Smart List: 30 STEM Networks & Maker Resources

Getting Smart is acknowledging people and organizations making a difference with the second annual Smart Lists. During October and November you’ll see about 20 ‘Best of’ lists, not in order, not exhaustive, just people we appreciate doing innovative work.
Today we are celebrating ten great state STEM networks, ten STEM networks and resources and ten maker resources.
State STEM Networks

STEM Networks & Resources

Maker Resources


This Smart List was published in partnership with Getting Smart Services. Getting Smart provides advocacy, advisory, consulting and public relations services to turn ideas into impact. We help for-profit and non-profit organizations construct cohesive and forward-thinking strategies for branding, awareness, advancement and communications.
* Learn Capital Partner, # Getting Smart Partner, ** Board member or Advisor

EdTech 10: Trick or Tweet

Happy Halloween! In celebration of día de los muertos we are dressing up EdTech 10 by sharing stories through tweets from Team Getting Smart. No tricks, just sweet treat tweets. In prep for next week’s iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium, Jessica shares an infographic for a paper penned in partnership with Rosetta Stone Education that will be released during the event. Tyler follows up on the Preparing Principals series in sharing how Rice University is preparing principals with CEOs, and Megan shares the winners from XPRIZE‘s “The Real Big 6” video competition with Disney. Click, read and share these scary good stories.

 Blended Schools & Tools

Digital Developments



Early Ed

Leading Leaders



Dollars & Deals

 Teachers & Tech



Stem Gems

 Higher, Deeper, Further, Faster Learning



The Big “D”

Tom is a director at iNACOL, Rosetta Stone Education and Pearson are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.

An Equal Opportunity to Participate in the Future

“This country will never redistribute wealth,” said Chris Romer, “But we will redistribute opportunity.” Romer, a former Colorado State Senator and President of HigherEd startup American Honors, was addressing the growing gap between top quartile and bottom quartile.
Romer and 100 other education CEOs gathered at the invitation of GSV’s Michael Moe (@GSVcap) and Deborah Quazzo (@GSVedu, @Quazzo). The goal of the summit was to discuss how we could “Ensure that every person in the country (and eventually the planet) has an equal opportunity to participate in the future.”
The small group shared big dreams of impact. Typical of the CEOs, Romer encourages American Honors scholars to embrace, “A dream big enough to scare you.” Romer’s dream is to serve 30,000 low-income students in affordable degree pathways.
Moe-mentum. Describing the automation of work, Moe said, “One job after another is getting Siri-ed.” Factories are being automated and apps like Uber are empowering users.
Moe described the old model: Play from age 0 to 4, learn from 5 to 19, work from 20 to 65, and retire. The new model is learn–birth to grave. “The old ticket was a diploma, said Moe, “The new ticket is competency.”
Despite rapid growth of investment in the last few years, Moe noted that the top 10 public companies serving education are only worth $50 billion—Disney is worth three times as much by itself, Google is worth six times as much. We’re early in a learning revolution and “equal opportunity” will require billions more in investment and dozens of scaled impact-focused organizations.
Modern civilization is characterized by hyperconnectivity–computing costs approaching zero, the app economy, and declining privacy– and the drive for progress—producing a global middle class of 5 billion by 2030. Moe suggests the equation for this connected world is true ideas + good values.
Of the three options to drive change—coercion, incentives, and inspiration—the best option in the connected world, according to Moe, is inspiration. As Michael Fullan said, “Change really isn’t as hard as we thought if we capture people’s interest and give them enjoyable, worthwhile experiences.”
Remarkable. Team GSV created a useful framework for dialog connecting innovation and equity, execution and excellence, scale and access. There were ten remarkable conversation threads:

