RTHS began its first years as a fully Flipped school. The Flipped model allowed lectures to be watched outside the classroom, freeing class time for students to practice problems, do labs or engage in other activities directly with the teacher. It also allowed class time to focus on skills like team work and problem solving. Flipping was chosen as a way to accelerate learning for all students in the school.
When we chose Flipping, we also intended to grow to having a host software system that would help students learn about their own learning styles, and would enable their Seminar teacher to look over their shoulder and counsel them. In 2014 we connected with a network of California schools already working in this model, and so in 2014-2015 we tested the CA model with targeted class sections - with great results! Students who struggled to learn finally learned how to learn, and students who were very accelerated were able to leap ahead as fast as they needed and wanted to. This pilot became the basis for our transition into Personalized Learning.
RTHS is now a Personalized Learning school. RTHS Personalized Learning is a blend of three tools
Content Learning through competency-based progression through playlists of material created and/or curated by our teachers
Projects ranging across a wide variety of experiences, from Socratic seminars, science labs and essays to traditional "projects"
Mentoring where staff work with a student to ensure their success and growth over their four years at RTHS
At first glance, Personalized Learning can seem complex, primarily because of the software tool that runs it. It is very robust, especially behind the scenes for teachers! But ultimately, PL is an expansion of the Flipped Learning model with which RTHS began - with one fundamental and transformational shift. Students are offered all the support in the world to learn how to learn. That responsibility is placed on them - with visual feedback, constant teacher interaction, and a Mentor. The revolutionary part of Personalized Learning is that...they all do.
Please click here to visit our page Try Personalized Learning, where you can experience learning as if from the PLP yourself!
RTHS draws upon the work of the Contemporary Science Center, a program that nurtured students’ enthusiasm for careers in science and math, and of Raleigh Charter High School in Raleigh and its Flex program, which lets students work with the people and institutions of downtown Raleigh as primary resources. RTHS has expanded upon this work by ensuring every student, in every class, is engaged in deeper learning experiences 70% of their learning time.
Projects are a key way that teachers do this with students. In a project-based classroom the problem to be solved is what drives the learning experience, and it is what enables the students to dive deeper into more areas of learning than just pure content. Like in the corporate or research worlds, students work in mixed teams to create, discover, invent, and share something of real value. Students begin with a challenge. They then gather the skills and tasks they will need in order to address this challenge, while teachers design workshops and activities to guide the students in doing so. Each project ends with a document, presentation, video, or essay - something that shows the accumulation of skills and depth of learning of the student.
In our Personalized Learning model, this process is developing Cognitive Skills. At RTHS we design projects, teach skills and, importantly, evaluate students on a suite of Cognitive Skills. The CogSkills rubric was designed at Stanford University for broad middle and high school application. Our teachers modify this measurement tool for their plans and disciplines, but the foundational rubric guides student development over their four years at RTHS. It is a fundamental piece in preparing them for college.
RTHS projects have included using algebra skills to design a new RDU airport runway, translating a Greek play into a modern movie musical via digital media, and investigating a school ‘crime’ through math and chemistry labs in the morning in order to build evidence for a student-run mock trial held in the afternoon.
In 2015, RTHS' students took the OECD Test for Schools Based on PISA and ranked 2nd in the world (if we were a country) in Reading and Science, and 5th in Math, on this test of problem solving and cognitive skills. #WeBeatFinland
Real "primary source" experiences with the STEM experts in the companies around Research Triangle Park are a key part of the academic program for RTHS students. Students have the opportunity to have Lunch wih a Scientist, or visit research labs at UNC School of Biomedical Sciences. Local engineers and biological scientists visit our classrooms to augment projects. A select group of students do undergraduate research at NCSU every summer, a program we look to expand to our other surrounding universities. Company visits are scheduled annually, and job shadowing opportunities are embraced. In addition, we are working with RTP's US2020 program to expand our neighboring company interactions to deeper experiences like internships and on-site projects. RTHS is located in the midst of RTP specifically for the chance for our students to interact with the STEM experts here, and we work each year to increase those chances for all students.