Shifting to skills-focused graduation requirements

Posted by on Jul 1, 2019 in General | No Comments

One of the most exciting, and scary, things we’re working on at the Workshop School in the School District of Philadelphia this summer is a pivot to new graduation requirements based on the NGLC MyWays framework. We’ve always believed that the broader set of competencies expressed by MyWays is critical and that we need to focus on helping students build those skills just as much as content knowledge.…

Teaching community and knowing students

Posted by on Apr 3, 2019 in General | No Comments

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the SXSW EDU conference in Austin, Texas. One evening, friends invited me to join them at a brewery on the east side of town. It was unseasonably cold all week, but they had the heat lamps out so when I arrived everyone was sitting around a picnic table outside.…

Mastering process in competency-based learning

Posted by on Jan 10, 2019 in General | No Comments

One of the tenets of mastery/competency-based learning is the idea that students’ progress is based on what they show that they know and can do. In the case of high schools, for example, you graduate when your work shows that you have mastered a set of content or skills that would constitute being college or career ready.…

Creating Space

Posted by on Jul 13, 2018 in General | No Comments

Like most people I know, I’m deep into the World Cup right now. There’s so much I love about soccer, but my favorite thing is that games often turn on where the ball isn’t. You can actually watch green space shift and move around the pitch as a match unfolds.…

Diversity, equity, and nextgen learning

Posted by on Apr 19, 2018 in General | No Comments

Philadelphia, where our school is located, has the dubious distinction of being on two top-ten lists you don’t want to be on: it is one of the most racially segregated cities in the nation and one of its most economically divided. And it has plenty of company: New York, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee are all on both lists, and Chicago and Boston aren’t far behind.

Speak, John, Speak: Feeling the Power of Exhibitions at the Workshop School

Posted by on Jan 22, 2018 in General | No Comments

By Michael Clapper, Workshop School co-founder

Like many progressive schools, the students at the Workshop School, a non-selective high school in the School District of Philadelphia, present their work at the conclusion of each quarter.  By the time their sophomore year ends, they’ve presented eight times. Sophomore year finishes with the Gateway project, where they declare which of the upper houses they’d like to try: internship, college, construction, or shop.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 3)

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in General | No Comments

We focus intently on the achievement gap because we see closing it as the best way to combat poverty and inequality. As I argued here and here, this gets us into trouble when we define achievement too narrowly. But it actually oversimplifies poverty and inequality even more than it oversimplifies learning.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 2)

Posted by on Mar 21, 2016 in General | No Comments

I didn’t really know it at the time, but this graph would change the way I thought about the achievement gap.

CWRA result

Before opening the Workshop School, for two years we ran a small pilot project called the Sustainability Workshop. It was basically an alternative senior year program. We enrolled about 30 seniors a year from three neighborhood high schools, and ran them through an intensive one-year, project-based experience.…

Rethinking the achievement gap (Part 1)

Posted by on Mar 19, 2016 in General | No Comments

There are a lot of ways to think about equity, and a lot of ways to think about achievement. In ed reform world, the most common is what we call the achievement gap: the quantifiable difference in test performance between poor and middle class kids. This concept has done a lot of good in highlighting inequities in our school systems, and creating a sense of urgency for change.

Heard in the “teachers’ lounge”

Posted by on Jan 13, 2016 in General | No Comments

Well, not really. We have one little office with a six-person conference table. There are four of us who share it as workspace (including the Principal), but it’s also the place where staff come during prep, and therefore doubles as the “teachers’ lounge.” (And besides, “teachers’ lounge” has certain connotations. Like, for example, the suggestion that teachers are “lounging.” So no, not really a teachers’ lounge at all.)

But anyway, one of the great things about all of us having to cram into this little space is that our conversations kind of smash into one another.…