New Article: High School 2.0

The School of the Future is a public high school in Philadelphia that opened its doors in September 2006. It was designed (with assistance from Microsoft) to feature technology and a learner-driven curriculum, but while Microsoft helped launch the school, it did not pay for it. “The company deliberately tried to work within the resource and bureaucratic limits of the existing system, determined to create something that was scalable and replicable in other big school districts,” explains Dale Mezzacappa in “High School 2.0,” which appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Education Next.

In its first three years, the school was plagued by leadership turnover, hiring difficulties, and wavering support for its mission from the school district, Mezzacappa reports. Now in its fourth year of operation, the school is having trouble attracting students; built for 750, enrollment is below 500 today.  “At this point,” one teacher says, “the School of the Future exists only in the minds of a few educators. We’re fighting against a leviathan.”

The experiment has been a learning experience for Microsoft. “We’ve learned that we have to prepare for a very long journey,” says Mary Cullinane, who has directed the project for Microsoft.

NB: The EdNext article was adapted from a paper prepared for a conference hosted by AEI and Microsoft in May 2009. The conference papers will appear in a book published by Harvard Education Press.

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