Where in the world is the Crosstown High team?

As we work to develop one of the most innovative high schools in the country, the Crosstown High team is looking to best practices at schools far and wide. Sometimes we’re scouring their websites or getting on the phone with their leaders, but thanks to the generous grant awarded to us by XQ America last year, we’ve been lucky enough to get to visit a number of these schools. Here’s a sampling of what we’ve learned…

At Amy Biehl High School in downtown Albuquerque, we learned how they help an incredibly diverse student body come together as a community through advisory groups -- small groups of students paired with a staff member who get to know each other well during the year. Service is also a huge part of the school’s culture. Hands-on service learning projects get students out into their community on a regular basis.

Elsewhere in Albuquerque, local industries are actually driving the curriculum of the schools in the Leadership High School Network. Industry partners pitch project ideas to teachers and students, who then shape them into meaningful, hands-on learning opportunities that not only cover the state-required standards, but (more importantly) ensure that students are graduating with the knowledge, skills and dispositions their future employers (and community!) will need. Check out this great video about one of the Leadership schools.

Students at Research Triangle High School in Durham, NC, all have personalized learning plans, which allow their school to serve a wide range of learners by giving them the chance to move at their own pace through content and projects. It also helps prepare students for college as they work to become independent, self-guided learners.

At our fellow XQ Super School, Iowa BIG in Cedar Rapids, they’ve discovered that the project-based learning sweet spot can be found when the project is interdisciplinary, is something a student is passionate about, and has an external audience who actually cares about the work being done. Iowa BIG students have done such an amazing job with the projects they’ve taken on -- like building a virtual reality exhibit for a local history museum -- that they now have more projects being pitched to them by local businesses than they can take on!

STEM School Chattanooga students are also learning through real-world projects, but first, they’re learning about themselves. Using personality testing, students learn to appreciate what makes them unique and, in turn, that the differences between themselves and their peers -- which can cause conflict in less self-aware young people -- can actually help a project go more smoothly.

We know that Crosstown High won’t end up looking exactly like any of these schools, but we also know that it will be infinitely better because of all we’re learning from our friends around the country. Thanks to all these amazing schools for sharing their gems with us!

Ginger Spickler