI paper that details blended learning in DC and also features Kramer Middle School, and Ketcham Elementary School.)
21. Uinta County School District in Evanston, Wyoming has four elementary schools that used rotation and flexible learning models to empower their K-5 students to own their learning. They use a variety of software tools including Google Apps, NewsELA and NoRedInk.
22. Lake Forest Elementary School, Fulton County (Atlanta) is a high poverty, high mobility, high ELL school. It’s a great example of blended learning, student access, student centered instruction, personalized professional development, and a great school culture.
23. Michigan’s Education Achievement Authority (EAA) operates 6 formerly low performing Detroit K-8 schools, including Nolan K-8 (pictured), that share an innovative platform and school model. See Building Buzz in Detroit and a feature on Flexible Blended Learning Spaces.
24. Burns Elementary/Middle School, also part of the EAA (and formerly the lowest performing school in Michigan), is operated by Matchbook Learning (profiled here and featured here) also using the Buzz platform with Compass Learning, ST Math, and ALEKS.
25. Arthur Ashe Charter School in New Orleans (profiled here), is operated by FirstLine Schools. The lab rotation model incorporates Achieve 3000, Accelerated Reader, i-Ready, Think Through Math and ST Math.
26. Aspire ERES Academy in Oakland (profiled here) uses ST Math, i-Ready, Achieve 3000, Accelerated Reader, Think Through Math in a station rotation model. With 36 California schools, Aspire is one of the nation’s highest performing low-income school systems. Watch this video.
27. Avenues: The World School is the NYC anchor to Chris Whittle’s international network. Teachers at the elite private school use a combination of flipped classroom and station rotation strategies. They make extensive use of open content. eduClipper is crafting a next-generation platform for qualitative social assessments.
28. Da Vinci Innovation Academy is a project-based NGLC winning school in Hawthorne, California (profiled here). Students usually spend two days per week on campus and have another optional day on campus for electives.
30. Burley School is a Chicago literature, writing and technology magnet school. Visitors see students discussing, reading, thinking, exploring, questioning, experimenting, creating, and collaborating. Students have access to iPads and laptops and a full art and music program.
31. Acton Academy is a small student-centered private school in Austin. It is so impact-oriented it claims, “Each person who enters our doors will find a calling that will change the world.” (See feature.)
32. Caliber Beta is a new school in Richmond California with a personalized learning plans, a flexible rotation model for math and English, and project-based learning for science and social studies. Students participate in computer programming, engineering, and robotics classes.
33. National Teachers Academy in Chicago, managed by AUSL, is a high poverty school that serves as a training academy. (See EdWeek feature on the first chromebook classroom in Chicago Public Schools.)
34. Washington K-8 school in Lindsay Unified (outside of Fresno) is doing great things with blending and competency. They use multiple resources to assist students in pursuing personal learning plans and students transition as they demonstrate competency at the course level–a great example of developing and engaging student agency and social emotional learning. (Watch district video.)
35. Magnolia Montessori for All: Magnolia Montessori is a champion of both blended learning and the potential of a school dedicated to true college and career readiness for all its students. The school opened its doors as a public charter in the fall of 2014 with grades pre-K through 3. It will reach full capacity in 2019 with students through grade 8. It is a unique blend of Montessori practice and the high expectations of the no excuses charter model.
36. Environmental Charter School in Pittsburgh uses their theme to to building systems thinkers, explore complexity, and develop problem solving skills.
37. Bella Romera Academy is a K-8 school on two campuses in Greeley Colorado. The 6th-8th grade classrooms launched a personalized learning model in their across all subject areas with support from their platform partner Education Elements. The instructional model looks different in each grade level as the teachers gradually release more responsibility to students each year.
38. The Environmental Charter School at Frick Park in Pittsburgh develops students into critical thinkers, thoughtful innovators, and well rounded scholars (more after my visit next week.)
