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Ginger Spickler

Better together

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

We are celebrating making it to the final round of the XQ Super School Project with the Twelve Days of XTH! Each day we’ll release portions of our XQ application so you can learn more about the vision for Crosstown High. 

XQ application question: What partners will be part of the ongoing work of the school? Explain how partners will work together to design and plan the school, and how your partnership will support student learning, engagement, development, and connection to post-secondary success.

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Artist’s rendering of the Crosstown Art Gallery — one of the many spaces where Crosstown High students will learn.

Many schools that apply for the XQ Challenge will have incredible partners. Few, though, will quite literally be surrounded by them. On the floors above and below Crosstown High, professionals in health and wellness, arts, education, technology, philanthropy and civic engagement will be immersed in challenging work at Crosstown Concourse. Christian Brothers University, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will each have a significant presence in this vertical urban village.

More striking than the proximity of these high-quality partners is their dedication to our students. From the beginning, youth have been a key part of the vision for this historic structure’s remarkable renaissance. The Church Health Center has designed its fitness center and pool to be shared with the school. The artists-in-residence at Crosstown Arts, a multidisciplinary contemporary art center, were selected partly for their willingness to mentor students.

All of these partners are interested in the growth of the entire family, based on our shared belief that a child’s well being is impacted beyond the school walls. Healthcare, cooking classes, learning gardens, art shows, and tech education are just a few areas in which these partners can engage the family.

Beyond the walls of Crosstown Concourse, local youth development organizations such as BRIDGES and Facing History and Ourselves have committed to help develop our curriculum and culture. Both groups have deep experience helping Memphis youth find and use their voice to promote understanding of differences and create change in their schools, communities and world.

One of the attachments to our XQ application:

Better Together - The XTH team and some of our partners get a sneak peek of the site where we will build our school together.

Better Together – The XTH team and some of our partners get a sneak peek of the site where we will build our school together. (video)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

How will they learn?

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

We are celebrating making it to the final round of the XQ Super School Project with the Twelve Days of XTH! Each day we’ll release portions of our XQ application so you can learn more about the vision for Crosstown High. 

XQ Application Question: How will you enable and demonstrate student-centered, standards-based learning at your school?

Through the implementation of two unique features, XTH can begin to replace the separation and scarcity experienced by many of our students with meaningful opportunities to discover and contribute. Christian Brothers University is already committed as a vital partner in developing this innovative learning environment.

PERSONALIZED LEARNING PLAN

The Personalized Learning Plan (PLP) is at the core of a student’s learning process. Intentional conversations between students and advisors not only build crucial relationships, but are themselves learning experiences that help students identify abilities, aspirations, and challenges. Students will develop the capacity to set goals, build teams, manage projects, and collaborate. The ultimate goal of the PLP is for each student to take ownership of his or her learning.

At Crosstown, a teacher’s most vital role is as a PLP advisor. She provides support by interpreting and developing strategies for meeting Tennessee Academic Standards within the scope of students’ PLPs. Advisors will use technology-based resources like a tracking dashboard with benchmarks, rubrics, and links to online learning resources.

Sam and kids at story booth

Photo: Joanna Zhang

PROJECT-BASED LEARNING

Mixed-age and ability teams of students, plus an advisor, will embark on critical-thinking projects to understand specific challenges in their communities and develop actionable solutions. Team members move toward skill mastery in core subjects, while also exploring the history, science, math, technology, and design elements that will shape their projects. Advisors, other students, and the community become valuable resources to promote the idea that everyone learns from everyone at Crosstown. Team projects are assessed through presentations to other members of the Crosstown Concourse community, student-driven community events, and installations at local studios.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application:

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Getting Personal – What does it look like when learning is personalized? (video)

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A Day in the Life – Follow Alisha through her day at XTH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

The Crosstown High Manifesto

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

We are celebrating making it to the final round of the XQ Super School Project with the Twelve Days of XTH! Each day we’ll release portions of our XQ application so you can learn more about the vision for Crosstown High. 