  • Competency. Personalized and competency-based learning–elementary to job training—were frequently discussed. In a breakout session, Elijah Mayfield, TurnItIn, summarized four breakthrough categories: competency (i.e., high agency show what you know tools), tools that enable network effects, adequate and portable resources, and a reduction of incumbency effects (i.e., trapped in status quo land).
  • Equity. Despite all the return-seeking companies represented, educators like Shawn Jackson, Chicago Public Schools, and local Eagle County superintendent, Jason Glass were pleased to see the focus on equity and impact in every segment.
  • Collaboration. Former high school principal and Colorado Senator Mike Johnston urged collaboration when it comes to innovations in learning and, “Less score keeping and more progress tracking.” The moral of Mike’s stories is every student matters.
  • Books. Despite a drop in adult print book sales, digital advocate Alex Hernandez, Charter Growth Fund, found the growth of print books for young readers a promising development in saying, “It’s a good UI for little kids.” David Roland, Ingram, said, “It will always be mixed mode, kids love books.”
  • HigherEd. Ben Nelson and Miriam Rivera, Minerva; Burck Smith, Straighterline; David Blake, Degreed; and George Straschnov, Bisk, and Chip Paucek, 2U were among the leaders discussing the potential for excellent and affordable higher learning.
  • Investing. Both venture and philanthropic, in addition to the GSV team there were great investors sharing tips including Brian Greenberg, SiliconSchools; Rick Segal, Rethink, and Jason Stoffer, Maveron.
  • March to Impact. Jim Collins led a thought provoking half day discussion (but more on that later).

The remarkable thing about the gathering was spending two days with more than 100 people that believe as strongly as I do that innovations in learning can improve life on planet earth for the 7 billion people we share it with.
For more on GSV, see:

Shifting from Persuasive Writing to Argumentative Writing: Where do you start?

In my sixteen years of teaching, I spent plenty of days passionately preparing my students to write persuasively for a variety of audiences. We practiced with prompts about driving ages, open-campus lunch policies, and television and video game violence. I would explain to students that they needed to include Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in their responses, and to really “sell” their ideas. A counterargument was a requirement, and then, as writers, they must “bring me back to your stance.” Effective writing does include these elements. Discussing these issues, learning how to develop an opinion/claim, and to persuade others to adopt it, or that it is right, is valuable. However, that is only part of what we should be asking students to do. I look back and I am a bit embarrassed by the isolated questions, the thoughtlessness of the topics, and the lack of rigor in the process. How simplistic. How boring! So what’s different now, and where do you start?
Now, we are asking our students to do much more challenging and meaningful writing. There are many ways to start, and many educators have and are sharing their wonderful insights. In the Riverside Unified School District in California we have been working very hard as a 7-12 English Language Arts team to transition to more relevant work (notice I do not say Common Core, though that is a big portion of what we do — regardless of what we call it, what we really want is to provide opportunities for students to read, write, listen, speak, and research effectively, and with confidence). Beginning in July, I started working with two amazing colleagues, Lorrie Cobain-Danelski and Lisa Kells, on this transition.
The first thing we did was create a framework for grades 7-12 which includes Enduring Understandings, Essential Questions (here is a huge list we share with our teachers), and Focus Standards for each quarter. Some of these are smoother than others at this point, being October, and having this be the “dress rehearsal,” but we are learning.
The second thing we did was design units of study using Understanding by Design. Teachers have the freedom to use our units, or to create their own as long as the unit outcomes and learning experiences match the level of rigor and engagement for students.
Next, we created purposeful argumentative essay prompts as a diagnostic tool for teachers. We used The New York Times Learning Network (organized by category) to find the prompts we thought best matched the EUs and EQs for the units. This site has a list of 200 prompts for argumentative writing. We chose prompts for 7-12 that connected to the units, and then created the assessment based on the EAP style of writing, this year being incorporated into the Smarter Balance Assessment students will take in 11th grade.
Finally, we set out to norm our teachers using a common Expository rubric, anchor papers, and an all-day “norming” day. 12th grade Expository teachers have been norming four times a year with Riverside Community College instructors and Alvord Unified teachers (a neighboring district), but 7-11 teachers have not normed as a district for quite some time. These norming days proved to be very beneficial, giving teachers an opportunity to collaborate with other grade-level teachers from their own site, and others. One question that continues to be asked  is, “What are the biggest differences between persuasive writing and argumentative writing?”
Here are three differences between persuasive and argumentative writing:

  1. The goal with argumentative writing is not to take a stand and persuade, but rather to summarize a text, and discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree, providing solid evidence.
  2. Students can qualify with argumentative writing by providing reasons and examples from the text provided and from their previous readings, own experiences, and observations to support their opinions, and discuss the extent to which they agree or disagree.
  3. Argumentative writing recognizes the balance of incorporating different perspectives on the argument, but with solid support, argues distinctly for one.

