Category Archives: High School Redesign

Unlocking Time: A New Look at School Design and Master Scheduling

Unlocking Time: A New Look at School Design and Master Scheduling

Crystal Brownlee, Assistant Principal at Oceanside High School, has a monumental task: to make sure that each of her 2,000+ students get the right set of courses to graduate, ready for college and career. This is a challenging process in the best of years, often taking more than a month, a whole wall of white boards, and a bunch of late nights. This year, it’s even more complex: Oceanside is in the midst of a transformation in partnership with Pivot Learning’s Beyond High School initiative, which is helping Oceanside to re-imagine their learning environments to ensure all of their students have the opportunity to succeed in college and career. They are building on the success of two established career pathways–Health and Justice–and piloting up to three new themes: Urban Development; Arts, Media, & Technology; and Public Service.

Beyond High School, a user-centered change design process for high school redesign, is helping Brownlee and her team to develop career-themed pathways aligned with redesigned instruction, assessment, school culture, and master scheduling. With limited time and resources, as well as intricate school operations, Oceanside wants to align their redesign goals with an innovative schedule reflective of their vision.

“Beyond High School is without a doubt the best thing we could do for our students,” Brownlee said. “But with so many new options, the scheduling process was becoming even more complicated. I didn’t know how to create an effective, equitable, and accessible schedule.”

In came Abl, one of Pivot’s “partners in time,” who has launched a cutting-edge Dynamic School Scheduling platform. Abl is helping schools like Oceanside utilize digital tools to unlock time and resources for a streamlined, flexible, and efficient master scheduling process. Oceanside used Abl’s scheduling platform for their 2017-2018 master schedule, which allowed them to offer courses during the most optimal times for maximum student access. Pivot is also working with School by Design.

With Pivot’s support, Oceanside will build different schedule prototypes that mirror their redesign goals and ultimately create a rejuvenated master schedule within Abl’s platform that meets the diverse needs of the entire school community.

As the new school year begins, the Pivot and Oceanside teams are diving deeper into Oceanside’s transformation to create the first prototype of the comprehensive redesign plan. With a goal of more personalized, authentic learning experiences for greater student success, the road that lies ahead is rife with opportunities.

Help us launch our interactive workshop, Unlocking Time: A New Look at Master Scheduling, at next year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) EDU’s 2018 Conference by voting for us here.

Beyond High School is built on the research-based principles of Linked Learning: improving outcomes for students with an integrated program of study, work based learning experiences, and student supports to graduate equipped for college and career.

 To learn more about our Beyond High School initiative, contact us.

Reflections on the Traditional High School Model

Reflections on the Traditional High School Model

Why do the laws of physics apply to change? Why is it so hard to transform our schools, even when they are not yielding the results that people want?

The traditional, factory model high school is one of our most outdated institutions. Most of the nation’s high schools look pretty much the same as they did fifty years ago. Students move from class to class every hour or so, give or take a few minutes, alerted by bells; the same discrete subjects are taught; the teacher is usually the center of attention at a board at the front of the room; and learning content knowledge and facts are the focus. Individual tests and tasks are prioritized over collaboration and teamwork. Bullying is often present, in part because there is no real attempt at community-building or attending to creating a positive school culture. Classroom environments might vary from teacher to teacher, including those where more innovative and engaging activities are occurring and classroom communities are being built, but each teacher, subject and classroom is often a world unto itself.

So much of schooling has stayed constant at a time when the rest of the world has changed dramatically. Any fact can be found instantly on a smartphone. The workplace has altered as have the types of jobs available. Entirely new fields and areas of study exist while others have become irrelevant or changed so significantly that they look nothing like years past—think biotechnology and virtual reality.

Given this increasing gap between our schools and the world that students enter after high school (even that dichotomy is problematic—that the wall between school and the real world is so solid), it is no surprise that employers bemoan the fact that even college graduates are unprepared for the workforce and are lacking in experience, both soft and hard skills. This gap is also the reason that Finland has rethought traditional subjects, opting instead for a more thematic, project-based approach to high school curriculum.

It is for these reasons that Pivot is embarking on a new initiative, Beyond High School, to help high schools transform themselves using Linked Learning, career-focused pathways in which all students have exposure to college-preparatory coursework, technical career-focused classes, and work-based learning experiences such as internships. In this process, the high schools we work with will reconsider and reorganize the classes they offer, how they organize time, and how they ensure that their students interact with the real world and the workplace. All aspects of the school will be considered in this design process, including instruction, teacher and student collaboration on thematic, interdisciplinary projects, professional development, and school climate and culture.

We look forward to sharing more as we delve into this important work of changing an entrenched, outdated structure that doesn’t adequately prepare young people for today’s world. And we are excited to work with our partners to build new and vibrant institutions of learning that engage and educate youth in meaningful ways while raising their preparation and achievement for life – beyond high school.