Leadership Public Schools (LPS) is a network of four small high-poverty high schools in Richmond, Oakland, Hayward, and San Jose, California. These locations (and nearby Summit Prep and Downtown College Prep) are the best example of great high schools combining the historic benefits of small rigorous and supportive environments with the potential of incorporating personal digital learning.
Two things that make the LPS blend unique are its commitment to Open Education Resources (OER) and its success in developing powerful applications.
In a case study developed for the Hewlett Foundation, superintendent Louise Bay Waters said, "All LPS students take college preparatory courses and 97 percent or more of the graduates have been accepted into college by graduation."
Bay Waters empowers teachers to develop instructional materials and tools. The staff has produced online textbooks, online math programs, a data reporting system and a clicker mobile app. Many are shared through CK-12 Foundation and New Schools Venture Fund.
LPS is structured as an R&D network built around two big ideas that leverage talent, technology, and open resources: collaborative innovation and distributed incubation.
- Collaborative innovation is a third way, somewhere in between a top-down mandated curriculum and "let a thousand flowers bloom" of individual teacher-created curricula. The talented staff collaborate to "build, share and continually improve a common and comprehensive spine of curriculum, assessment, data and access/remediation resources for core high school courses" - leveraging content from partners like CK12.
- Distributed innovation recognizes that "no one school can take on all of the innovation required for sustained breakthrough results." LPS "distributes the incubation of new practices and products across the four schools depending on need, interest, and talent."
In a process that sounds exciting but potentially chaotic, LPS has numerous innovations underway all the time. "Each idea is designed, adopted, or adapted by a teacher team. It is then prototyped, distributed to a larger group of teachers, and iterated through a collaborative process of feedback webinars," said Bay Waters.
To address the biggest barrier to college readiness, LPS prototyped an online algebra program that CK-12 enhanced. The next generation of FlexAlgebra--a modular, interactive version--will be available from CK12 on August 1, 2012 and FlexGeometry, built off of LPS curriculum, will be available in the Fall.
LPS developed ExitTicket, a classroom assessment and competency tracking system. In the words of one of the teacher developers, "Kids are crazy invested around here and it's awesome how well this works." It may have something to do with the powerful data visualization tools built in to ExitTicket that informs and empowers students as well as teachers.
It's usually not a good idea for schools to create software but Dr. Waters has attracted some really talented teachers and real software developers.
LPS has a culture of pervasive data use. Instant feedback, small failures, and many wins create confidence and success. Instructional data is used to create immediate interventions in a safe, supported and personalized environment. Goal setting and choice create engagement and independence. High standards, competition, and celebrated growth create motivation and accountability.