Here is a helpful chart from the Vermont Reads Institute:

Persuasive Writing   Vs.


Claim based on Opinion Claim (Opinion, Position, Hypothesis, Thesis Statement, Theory)
Not Always Substantiated Claim(e.g., Propaganda, Advertisements) Substantiated Claim (Based on Relevant & Sufficient Evidence)
“Pathos”—Appeal to Audience Emotion, Desires, Needs
Some “Pathos” but emphasis is on“Logos”—Appeal to logical reasoning and evidence (e.g., Facts, Examples, Historical and Legal Precedents)
“Ethos”—Appeal to writer’s or speaker’s character, credentials, trustworthiness “Ethos”—Appeal to writer’s or speaker’s credibility (more so than character); credibility is established through knowledge of subject matter and merits of reasons and factual evidence
Persuasive texts may make an “argument,” but they don’t always include elements of a formal argument Include the following elements of Argument:
Warrants (Statements about How Evidence Supports Claims)
Backing (Support for Warrants)
May not take opposing views into account Counterclaim (Opposing Argument)
Rebuttals (Respond to and Try to Refute)
Heart of Critical Thinking

The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University is also a helpful resource for getting started with this type of writing, among other things. Writing at the next level for our students whether for college or for life, is argumentative. I would argue that all writing is argumentative — creating a solid thesis, and then defending it with evidence is an invaluable skill. We should  know why we think what we think and be able to support that, not only with emotion, but with evidence.
My next post will focus on strategies you can use with your teachers and students once you have a starting point.
For more on writing instruction, see:

Standards Spotlight: Mastering Reading Standard 2

Ray Reutzel

I remember my first experience teaching reading comprehension skills to my third grade students in rural Wyoming, even though it was years ago. Three of the top comprehension skills in those days were “Getting the Main Idea,” “Finding the Details,” and “Summarizing.” I was simultaneously pursuing a Master’s degree in reading because, honestly, I was baffled and flummoxed by the process of teaching reading comprehension. It was there that I encountered the writings of Dolores Durkin. She condemned practically everything I was doing by asserting that my instructional activities weren’t teaching children how to comprehend, but rather assessing if they could comprehend. That was one of the first wake up calls.
The next wake up call came from Patricia Alexander—one of the first to discuss the difference between skills and strategies. Skills are automatic behaviors that result from the conscious, somewhat wearisome application of strategies that become no longer necessary. Strategies, on the other hand, are steps or plans in the mind that must be consciously and somewhat laboriously applied, at least in the beginning, to become skilled. Strategies, then, are the “how” to accomplish the outcome or skill!
The current Common Core State Standards (CCSS) don’t include mention of comprehension strategies, but they do prescribe the demonstration of typically accepted comprehension skills. For example, Reading: Literature and Reading: Informational Text, Standard R.2, require that students be able to determine the central idea (new verbiage for main idea); recount details; and summarize a text. This is a tall order for a number of reasons:

  1. Students are required to demonstrate three comprehension skills within one standard.
  2. The standard provides little guidance for the teacher about how to help children master the combination of these three comprehension skills.
  3. One of these comprehension skills, summarizing, is considered by many comprehension experts to be one of the most difficult to learn.