After completing the “Discover” phase of the XQ application, it was time to take all we’d learned and move into the “Design” phase — creating a plan for a school that would be a direct response to all that we’d heard from our community. What you read below will likely not be the final version of the mission, purpose and values of Crosstown High, but we believe it’s a strong foundation on which to build. And make sure you don’t miss the Crosstown High Manifesto at the end — it’s a truly inspirational read. It was created by WONDER, By Design — one of our partners working to make Crosstown High an amazing reality.

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Photo: Joanna Zhang


Crosstown High School’s MISSION: To be an adaptive community of youth and adults that never stops learning.

Crosstown High School’s PURPOSE: To prepare students to understand and pursue solutions to the challenges faced by our city and world, and to give students the confidence to be agents of positive change now and in the future.

Crosstown High School’s VALUES:

We value CRITICAL THINKING, CREATIVITY, and COLLABORATION, and we are empowered to lead as we learn.

We value INTERSECTIONS and UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS and will learn from PURPOSEFUL EXPERIENCES in Crosstown Concourse and beyond. We seek to understand and impact the challenges, assets and opportunities in our communities.

We value ALL VOICES. We will create a culture of respect for our differences that will enable us to learn with and from each other with the goal of enriching our experience, our education, and our community. We know that we are better together.

We value a SAFE AND NURTURING ENVIRONMENT where we can learn from our failures and discover our passions and purposes.

We value WELLNESS — physical, emotional, relational — and will challenge and support one another as we seek it for ourselves and our communities.

We value LIFELONG DISCOVERY and will develop the skills to innovate and adapt.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application:

Crosstown High Manifesto: Our school's design drivers

The Crosstown High Manifesto: Our school’s design drivers

We Never Stop Learning - Is XTH a good fit for you? Here’s what to expect!

We Never Stop Learning – Is XTH a good fit for you? Here’s what to expect!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

 

What the students said

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

We are celebrating making it to the final round of the XQ Super School Project with the Twelve Days of XTH! Each day we’ll release portions of our XQ application so you can learn more about the vision for Crosstown High. The content of this work is the foundation on which we will continue to build the high school, but we’ll need your help in the coming months to shape it into the school that Memphis students need and deserve.

The final section of XQ’s “Discover” phase (and arguably the most fun) asked us to reach out to young people in Memphis to hear how they experience school and learning in their lives. Here’s what almost 200 local students told us:

Photo: Joanna Zhang

Photo: Joanna Zhang

We feel UNDERVALUED and UNHEARD. Current school environments are, in many ways, irrelevant to us, and at times, even dehumanizing. We deserve to be treated like people, not test-taking machines. Being young should not mean being inferior to teachers and adults. Students can bring unique and essential insights to our classrooms. Teachers and other adults can learn just as much from us as we can from them.

Photo: Joanna Zhang

Photo: Joanna Zhang

We want a CARING, HEALTHY, PURPOSEFUL school COMMUNITY. We want a school that is caring and safe — not just from bullying and crime, but safe to explore new ideas, to question the world around us, and to develop opinions of our own. We want more time to develop real relationships with other students and teachers. We deserve a school start time that allows us to get ample sleep and a schedule that does not rush us. We deserve healthy food options that respect our diverse cultures and dietary needs.

Photo: Joanna Zhang

Photo: Joanna Zhang

We want opportunities to DISCOVER and EXPLORE new interests, and to feel better PREPARED for adulthood in practical ways — by learning everything from personal finance to interpersonal skills to new ways to use technology. We want to see connections between the work we’re doing today and our futures. Most importantly, we want to be able to choose a path that is not based on what looks good on a college application, but that develops our passions into skills that can be applied to solving real-world problems.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application:

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Our Words, Our Future – Memphis students spoke and we listened.

Class has Begun: A student-produced, spoken-word performance of two students’ frustrations and ideas about school. (video)

Class has Begun: A student-produced, spoken-word performance of two students’ frustrations and ideas about school. (video)

Playback Memphis: Student Edition - Local actors bring students’ ideas about school to life. (video)

Playback Memphis: Student Edition – Local actors bring students’ ideas about school to life. (video)

What’s a 21st century Memphis kid to do?