39. KIPP Ascend Charter School and KIPP Create College Prep worked with Anirban Bhattacharyya (now at the KIPP Foundation) to led the develop large and flexible lab rotations instead of traditional lab rotations or station rotations giving teachers the flexibility of either being in the lab, working with small groups in their classrooms, or something else entirely. KIPP Washington Heights Middle School is also worth a visit. In addition to ST Math and Khan Academy, they use Newsela and Read180/System44 in a combination of lab rotation and station rotation models at different points in the day. (See lessons from KIPP Math Blends.)
40. Bate Middle School, Danville Kentucky, (profiled here) is a turnaround story. The staff developed innovation plan focused on challenge-based learning, performance-based assessments and positive habits of mind. Check out this great trip report from former superintendent Carmen Coleman.
41. Incubator School is a NGLC winning LAUSD flex middle school (profiled here) using Think Through Math, Mangahigh, TenMarks, Newsela, NoRedInk, StudySync, and Read180. The day includes roughly a third online, a third in projects, and a third in advisory.
42. Messalonskee Middle School in Maine, students have Learning Goal Time (LGT) every day, with a full two hours once a week to work on assignments and get the extra help they need. Chris Sturgis has featured the school on CompetencyWorks and in this brief.
43. Blanca Alvarado Middle School, Alpha Public Schools, (profiled here) opened last year in San Jose. Alpha uses Compass Learning, Achieve 3000, and ST Math content on the Education Elements platform with MAPS and MasteryConnect assessments. Students spend about 50% of their time in the station rotation model online.
44. James Madison Middle School in Oakland (profiled here) is one of the blended learning pilot projects supported by the Rogers Family Foundation and Education Elements. Madison teachers use a two-group in-class rotation model. Math content includes DreamBox, Mangahigh, and Khan Academy.
46. Ranson IB middle school (@RansonIBMS) is part of Charlotte Mecklenburg‘s Project LIFT to create an Opportunity Culture and extend the reach of the best teachers. A great blog from Romain Bertrand (@htdcompletely) outlines 5 lessons from their efforts to personalize math instruction and notes that “Compass Learning Odyssey or Dreambox Learning help you better know what each of your students really need.”
48. Spurgeon Intermediate School in Santa Ana integrates project-based learning with lab rotation in a newly rebuilt flexible learning space (see pictures and video on Facebook). They use ST Math, Read 180, and other resources. Gooru holds all of their Common Core units of study.
49. Whittemore Park Middle School was designated in need for improvement and launched a turnaround process in 2013. Working with Education Elements, Whittemore won an NGLC grant. The Horry County School (near Mrytle Beach) is a great example of community collaboration and district led digital conversion. (Check out their Personalized Digital Learning Initiative, a feature on the district’s Whole Village strategy, and a recap of blended learning decisions.)
50. Achievement First Bushwick Middle School in Brooklyn is blending 90 minutes of math instruction and more than two hours of reading instruction every day. The talented principal is a former math teacher, has an MBA and was an BCG education consultant.
51. Piedmont Middle School, a rural school between Atlanta and Birmingham, an NGLC and Verizon Innovative School winner that has completely restructured their day. The model has three main goals: advanced mastery, relevance, and student ownership (read the NGLC profile).
52. Camp Creek Middle School, Fulton County (Atlanta) is a high poverty, high mobility school Implemented the NewClassrooms Teach-to-One Math model this year for a group of almost 800 middle school students. Math has become personalized and students progress at their own pace while engaging in various instructional modalities.
53. The K-12 schools on main campus of High Tech High are all great project-based STEM-focused schools but don’t miss HTH middle schools in North San Diego County and Chula Vista (featured here and in Deeper Learning for Every Student Every Day).
Elementary + Middle Pairs
54. The 130 school New Tech Network (NTN) includes a growing number of project-based STEM-focused middle and elementary schools. The Evergreen School District in San Jose, California is home to Bulldog Tech, a NTN demonstration site, and Katherine Smith Elementary.
