School Redesign - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Systems Change

School Redesign

The Challenge

Faced with the challenges of bureaucratic operations, it can be difficult for school systems to experiment with novel approaches to curriculum, instruction, teacher training, school schedules, and the design of learning spaces. It can also be time-consuming, expensive, and risky to make changes, especially on the large scale required for impact. It can be difficult for districts to balance equity and innovation to ensure that new initiatives will not negatively affect any population of students. While school redesign can be challenging for all types of schools, high schools are often the most difficult schools to transform; the public can be resistant to rethinking the design and role of high schools.

Challenge Stats

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Respondents reported this challenge is widespread

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Respondents reported this challenge is experienced often

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Respondents reported this challenge is urgent

Ideas from the Field

  • Multiple districts shared how they are breaking up high schools, whether to separate freshman from older grades, to create “community learning centers” that will be co-located with local businesses, or to create centers based on career/academic interests.
  • One district significantly changed its approach to elementary school by eliminating single-teacher classrooms, and is no longer dividing students automatically by age.

In the Words of District Staff

What we've learned is if you don't change everything -- if you don't change the pedagogy with the technology, with the space, with the schedule -- you don't get there because...the things you haven't changed block the other things from working. That's been the biggest challenge.

“What we've learned is if you don't change everything -- if you don't change the pedagogy with the technology, with the space, with the schedule -- you don't get there because...the things you haven't changed block the other things from working. That's been the biggest challenge. A challenge I have with the high school, with moving to blended and online learning classes, is that we need to change the way our high school feels and looks. We have too many controls in place. They have to be in a room, they have to be in a place, they have to be with an adult. And when we start putting these blended opportunities in and students don't have to be in class, we're going to have more students being free and wandering, appropriately wandering within the building.”

“It looks different based on the building, based on the grade level. Sometimes what's really revolutionary for one team is obvious and old hat for another. One thing that I feel very passionately about is that within a school, within a grade level, we need to move away from thinking of, "These are my students in my class," and thinking more, "These are our students," and really opening ourselves up to looking at the needs of students across the grade level or band, and being willing to group students according to their needs, and their interests, and their abilities, which might mean that you have a different group in your classroom for ELA than you do for your math block or for a PBL unit.”

Resources

The Complex World of School Redesign: The Building Blocks and the Builders - From EdSurge, this guide has information about school redesign trends, the service providers helping schools and districts redesign their models, and more.

High Schools of the Future: How States Can Accelerate High School Redesign - From the Center for American Progress, this article describes a national movement to redesign high schools and shares how policymakers can support this movement.

Starting a School Design Project - From Harvard’s Usable Knowledge, this blog shares how to build contemporary learning spaces that spark curiosity, playful collaboration, and engagement.

How Edtech Can Help Build a Blueprint for Real Change in K-12 - From EdSurge, this article shares ideas for using edtech to develop new school blueprints within fragmented education system.

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