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

We are celebrating making it to the final round of the XQ Super School Project with the Twelve Days of XTH! Each day we’ll release portions of our XQ application so you can learn more about the vision for Crosstown High. The content of this work is the foundation on which we will continue to build the high school, but we’ll need your help in the coming months to shape it into the school that Memphis students need and deserve.

The “Discover” phase of the XQ application asked us to uncover the major issues Memphis students deal with: 

What are your top three insights about the challenges facing your prospective students in the 21st century, both globally and in your community?

Cloud901legs

PERVASIVE POVERTY is killing kids’ futures before they begin. Many students in Memphis live in poverty and are profoundly challenged by the devastating separation and scarcity that it causes. Crosstown High (XTH) will be housed in Crosstown Concourse, a landmark, 1,100,000 square-foot historic adaptive reuse project that sits at the nexus of three socially distinct neighborhoods, where median household incomes range from $15,426 to $60,799. We have a responsibility to use the resources of this school to tackle the causes of poverty that impact so many young people in our vicinity.

STRUCTURAL INEQUITIES prevent true diversity within learning environments. Generations of Memphis youth have been segregated along lines of race and class, and the power of inertia is strong. We believe that Crosstown High can change that. We must create an environment that supports the needs of a wider range of students than is found anywhere else in Memphis. Unless we intentionally address the conditions of separation and scarcity that so many of our young people are experiencing, we will only reinforce them.

Schools are not consistently providing MEANINGFUL LEARNING EXPERIENCES that connect young people with their futures and their communities. Memphis youth need help to develop critical and creative thinking skills and to be fully connected to diverse communities where opportunities for growth exist. Few high schools in Memphis currently have ongoing programs that provide students the time and support to form real relationships with adults, pursue their passions, explore new things in a safe environment, or learn in a way that feels purposeful.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application:

Separation and Scarcity: University of Memphis law professor and native Memphian Daniel Kiel explores inequalities in local education

Separation and Scarcity: University of Memphis law professor and native Memphian Daniel Kiel explores inequalities in local education (video)

Education Today: Future tenants of Crosstown Concourse reflect on what students need to be successful

Education Today (video)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

What does the research say?

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

In November 2015, a group of Memphis students, parents, educators, and community members collaborated on an application to the XQ Super School Project on behalf of Crosstown High. We are thrilled to announce that we have made it to the round of finalists! From an initial pool of more than 700 applicants, Crosstown High is in the final fifty candidates vying for one of at least five $10 million prizes. In celebration, we are kicking off the Twelve Days of XTH by releasing portions of our XQ application every day between now and August 1. The content of this work is the foundation on which we will continue to build the high school, but we’ll need your help in the coming months to shape it into the school that Memphis students need and deserve.

In the first — or “Discover” — phase of the XQ application, our team was asked to research the science of adolescent learning, in order to answer this question:

What are your top three insights about how young people learn — the insights you’re most passionate about bringing to life in your school?

Through hundreds of hours of research, including exploring best practices in local learning, we found that students are deeply ambitious and crave opportunities to discover and contribute. They are frustrated because current status quo learning environments make it difficult to foster creativity, innovation, or collaboration in a broader culture that evolves so quickly. We believe that Crosstown High can enrich adolescents’ learning by acting upon three key insights from our research.

The Science of Adolescent Learning team met in November to review their research.

The Science of Adolescent Learning team at a November meeting to review their research.

Kids learn best when their HUMAN NEEDS are met. In “The Science of Scarcity,” and numerous other studies, we learned that scarcity — of assets like food, relationships or even time — diminishes mental capacity. Schools must work to alleviate the stressors that create obstacles to student success.

Kids learn best when they’re ENGAGED where they are, EMPOWERED to envision where they want to go, and CHALLENGED to do the work it will take to make this happen. Kids don’t come to school to simply receive education and knowledge.They want, in all parts of their lives, to feel successful, make progress, and help generate new knowledge. Many resources, including “Rethinking Student Motivation,” showed that methods that provide instruction at the “just above” level for individual students are far more effective than the lockstep delivery method of traditional schools. Mastery-based learning, responsive online tools, and adults who listen and respond to students where they are, all have the potential to achieve these goals.