55. Humes Preparatory Academy-Elementary & MIddle Schools in Memphis are operated by Gestalt Community Schools (profiled here). Students spend 7.5 hours of their 9 hour day in a blended rotation environment using Mac laptops and ST Math, Achieve 3000, Compass Learning, Wowzers, and Study Island.
56. Summit Denali, north of San Jose, is middle school that will grow into a 6-12 model. There are 12 components of this celebrated NGLC winning school model and platform. Summit Public Schools is the best example of a network iterating on a secondary school model and platform. The open Activate Instruction platform dishes individualized skill building playlists to prepare students to standards-aligned project-based work (We’re looking forward to 2 Summit high schools in Washington in 2015).
57. Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School – LAB opened their doors in the heart of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle this fall to 132 6th graders and will continue to grow at a grade per year until they reach full capacity with 6th – 12th grade. The LAB model personalizes learning with technology and tutors. It requires a staffing structure that allows small group instruction—no more than three students at a time. The LAB team includes six lead teachers and 24 Lab Tutor Corps Fellows, who are full time tutors, all with bachelor’s degrees, who work with students in small groups or 1:1.
58. iTech Prep in Vancouver Washington is a 6-12 tech-rich STEM school featuring project-based learning. The middle school meet at a community center, the high school is on the WSU campus (watch video).
59. Highland Tech Charter School is a sixth (6) through twelfth (12) grade learning environment that promotes mastery learning through integrated project-based learning. The Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC) philosophy of Shared Leadership, Shared Vision, and Personal Mastery through standards-based instruction with systemic and systematic Continuous Improvement is the foundation that guides our program.
60. Deeper Learning. Springfield Renaissance School in central Massachusetts district is “centered upon issues, problems, and challenges that either face our society now or have lessons applicable to modern times.” (See feature on Deeper Learning for Every Student Every Day).
62. Show & Tell. High Tech High in San Diego is the best example of a high-engagement cohort model secondary school. Great teachers frame great projects and expect students to show what they know on a regular basis. When you’re there, visit High Tech International across the street.
63. Mindset. While in San Diego, visit Kearny High School of Digital Media & Design. The student-centered project-based stresses productive “Habits of Mind.”
64. 50/50 Blend. Carpe Diem in Yuma Arizona (and Indianapolis & Cincinnati) is the best example of a 50/50 blend with an effective combination of personalized online learning in a lab setting and workshops taught by master teachers. When you visit you’ll immediately understand the power of the Carpe Diem culture (see my trip report from 2011 or Carri’s trip report from 2013)
65. Flex. Flex model schools, like Silicon Valley Flex, use a digital curriculum to support individual progress (See feature and 12 reasons every district should open a flex school).
66. Flex network. Nexus Lansing is part of a 7 school midwest network of flex academies supported by Connections Learning. Students work at their own pace with access to teachers, a success coach, college counselor, and personal trainer.
67. Competency-Blend. The Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is Michigan’s school improvement district. It operates 12 schools in Detroit including Henry Ford High School. The EAA has student-centered competency-based school model and a cool platform Buzz.
68. Health. Cornerstone Health+Tech HIgh School, Detroit, combines individual goal setting, project-based coursework, online learning, internships and teacher support.
69. Flipped school. Greg Green is principal of Clintondale High School, also near Detroit. They flipped much of their instruction using content on Gooru. Learn more about Clintondale on The Flip Institute blog.
70. Project-Based. The 160 schools in New Tech Network share Echo, a project-based learning management system. Anson New Tech, east of Charlotte North Carolina, integrates related subjects such as world geography and earth science or American literature and history.
71. Service. METSA New Tech, said, “Our mission ensures that students are strategically prepared for the rigor and self-discipline of college and the innovative demands of STEM career pathways,” despite the fact that more than 70% of the Carrollton, Texas students live in or near poverty. A capstone service projects culminates the METSA experience. (See feature on Deeper Learning for Every Student Every Day).
