Day Two #TCEA13 - Part 2

After leaving Chad and Chris, I headed over to see a childhood friend, Eli Crow, who is the Superintendent of Innovation Academy in Tyler.  This district is completely project-based and Eli brought a couple of his teachers to help him paint an amazing picture.  Here are some of my favorite (and most shocking!) points and quotes:

  • You can't just buy curriculum.  Teachers won't buy into curriculum that is just handed to them.
  • Don't answer questions.  Every question gets a question in response.
  • At Innovation Academy, there is no front of the classroom.  No mounted white board.  Everything is on wheels.  The student desks are designed so that they cannot be physically put into rows!  (Love this!)
  • Every single lesson is project based and every single lesson is designed with the standards in mind.  Report cards indicate mastery of the standards, not a letter or number grade!
  • Someone from the audience asked one of the teachers, "What are you going to do about standardized testing?"  The teacher replied, "We're going to take it.  We're just going to use a pencil that day."  (Can I get that on a t-shirt?!)

Now I am going to blow your mind.  Are you ready?  The kids are only at school 4 hours a day.  Yep.  I'm serious.  In the afternoon, the students - beginning in 3rd grade - are released in the afternoons to go do independent study.  For some students this is at home, for some it's an after-school program and for others it's with friends or family members.  {I know - this sounds like la la land, right?!}  Eli said the goal here is to get the kids used to self-directed, self-driven learning at an early age so they are prepared for college.  Wow.  This also leaves the afternoon open for teachers to do intense planning and preparation for their PBL lessons.  Double WOW!  

I would really love to hear your thoughts on this academy and it's set-up.  Do you think this is realistic? Do you think this could work for your school??