Is this model the future of college and career readiness?

A career academy high school puts 21st century skills to the test with on-the-job training

North of Los Angeles, not far from the city of Ventura, the brand new Rancho Campana High School sits on a California campus fit for the set of a teen movie, where spacious, airy classrooms open — via retractable glass-paneled garage doors — onto sun soaked courtyards and outdoor learning spaces with sweeping views of the neighboring Camarillo Hills. It’s a place where all the furniture is on casters, to be reconfigured with ease, and where every building boasts a computer lab and a media commons.

If the $77 million campus, completed earlier this summer, is stunning, it’s nothing compared to what’s going on inside. Following a novel college and career readiness model, Rancho Campana divides itself into separate learning academies, designed to immerse students in one of three distinct career fields: arts and entertainment, health services, and applied engineering.

The school is obviously the newest showpiece of the Oxnard Union High School District, but it’s also of a continuation of the work began four years ago by then-newly arrived superintendent Dr. Gabe Soumakian, who has always cast an eye toward the future. “When I got here in 2011, that was one of my first projects,” Soumakian said. “To really think about the learning space that we were going to create, and the tools and resources we’d need.”…Read More

Transforming learning with physical spaces

Physical environments have a large impact on student learning, research says

learning-spacesSchool leaders implement new technology initiatives and update teaching and learning goals regularly, but sometimes, the actual physical learning spaces in districts are overlooked.

Today, more and more research points to the increased student achievement and engagement resulting from redesigning learning spaces to be more flexible and collaborative.

Redesigning physical learning spaces can contribute to “brain-friendly learning,” said A.J. Juliani, education and technology innovation specialist in Pennsylvania’s Upper Perkiomen School District, during an Alliance for Excellent Education webinar on learning space design. In a brain-friendly classroom, “the space is flexible [and] mobile. [It’s] a place where students can get up and move around—where learning processes occur.”…Read More

New Florida school is high-tech—and eco-friendly

Construction of Palencia—which incorporates systems designed to keep energy, operating, and maintenance costs down—wrapped up this summer.

When students entered Palencia Elementary School in St. Augustine, Fla., for the first time in late August, they stepped into a high-tech, futuristic school focused on environmental sustainability.

About 500 kindergarten through fifth-grade students crossed the xeriscaped campus of St. Johns County’s newest school, which will emphasize a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum.

“We want to make the building a teaching tool,” Principal Don Campbell said.…Read More

Anatomy of a school construction project

Glen Allen High School, Henrico County’s newest school building, opened in September 2010.

(Editor’s note: This article marks the debut of a new section in eSchool News, called Building Excellence, that will provide news and information to help school and district leaders as they plan, design, construct, and equip leading-edge facilities.)

Before a ribbon is sliced by comically oversized scissors, before a brick is laid or an architect is chosen, before voters approve funding for a sparkling new school building, there is only a plan.

The doors to a new school are thrown open by students, parents, and teachers many years after economic and population growth call for more classrooms in a city, town, or county. Researchers and planners use a district’s public relations apparatus to start talks with residents, myriad public forums are held, committees are formed, reports are issued, school boundaries are rearranged, architectural firms are interviewed, and finally, sometimes after five years, construction begins.…Read More