72. Just the Ticket. The staff at Leadership Public Schools in Oakland built Exit Ticket, a classroom assessment and competency tracking system. LPS is the best example of a collaborative and distributed innovation agenda across a network of schools.
73. Interest-Based Learning. The 100-school Edvisions high schools use Project Foundry and a variety of tools to support project-based learning and authentic assessment. Start with a visit to teach run Minnesota New Country School.
75. Social. New Milford High School is a great example of a digital turnaround. Former principal Eric Sheninger (@E_Sheninger, now at the International Center for Leadership in Education) light the fire and empowered teachers. (See feature.)
76. Travel. THINK Global School students use the latest equipment to “record, report, and share their global education online as they travel the world.”
77. Challenge. NYC iSchool blends computer adaptive learning with challenges that require students to work together to present real solutions to real problems.
78. Expeditions. Casco Bay High School in Portland Maine is an Expeditionary Learning school which keeps the school’s goals “clear, ambitious and essential.” Casco juniors engage in a long term interdisciplinary project that results in demonstration of learning.
80. Character. DSST may be the best high poverty STEM school in the country but it’s also really good at character development. “We’re a values first organization,” said CEO Bill Kurtz.
81. Journalism. The nation’s biggest and best journalism program is Palo Alto High School. Esther Wojcicki asks her students to write at least 250 words every day. Students produce professional quality publications.
85. Entrepreneurship. Also in Philly is Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, a cool private school with a partnership with Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership
87. Alternative. Eagle Rock (@EagleRockSchool) in Estes Park Colorado, is a initiative of @AmericanHonda, is both a high school and a professional development center for educators (and a very cool place to visit).
88. Tutoring. Match High School, Boston, utilizes individualized tutoring for every student in support of a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum.
89. Art+. While in Boston, visit Boston Arts Academy which creates great art learning and exhibition opportunities with the Professional Arts Consortium and cohabitates with another great small school (for another 6 months), Fenway High.
90. Alt Mashup. Boston Day and Evening Academy proficiency-based pathways that allow students to progress based on demonstrated mastery rather than seat time. Students benefit from wraparound services, digital tools that help create a personalized approach, and a school open 12 hours a day–self-paced alt ed meets adventure-based leadership training meets blended learning. (Featured by Chris Sturgis)
92. Early College. Simons Rock is “a small, selective, supportive, intensive college of the liberal arts and sciences in the middle of the Berkshires.” Students enroll after 10th or 11th grade. Simons Rock was the basis for the 6 school Bard Early College network where students can leave high school with an associates degree.
93. Early College for All. Santa Ana Middle College High School has great performance levels with the majority of seniors earning an AA before they walked at graduation and half were accepted into UCI upon graduation. Similarly, Corona-Norco’s JFKennedy Middle College High School is a good program, but neither is very far along on blended learning.
94. Alt Early College. Beaverton Early College High School is part of the a network sponsored by Portland Community College where at risk students can earn a high school diploma and an associate degree. (See Early College High Schools)
95. IB. The 30 schools of the IDEA Public Schools prepare south Texas students for college with the rigorous International Baccalaureate Visit the flagship high school in Donna and the K-8 feeder school featuring a lab rotation blend.
96. Global. West of Milwaukee is the lovely area of Kettle Moraine with a big high school that houses some very interesting charter schools including KM Perform, performing arts blend, and KM Global, a flex model global studies school.
99. Robotics. Achievment First University Prep opened last year in Brooklyn and was recently highlighted in the news for its robotics program. All ninth-graders take physics matched by a rigorous math sequence. Acceptance to a four-year college or university is a graduation requirement.
Stay tuned for great K-12 schools and schools districts worth visiting. Thanks to many contributors. Sorry for all the great schools I missed. What school would you add to the list?
DreamBox, Curriculum Associates, MIND Research Institute, Connections Education, and Rosetta Stone are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners. Edmodo, eduClipper, Mangahigh, NoRedInk, and MasteryConnect, are a portfolio company of Learn Capital where Tom is a partner.