Credit: Courtesy of Design Tech High School
Students at Design Tech High School work on projects in a giant classroom that once was a warehouse.

The RAND personalized learning study was based on 40 schools that received Next Generation Learning Challenge grants, including 12 in California. The “New Designs for School” grants were awarded to schools across the country that wanted to create new school models that allowed students to work at their own pace and that addressed students’ individual needs.

The study began in 2012 and finished in 2015. During that time period, the following California schools received NGLC grants:

  1. Da Vinci schools, Hawthorne: A “blended learning” high school focused on project-based experiential learning, higher education partnerships and flexible learning spaces.
  2. Summit Public Schools, Denali, Sunnyvale: A “flexible” school for students in grades 6-12 focused on project-based and experiential learning with competency-based progression, including an eight-week “expeditions” program that gives students the opportunity to engage in a course, internship or project that explores areas of interest while investigating potential careers.
  3. Alpha Public Schools, Blanca Alvarado Middle School, San Jose: Charter school serving students in grades 6-8 in a single classroom with one teacher, where students rotate between computer-based activities and small group instruction, with an emphasis on strong interpersonal relationships and character development.
  4. USC Hybrid High School, Los Angeles: College prep high school designed by University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, which combines a traditional “no excuses” culture with a personalized learning academic model that embeds technology across the curriculum.
  5. Thrive Public Schools, San Diego: A K-8 charter school focused on competency-based progression, project-based and experiential learning, flexible learning spaces and students’ social-emotional development.
  6. Incubator School, Los Angeles (closed June, 2017): A 21st century learning, entrepreneurship-themed Los Angeles Unified School District pilot school for students in grades 6-12 where 8th-graders were expected to launch a startup within the school and 12th-graders were expected to launch or work at a “real world” startup. Closed due to low enrollment.
  7. Caliber Beta Academy, Richmond: A charter school serving students in grades K-8, which combines a blended learning approach to English language arts and math with a project-based approach to science and social studies.
  8. Education for Change, EPIC Charter School, Oakland: A blended learning, STEAM charter school emphasizing engineering and design that serves students in grades 6-8 and builds on gaming principles by organizing all units of study to culminate in a “quest” that requires students to apply their knowledge in a live-action real world challenge.
  9. Design Tech High (D. Tech), Millbrae/Redwood City: Charter campus recently reopened at Oracle, providing a four-year design advisory experience in which students learn “design thinking,” engineering and entrepreneurial skills using “low-tech materials” such as cardboard and foil, as well as “high-tech tools” in a fabrication lab, including 3-D printers, laser cutters, routers and programming tools.
  10. Alliance, PACE High School, Los Angeles: Charter high school focused on competency-based progression, project-based and experiential learning, and early college and dual enrollment through Los Angeles Harbor College and California State University Dominguez Hills.
  11. ℮³ Civic High, San Diego: District- and community-supported early college charter high school located in San Diego’s downtown public library that partners with San Diego City College on a curriculum that emphasizes civics, service and internships through a mixture of self-paced online instruction, teacher or student-led small-group instruction, direct teacher instruction, and problem-based and project-based work.
  12. Leadership Charter Schools, Oakland: Charter high school that offers dual enrollment through Merritt College, with curriculum focused on entrepreneurship and experiential learning.

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Since the study concluded, six more Oakland schools have received NGLC grants with support from the Rogers Family Foundation. These are:

  1. ASCEND, a K-8 charter operated by Education for Change that includes multi-age instructional blocks in reading, math, and social-emotional learning; learning “expeditions” in social studies and science; the integration of art, music, technology, and dance; and staffing that includes year-long teacher residents from UC Berkeley and Mills College to create a teacher pipeline.
  2. Redwood Heights Elementary: An Oakland Unified school that aims to teach students to use critical thinking skills to make positive contributions to their community and the world.
  3. Roosevelt Middle School: District middle school that is collaborating with neighborhood elementary schools and the local high school to create a “San Antonio Schools Corridor” with plans to personalize learning as a K-12 system.
  4. Urban Montessori: Charter school approved by the Alameda County Office of Education that serves students in grades TK-8 based on the teachings of Maria Montessori, in combination with Design Thinking, and Arts Integration.
  5. Urban Promise Academy: An Oakland Unified middle school that focuses on projects, and personalized learning using the Summit digital platform, with an emphasis on building social and emotional skills.
  6. Lodestar, a charter operated by Lighthouse Community Charter Public Schools that eventually expects to serve students in grades K-12, providing them opportunities to start and end each day together or in advisory, work in mixed age groups on literacy and math and solve real problems during semester-long learning expeditions in social studies or science that develop their writing and design skills through art or “making.”

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  1. Locksmith 2 years ago2 years ago

    Really happy that this has started already! 🙂

  2. Knee Pads 3 years ago3 years ago

    These days most schools have shut it down already. If it wasn’t for woodworking, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into a specialized trade like I am now

  3. Daniel Stevens 3 years ago3 years ago

    That’s such great news, I am so happy for these kids! Also great article, congrats for the collection of information!

  4. Jay Key 3 years ago3 years ago

    I wish I was able to experience this level of academic love. This is great! Keep it up!

  5. Eugene 3 years ago3 years ago

    Design Tech High Seems like it would be an awesome place to go to school, I wish we lived closer so we could send our kids their when they get to that age.

  6. Bryan P 4 years ago4 years ago

    Hats off to Design Tech. It would be great if more schools could have funding to keep shop classes open. When I went to high school in Long Beach, we still had woodworking and auto mechanics. These days most schools have shut it down already. If it wasn’t for woodworking, maybe I wouldn’t have gotten into a specialized trade like I am now

  7. Kryger 5 years ago5 years ago

    I’m so encouraged to hear about how we’re using money to better the education for our children, excellent!

  8. Sam 5 years ago5 years ago

    Interesting how much school has changed since I’ve lgraduated, and that’s only been a couple of years! Glad people are trying different approaches though.