The ability to summarize is dependent upon achieving the other two comprehension skills successfully. Achieving the ultimate aims of CCSS R.2 standard is linked to the length of the text and knowledge of the text’s inherent structure and organization. When I discovered this fact, it was so liberating for me as a teacher and for my students. It helped me to see and teach summarization as a systematic process, rather than saying something to my students like, “Well, a summary captures the big ideas in text.”
Here’s an example to illustrate my point.
Planet Earth is made up of three layers. The first layer, a thin rocky skin called the crust, covers it. The very top part of the crust that we walk on every day is composed of soil, sand, and rock. And the low parts of the crust are underwater, below oceans, seas, and lakes. There are two other layers beneath the Earth’s crust called the mantle and the core.
If the goal is to determine the central idea, details, and summary, I should first determine the length or text unit size—in this case, a paragraph. I think, “Central ideas in paragraphs are typically located in the thesis or topic sentence that is typically located at the beginning or occasionally at the end of a paragraph.” I would then read aloud the first and last sentences in this paragraph and ask myself, “Which sentence best tells me about what all the other sentences in the paragraph are telling about?” Once I determine which sentence that is, I mark it as the topic sentence by highlighting or underlining it for students. I next say, “I know the remaining sentences in a paragraph provide added details about the topic sentence.” So, I ask myself, “What are some details about the topic sentence I can find in the remaining sentences?” Next, I highlight key words and phrases in the remaining sentences that give me more information about the topic sentence—crust, top part, soil, sand, and rock, low part, beneath water, mantle, core. After highlighting, I assemble these highlighted words and phrases into a “details” list.

  • crust
  • top part
  • soil, sand, and rock
  • low part
  • beneath water
  • mantle
  • core

After I look at my list to see if any words or phrases are used more than once, I remove any repeated words from my list. At this point, I have achieved the goal of identifying the central idea and the details of the paragraph. What is left? I must summarize it. To do this, I combine details in my list with my central idea to write another sentence as a summary. Summaries are usually shorter than the unit size of text to be summarized. This is important to explicitly tell students. A summary for a paragraph will likely consist of the ideas in the detail list combined with the topic sentence into a single sentence, like this:
The Earth is made up of three layers called the crust, the mantle, and the core.
Thinking about R.2 as a function of text unit size and structure substantially alters the way in which teachers teach the three comprehension skills—identifying central ideas, supporting details, and summarizing texts in Common Core Standard R.2. Doing so makes teaching Common Core Standard R.2 a much more systematic process rather than one that has plagued both teachers and students in the past as both difficult and mysterious. So, give it a go with your current Common Core instructional resources. See how thinking about structurally teaching text-related comprehension skills will help you and your students more successfully demonstrate mastery of CCSS R.2!
Learn more about the most challenging standards in reading here.
This blog is part 1 of a 4 part series “Spotlight on ELA: Strategies for Addressing the Most Challenging Standards” sponsored by Curriculum Associates.
RayReutzel_headshotRay Reutzel  is the Emma Eccles Jones Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Education at Utah State University as well as an elected member of the IRA Reading Hall of Fame. Ray is an author on Ready® Common Core, published by Curriculum Associates, and a member of the i-Ready® Technical Advisory Committee.  Learn more about the most challenging Common Core reading standards as determined by Curriculum Associate’s i-Ready Diagnostic.

How-To On Building a Culture of Innovation

Across the country, committed educators and organizational leaders at every level are working hard to design and implement new approaches that they believe can be more effective for students than those we currently have in place.
“Innovation culture is critical to the future of education,” said Lisa Duty, partner at The Learning Accelerator (TLA) and, lead author of, So You Think You Want to Innovate? Emerging Lessons and a New Tool for State and District Leaders Working to Build a Culture of Innovation. “We need to learn to thrive on building and testing new solutions to education’s most challenging problems,” said Lisa.
TLA is a nonprofit organization supporting the implementation of high-quality blended learning in school districts and states across America. In partnership with 2Revolutions (2Rev), a national education design lab that designs, launches and supports Future of Learning models and helps catalyze the conditions within which they can thrive, they created the framework for building and sustaining a culture of innovation within education organizations.
“Everyone talks about the need for more innovation in education,” said Todd Kern, lead author and 2Revolutions Founder and Principal. “But the reality is that this is incredibly complex work. Our goal with this collaboration was to give organizational leaders handles to better understand where they are today and how to build the innovation culture that’s needed to enable radical progress on behalf of kids and families.”
Analyzing what innovation culture means in the context of education, the framework describes why it is essential and features a comprehensive self-assessment tool that provides guideposts for education leaders to find where they are on the path to building a culture of innovation.
This framework and tool should be valuable for anyone in education interested in exploring the facets of an innovation culture, with a special focus on the organizational level. This includes: state education agencies, school districts, regional service centers, foundations, state membership organizations, and for non-profit education organizations working at the state and district level.

