Download a copy of the School Design document.

DESIGN PRINCIPLES: What students need to learn well (from How People Learn by the National Research Council, 2001)

Ø Learner-centered -- paying attention to what learners bring to the educational setting (knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs, language ability, cultural); need for meaningfulness

Ø Knowledge-centered -- moves beyond engagement to focus on doing with understanding; emphasis on sense-making

Ø Assessment-centered -- use of formative assessments designed to show where students are in the "developmental corridor" from informal to formal thinking

Ø Community-centered -- development of norms for classroom and school, aspiring to be "accomplished novices"; connections to experts outside school; family is a key environment for learning

follow from design principles

Ø Learner-centered:
• personalized
• authentic (real world learning)
• experiential (learning by doing)

Ø Knowledge-centered:
• intellectual mission
• academic rigor, based on state and national standards
• 21st Century Skills

Ø Assessment-centered:
• metacognition
• performance-based assessment
• variety of data sources

Ø Community-centered:
• family engagement
• adult world immersion
• mission driven
• democratic practice

DESIGN ELEMENTS: how principles are implemented
Ø Personalized:
Ø Learning Team for every student, consisting of student, advisor, and parents (guardians), and support staff, if applicable
Ø Learner profile -- developed for each student, using a variety of data sources, and in collaboration with student, parents (guardians), and advisors
Ø Individualized learning plans -- incorporating negotiated learning goals, developed by the student’s learning team
Ø Advisors responsible for knowing each student well, communicating closely with parents (guardian), and coaching student on lifelong learning

Ø Authentic and Experiential
Ø Internships – one on one relationships with adult mentors doing real work

Ø Graduation By Experience -- Students must participate in, document, and reflect on a given number of experiences from a variety of categories (e.g. cultural, language-based, physical, demographic, biomes, work: internships, apprenticeships, projects, etc., etc.)
Ø Project Based Learning
Ø Community Service

Ø Intellectual Mission
Ø Intellectual rigor -- analysis of experts' knowledge for domains of knowledge
Ø Connecting academics to career paths and internships

Ø Academic Rigor
Ø Standards-based – students engage directly with making meaning of the standards, co-designing work that will best engage them in deep exploration of the standards

Ø 21st Century Skills
Ø One-to-one computing, for students and faculty –doing “business” as the world does business, using technology to share information and facilitate communication.

Ø Metacognition
Ø “End of Days” – daily reflections on progress and learning
Ø Formative assessments, incorporating student reflection and metacognition
Ø Portfolios

Ø Performance-based assessment
Ø Habits -- cross-cutting competencies every student must exhibit
Ø Exhibitions – student-guided progress reports
Ø “Gateways” – student presented defense of growth, and readiness for next stage of learning

Ø Variety of data sources
Ø Use of dynamic testing tools (MAP – Measures of Academic Progress) for ongoing monitoring of student progress
Ø Required participation in standardized testing (NECAP and PSATs) for every student
Ø “360º of feedback” model in summative assessments (including use of outside panelists for performance-based assessments)

Ø Family engagement
Ø Parents (guardians) are integral members of a student’s learning team, receiving daily communications about student goals and progress, and participating in goal setting and progress assessment.
Ø Governance structure includes parents and families as partners in policy development. Parent voice is valued and encouraged in school governance.

Ø Adult World Immersion
Ø Internships engage students in real world learning through one on one relationships with an adult mentor, doing meaningful work in job-based settings.
Ø Real world project-driven curricular explorations whenever and wherever possible.

Ø Mission driven
Ø Mission statement is guiding force (set of questions for every experience, related to mission statement; look for elements of mission statement wherever you go - "What do we want to have built into us?”)

Ø Democratic Practice – “ Democracy is a way of learning as much as a way of governing.” (Carl Glickman, League of Professional Schools) Citizenship is defined as "work, politics, and co-creation of our common public world." Work is how we make our imprint on the world; politics is "jazz: the negotiation of a million different perspectives to get to something constructive"; also defined as "the art of the possible" for the purpose of co-creating our world. (Harry Boyte, Center for Democracy and Citizenship)
Ø Public Achievementwill be an integral component of our work.
Ø Governance Structures co-defined by school community (students, staff and faculty, parents/families.

4MAT Learning System
Critical Skills
Schools Attuned
First Amendment Schools
Coalition of Essential School
ASCD Whole Child
New Hampshire Follow the Child
What Works In Schools


About Learning by Bernice McCarthy

Authentic Achievement: Restructuring Schools for Intellectual Quality by Fred Newmann & Associates

The Children's Machine by Seymour Papert

Educative Assessment by Grant Wiggins

The Essential Conversation: What Parent and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning by David Kolb

Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

How People Learn , National Research Council (available online at

In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization by Deborah Meier

Jefferson's Children: Education and the Promise of American Culture by Leon Botstein

Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water by Peter B. Vaill

A Mind at a Time by Dr. Mel Levine

The Myth of Laziness by Dr. Mel Levine

One Kid At a Time by Eliot Levine

The Other Side of Curriculum by Lois Easton

The Passionate Learner by Robert Fried

Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy, and Civic Courage by Paulo Freire

Public Achievement Program, Harry Boyte, Director of Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota (

Ready Or Not, Here Life Comes by Dr. Mel Levine

Revolutionizing America's Schools by Carl Glickman

Teaching What Matters Most: Standards and Strategies for Raising Student Achievement by Richard W. Strong, Harvey F. Silver, and Matthew J. Perini

Tough Choices or Tough Times from National Center on Education and the Economy

The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach by Howard Gardner

What Works in Schools: Translating Research Into Action by Robert J. Marzano

What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000 U.S. Department of Labor, 1991