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Education Opinion

Ten Promising Models and What They Mean for Leaders

By Tom Vander Ark — September 23, 2013 3 min read

I’m spending a couple days with the most thoughtful folks in leadership development. We’ll spend part of the time looking at new school models and asking
what it means for preparing the next generation of school leaders. Following are 10 school models we’ll be discussing:

1. The Education Achievement Authority (EAA) is Michigan’s school improvement district (like the LA RSD and TN ASD). It operates 12 schools in Detroit that share a
student-centered competency-based school model and platform, Buzz. For more see:

2. Cornerstone Charter Academy, Detroit: 3 blends under one roof with a strong character development
program. For more see:

Cornerstone Anchors Detroit’s Blended Future

Detroit: Pulling Out of the Death Spiral

3. Summit Public Schools: innovative blend, co-developed platform, sophisticated talent development. For more see:

4. Houston Apollo 20: best practices of top networks infused with blended strategies. For more see:

5. Rocketship Education: top performing elementary network combines engaging and adaptive components with great
teaching. For more see:

6. Bracken STEAM, Las Vegas: dynamic component blend (i.e., lots of apps on Edmodo) leveraging grade span
teacher leadership. For more see:

7. DSST Public Schools: best high poverty STEM featuring big question, deeper learning, and strong character
development. For more see:

8. Flex networks including Nexus, AdvancePath, & iPrep: combining online curriculum
with onsite support and application. For more see:

9. Career Path High School at Davis Applied Technology Center: Early college flex plus model featuring job
training. For more see: Career Path High: Career & College Ready Flex.

10. Reynoldsburg High School, eSTEM Academy: innovative big blogs combine team projects and individual
supports. For more see:

A deep dive into these new school models suggests 10 element--most common to all of the models:



  • Student-centered environments

  • Personalized learning

  • Competency-based progressions

  • Adaptive & engaging components

  • Deeper learning & character development

  • Rapid & flexible deployments

  • Dynamic models evolving with new tools

  • Platform-centric scaling

  • Leveraging teacher Leadership

  • Best Practices & Innovation

Last week, I explored the Leadership Implications of the Brave New Blended World and
suggested that, in addition to personal effectiveness, school leaders need to be strong process managers (e.g., Doug Lemov) and design thinkers
and disruptors (e.g., Clay Christensen). That’s a tall order so I made five suggestions that may make the job more doable:



  • State policies that allow reciprocal performance-based certification;

  • Preparation partnerships
    that aggregate demand and insist on focused and applied learning opportunities;

  • Specialization
    that recognize that some folks are better instructional leaders while others are great in design and startup mode; some folks appreciate the structure
    of KIPP while others thrive on the flexibility of Big Picture;

  • Rich and ongoing on-the-job learning opportunities, field trips and broadening experiences; and

  • Distributed and coordinated R&D that shares the load across a district or network and phases it over time.

The shift to digital holds great promise for students and teachers but it will be challenging and confusing for leaders. As the toolset improves, it will
become somewhat easier to create high performing platform-centric districts and networks. In the meantime, EdLeaders have a lot of conversations to lead.

The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.