Download So You Think You Want to Innovate?


The Learning Accelerator is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.

Smart List: 30 Ways to Learn Almost Anything

Getting Smart is acknowledging people and organizations making a difference with the second annual Smart Lists. During October and November you’ll see about 20 ‘Best of’ lists, not in order, not exhaustive, just people we appreciate doing innovative work.
Today we are recognizing 30 open resources for K-12, postsecondary, and anytime learning resources.
Free & Open Education Resources, K-12

Postsecondary OER

Anytime Learning

  • Coursera: the world’s best courses for free *


  • General Assembly: learn from experts on business, tech & design *
  • Udemy: online courses from expert teachers *
  • LearnZillion: great instructional resources for teachers *
  • edX: non-profit created by Harvard and MIT
  • Udacity: IT and coding nanodegrees
  • Canvas: open online courses #
  • MentorMob: education search engine
  • TED-Ed: create customized lessons around TED videos

This Smart List was published in partnership with Getting Smart Services. Getting Smart provides advocacy, advisory, consulting and public relations services to turn ideas into impact. We help for-profit and non-profit organizations construct cohesive and forward-thinking strategies for branding, awareness, advancement and communications.
* Learn Capital Partner, # Getting Smart Partner, ** Board member or Advisor

Why Entrepreneurship Education K-12, Every Student Every Year?

Gene Coulson
It is to the benefit of every student and every community to establish an entrepreneurial culture in every school. Here are four reasons why we should begin now:
1. Entrepreneurship Education benefits every student by giving them an alternate career path at any time in their lives.  In every graduating class, there are students who want to go into business right away. There are some who will consider it after college or several years of employment. Some graduates aren’t considering it now, but will at some time in their lives. There are even those who have thought about it and, with more knowledge about what it takes for entrepreneurial success, decide not to do it and do not put personal or family start-up funds at risk. Finally, there is the student that has no interest now in entrepreneurship and will never be interested in it, but will be a better employee because she now knows what is important to her employer. She knows how businesses make money. Every student should have the opportunity to make an informed decision about entrepreneurship as a career path now or later in life. The foundation for that decision should begin in the k-12 system.
2. Entrepreneurship Education also provides a background for the teaching of academic subjects giving those studies a grounding in the real world. Entrepreneurship can be the answer to, “Why do I need to study this?” Math, science, writing and communication, history, geography, even the arts can be connected to today’s world through a connection to entrepreneurship. How will a scientist turn a discovery into income? How will an artist turn that talent into a family-supporting career? Every career and technical student with a skill to sell in the market place should consider the difference between finding a job and making their own job.
3. Research shows that the most creative students in the K-12 system are in kindergarten and first grade. As they move through the system, creative thinking is discouraged in favor of learning the “right” answer and being able to enter it on a test answer sheet. We need to nurture the creativity that the youngest of our students bring with them to their first days and years of school. The consideration of entrepreneurial opportunities preserves the innovative and creative thinking skills that exist in the very early grades, but disappear as students move toward high school graduation. There are many age and grade appropriate activities that introduce entrepreneurship to young children.  Middle school is when most students begin to think about career choices. Entrepreneurship should be part of that consideration. There is a compete spectrum of curriculum materials available to help every teacher integrate entrepreneurship education into their instruction and teach their state standards with a common sense connection to the real world around them and a way to  preserve the creative-thinking abilities of their students.
There are many pathways to entrepreneurial success and they are all accomplished by innovative and creative thinking, not by rote memorization. Looking for the alternative answer, the highly personalized answer, the innovative idea, keeps the creative thinking muscles strong as students move through the K-12 system.
4. Rural and urban communities suffer from brain drain. Sharp, young people who are forced to leave the area to find a good job and make a career. Students who do leave their communities frequently want to come back at some point in their lives, but alas, they can’t land a good job opportunity back home. Those same communities have needs unmet by businesses in their area. Young people who are creative, entrepreneurial thinkers can turn those unmet needs into business opportunities and stay in or return to their communities, generating employment and enlarging the local tax base.
In this age of educational accountability through standards and assessments with only one right answer and success measured by test scores, we need to keep young minds open for alternative ways of thinking, allow innovative ideas to spark and grow, to create an entrepreneurial culture that will grow great people and great communities. We need entrepreneurship education for every student, every year.
For more on entrepreneurship, see:

