Now in their second year of re-design, USD-379 schools are  now making changes to prototypes that have been tried out and are “pivoting” on those successes. They’ll soon launch those prototypes and pivots as permanent changes.

Lots of exciting changes are happening at every one of the district’s schools, but the most significant changes are occurring at the high school. CCCHS especially has taken steps to better prepare high-schoolers for the real world. High school is evolving into something we almost don’t recognize -- and frankly that’s a good thing.

Here are some of the most notable changes happening at CCCHS:

MORE INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY: There isn’t a “study hall” or “lunch period” anymore -- at least not as we know it. Instead students have time aside in their schedules that isn’t a class where they can do everything they need to do from study to exercise to eating lunch. The school first tested this concept with a “Tiger Hour” centered around the lunch period and stepped it up with a stepped schedule that provides “white space” for studying and meeting individualized needs throughout the day. The stepped schedule gives more flexibility in the class schedule too, but the main goal is to provide opportunity for self-management.

How kids have stepped up to the challenge has surprised us. Once they are adults, kids will have to manage their own time efficiently, but we weren’t certain they were ready to self-manage as teenagers. Redesign has proven that yes, most teenagers can do that if given the opportunity and the ones that don’t still have enough structure and adult supervision within the stepped schedule to ensure they made strides toward that goal.

PROJECT-BASED LEARNING: Teachers have known for years that students learn better with hand-on experiences, and to be fair, our schools have done a pretty good job of providing those opportunities even before re-design. But with the re-design effort, project-based learning has been put into overdrive, with every teacher, every subject using hands-on learning on a frequent basis.

This isn’t just happening at CCCHS, but at every school within the district from elementary ages up. The result has been kids excited about going to school and not wanting to miss class even when they’re sick. They’re more engaged in what they’re learning and they’re having fun doing it. Who could have guessed that math and English can actually be fun for every kid in the class? It’s happening now, and though we’re sure there are still a few kids who don’t want to go to school -- the number is far fewer than what it used to be.

A FUTURE KIDS CAN BE EXCITED ABOUT: High schools primarily prepare kids for one of two outcomes -- going to college or going to work, and it is fair to say they’ve fallen short on that by using the old industrial model that no longer makes sense in today’s world. It’s no surprise that a majority of kids would not be excited about the prospect of more school or the drudgery of work, so as a result after graduation, many kids still  know what they wanted to do for a career.

Schools haven’t stopped preparing kids for college and work after high school, but  redesign has changed how they’re doing it. Kids are now picking careers based on their interests and more are seeing more success after high school. Every high school kid is put on a pathway toward a career, and there’s buy-in from them because they make choices that determine what pathway they’re on. Getting kids to actively participate in what their future is going to be is always a good thing.

The high-school’s success in this area would not have been possible had the other schools not stepped up too. Now kids are being introduced to careers they might be interested in at the elementary level, exploring those careers at the middle school level, and by high school they’re taking active steps in preparation for that career. Those kids who don’t know what they’re going to do after school at least have a good idea of what they don’t want to do.

Lots of other good things have come out of redesign that we just don’t have room to mention, but we’ll add that they’ve all been good  -- whether it’s efforts toward social and character development, catching kids that slip through the cracks with a “Success Academy,” or something as simple as repainting the walls at Garfield and Lincoln Elementary with bright, cheerful colors.

When redesign was first proposed, we questioned whether it was necessary; but we supported the idea because never hurts to re-evaluate what you’re doing and try to improve -- especially when it comes to kids. We saw tremendous potential in it because it has been teacher-driven -- not something forced on them by an administrator. We are pleased to see so many good things come out of resign -- and we hope it doesn’t stop.  

-- Ryan D. Wilson