Kids learn and grow best when their work has MEANING. From sources like Springpoint Public Schools’ white paper “Positive Youth Development & School Design,” we learned that “Taking on challenges, having authentic responsibilities and making real decisions – with real consequences –capture the essence of learning in adolescence.”

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application:

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How They Learn: A Visual Bibliography – Explore some of the research that led to our insights.

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Learning in Memphis – Best practices in learning across the local landscape. (video)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.

Crosstown High is an XQ Finalist!

By | 12 Days of XTH, About XTH | No Comments

In November 2015, a group of Memphis students, parents, educators, and community members collaborated on an application to the XQ Super School Project on behalf of Crosstown High. We are thrilled to announce that we have made it to the round of finalists! From an initial pool of more than 700 applicants, Crosstown High is in the final fifty candidates vying for one of at least five $10 million prizes. In celebration, we are kicking off the Twelve Days of XTH by releasing portions of our XQ application every day between now and August 1. The content of this work is the foundation on which we will continue to build the high school, but we’ll need your help in the coming months to shape it into the school that Memphis students need and deserve.

The Memphis XQ Team

“Ok, this is a little crazy, but hear me out for a second….”

Crazy or not, the people who received that first email — parents, students, educators, business executives, philanthropists, workforce developers, youth workers and more — responded. A week later, a diverse group of more than two dozen gathered to hear how the  XQ Super School Project — an open contest to design the “high school of the future” — might help us create a renaissance in education at Crosstown Concourse.

But let’s back up.

Crosstown Concourse itself started as kind of a crazy idea by the local businessman who owned the building and his university professor pal and a local artist. Together, the group founded Crosstown Arts, which hosted a series of competitions to engage our community around a vision for the renaissance of the hulking building in our city center.

But let’s back up even further.

Because the inspiration for Crosstown Concourse actually came from the Renaissance (capital “R”). In 13th century Florence, a similarly diverse group, also made up of a businessman, an academic, and an artist initiated a competition to design a covering for the city’s massive cathedral — open for fifty years to the elements because no one could figure out how to design its enormous dome. The community responded with a solution and architecture took a leap forward.

The legacy of renaissance, or rebirth, through the process of discovery, design and development by a team of concerned citizens is strong at Crosstown Concourse and has carried through into the creation of Crosstown High. The XQ application asked us to go through a process with three distinct phases — Discover, Design and Develop — to create a school that would meet the needs of our future students and community.

The Memphis XQ team (partially pictured here) often met at CoWork Memphis to work on our application for Crosstown High.

The Memphis XQ team (partially pictured here) often met at CoWork Memphis to work on our application for Crosstown High. (Photo credit: Ethan Fowler)

In the Discover phase we asked XQ team members — ultimately numbering upwards of sixty people — to fan out into the community. They interviewed or surveyed almost 300 students, educators, youth developers, and business leaders. The researchers among us spent countless hours scouring the web for the latest findings on how young people learn best and where it was already happening, in Memphis and elsewhere.

In the Design phase we looked for patterns in the data, created prototypes and tested them with local young people, some of whom were XQ team members themselves. This feedback was incorporated into our design iterations until we arrived at a cohesive vision for a school that would meet our unique needs.

After learning in April that we’d moved on to the semi-final round, we started in on the the Develop phase of the XQ application, putting flesh on the bones of our school design. We worked with both the original XQ team and others brought on to help in the areas of school design, charter application writing, public strategy, and community engagement.

The team that is working on creating Crosstown High is simultaneously professional and passionate. We were inspired by the renaissance of both a magnificent cathedral and a darkened warehouse to create a renaissance in education in Memphis, Tennessee.

A sampling of the attachments to our XQ application (click to play):

The XTH Team Thanks XQ!

The XTH Team Thanks XQ!

TEDx talk by Crosstown Concourse Co-Leader Todd Richardson on the origins of Crosstown Concourse

TEDx talk by Crosstown Concourse Co-Leader Todd Richardson on the origins of Crosstown Concourse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: Some XQ application elements have been lightly edited for clarity or brevity.