Gene Coulson Ed.D. is a Executive Director at Consortium for Entrepreneurship Education. 

TrueSchool Engages EDesigners in Innovation Lab

We often talk about how we are in the middle of a phase of change in how we learn. However, we’re missing something crucial here. This change already happened. It’s already here. We lived it. For example, many schools and districts have made shifts to higher-leveling thinking, while integrating digital devices to curricula that has spring-boarded personalized and student-driven learning. To support this reality, learning environments require research, design thinking, strategic implementation and sustainability to constantly improve to serve students in relevant ways.
TrueSchool Studio is doing just this. In collaboration with Chicago Public Education Fund, TrueSchool convened 135 educators, who they call “EDesigners,” for the Summer Design Program (SDP14). Their goal: To create and implement transformational innovations in student learning for classrooms and schools.


For five-weeks, EDesigners representing 40 schools from nearly every neighborhood in Chicago engaged in what accumulated to be three full days of ideation, separated by two, two-week team-facilitated research and development-focused intersessions. School leaders and teachers designed solutions focused on solving one of the following three challenges:

  1. How might we increase the number of students in STEM careers and college majors?
  2. How might we rethink the one-size-fits-all classroom in order to personalize learning and differentiate instruction?
  3. How might we ensure a successful transition from 8th to 9th grade?

For each track EDesigners were introduced to existing approaches, trained through an engaging design-process, and connected with experts for honing their concept.


SDP14 unleashed the creativity and talent of educators to innovate as well as transformed how teachers think about their role. Stacy Stewart, Principal of Belmont-Cragin Elementary School said:
The steps we passed through during this project with the hands on scientific approach we used to gather information and analyze our theories opened the minds of our team members to change the status quo at our school. The work and experiences we have had – will result in changes at our school at the fundamental level.
23 of the 40 SDP14 teams were recently selected to further implement their innovative strategies with support from The Chicago Public Education Fund. $100,000 will be invested in pilots developed at SDP14. Teams who prove success will be selected to participate in an ongoing support program to continue innovating. Tom shared how weak incentives and a lack in sharing are barriers to innovation. TrueSchool’s programming is overcoming these barriers and demonstrates the power of authentic collaboration and teacher-led innovation to solve real problems.
For more information on TrueSchool and school design, see:

12 Reasons Every District Should Open a Flex School

Flex model programs or schools have an online curriculum with onsite support. This category of blended learning is more common in high school because it requires a good deal of independent study. The Christensen Institute describes flex models this way:

Students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities. The teacher of record is on-site, and students learn mostly on the brick-and-mortar campus, except for any homework assignments. The teacher of record or other adults provide face-to-face support on a flexible and adaptive as-needed basis through activities such as small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring.

Flex models vary in the degree and type of face-to-face support but many include small-group instruction, group projects, and individual tutoring. In contrast to rotation models where students spend 20-30% of their time online, students in flex models spend more than 50% of their time online. Matriculation at rotation schools is typically by cohort (with some flexibility to meet individual needs) while students in a flex models are typically progressing as they demonstrate mastery in most courses. Rotation schools add some online learning to what otherwise may look like a traditional school while flex schools start with online learning and add physical supports and connections where valuable expanding the potential for innovation is higher in flex schools.
Examples. The Flex name comes from San Francisco Flex and Silicon Valley Flex, two Bay Area schools that combine the K-12 core curriculum with a full day of academic support, clubs, and activities. FuelEd works with school districts to create flex learning environments with the PEAK platform which allows teachers to add open or created content.
The Carpe Diem network was launched with a top performing Yuma Arizona secondary school where students split their time between workshops and personal learning online. Six teachers and a team of paraprofessionals support the development of 300 students grades 6-12. Given the 50/50 split with online and workshops, some observers would call this an individual rotation model but the roots are pure flex (See feature on Carpe Diem Indianapolis and Cincinnati).
Connections Learning developed a midwest flex network of 7 Nexus Academies (above image). The double shifted high schools serve up to 300 students. The facilities look like modern office space. In addition to master teachers, students benefit from a counselor, a fitness trainer, and a success coach to guide them through Connections’ comprehensive online high school curriculum. Nexus students benefit from frequent small group instruction in half hour sessions.
In partnership with school districts, AdvancePath has been managing flex dropout prevention academies nationwide for most of a decade. Students that are a year or two behind have the opportunity to get back on track by earning credits more rapidly than would be possible in a typical classroom. AdvancePath has a robust response-to-intervention (RTI) solution for high school–a personalized pathway for every student.
After opening an iPrep demonstration site, Miami Dade added flex academies to 8 comprehensive high schools.
There are at least 12 potential benefits of flex models:

  1. Competency-based. Students progress based on demonstrated mastery. They use cohort groups and teams when and where they are helpful.
  2. Accelerated learning. Flex models allow students to move at their own pace. For students with partial content knowledge but credit deficiencies, the ability to move quickly and test out of topics they have mastered may allow them to earn credits at two or three times the normal rate.
  3. Customized experience. Flex models make it easy to customize the experience for each student. As platforms get more robust, student pathways will become more customized (by interest, modality, motivation, and schedule).
  4. Portable and flexible. Students can take a flex school on the road for a family vacation or for a work or community-based learning experience. There’s a flex school with a football team. For districts, flex programs can be quickly deployed in less than 90 days and scaled rapidly.
  5. Productive operations. Flex models have the potential to operate at lower cost than alternative education models.
  6. Small rural high schools. Flex models make it easy to run very good very small high schools. Where it would have been difficult to serve 100 students with a traditional comprehensive high school model, a flex program can offer every AP course, every foreign language, every high level STEM course–all in an affordable and well supported environment.
  7. New staffing models. Flex models make use of differentiated (levels) and distributed (locations) staffing.  As noted at OpportunityCulture, we need to invent new ways to leverage talent with technology and flex models will be the source of the most interesting and productive staffing strategies.
  8. Early college. Flex models facilitate college credit accumulation in high school. Look for AP, dual enrollment, and career/major specific models. Flex students should be able to finish high school in three years with a year of college credit. Like Career Path High, a flex school can be located on a postsecondary campus.
  9. Career focus. Flex models can focus on particular careers and make time for work-based learning. GPS Education Partners is a network of manufacturing flex academies in the upper midwest where students take high school classes in the morning and complete manufacturing internships in the afternoon.
  10. Leverage local assets. Flex models have the unique ability to leverage community assets like museums, theaters, historical sites, natural resources, as well as local employers.
  11. Site visits. For many of us site visits are the most important component of professional learning. A flex academy provides a local opportunity for staff members to experience competency-based blended learning with innovative staffing and scheduling–a visit is far more powerful than reading about it.
  12. Early movers. Like two in-district charter high schools in Kettle-Moraine Wisconsin, flex schools can operate as a school-within-a-school offering thematic integration.

KM Global Charter

Do now. Using a flex model, every community can afford to have a great high school. Every community should have a flex option that provides a fully supported individualized pathway to graduation. Every community should use a flex model to leverage local resources and meet specific needs. Every district should open a flex model so that everyone can visit and experience the future of education.
For more on flex see:

Tom is a director of AdvancePath. Connections and K12 are advocacy partners.