New Directory of Innovative School Models Aims to Encourage Experimentation
There’s a greater appetite to try new educational models as schools try to adjust to the social and emotional needs of students returning from periods of pandemic lockdowns and other disruptions of the past few years.
But before schools can try out new models, schools have to know what’s out there.
A new online library called the “Innovative Models Exchange,” unveiled Monday, hopes to give educators an easy place to quickly consider some possibilities. The exchange—developed by the nonprofit Transcend Education with funding from the Gates Foundation—allows schools to search through a database of “innovative” models that Transcend says are ready to be adopted by schools.
The nonprofit hopes that the database will shake up the education system.
For more than a century, the American education system has relied on the same educational model, says Jenee Henry Wood, head of learning at Transcend. And Wood says that model doesn’t make room for alternatives.
Transcend views its mission as replacing that model, and working against a one-size-fits-all approach to American schools. What’s needed, the group argues, is a cluster of new models that empower schools to innovate.
Investigating new models for education would typically require a school to have the right connections—to even know that other schools are trying out new ways of learning—as well as the finances and time to travel to those schools.
Having an online database will allow schools to be more exploratory, Transcend argues.
The exchange currently showcases 36 models vetted by the nonprofit. Examples include whole child learning models, blended learning models and high-dose tutoring ones. For each, there’s an overview of the model, along with notes about the model’s design, existing supports for schools looking to implement the model and why Transcend considers it to be innovative, along with other information.
Ultimately, the nonprofit hopes that the exchange will speed up the adoption and development of attempts to transform education by making it cheaper and easier to explore them.
“Schools, typically, in this country, don’t have enough of an innovation culture. We have an opportunity to create that now,” says Alan Safran, CEO of Saga Education, a high-dose tutoring non-profit.
High-dose tutoring—a form of intensive, small group tutoring—is one of the innovation areas collected on Transcend’s exchange, and Saga Education is one of the models featured in that collection.
Proponents of the approach say that high-dose tutoring would help confront the literacy crisis and would also help ease the burden on overworked teachers. But it has taken time for districts to hear them out.
Few schools had adopted tutoring models at all until this year, when more than 40 percent of districts said they plan to spend some money on tutoring, Safran says. But, although many school districts have earmarked federal relief dollars for tutoring, some of that money may be going towards less-tested methods of tutoring, like 24/7 online tutoring, which Safran cautions against.
It’s also important to get the transition into tutoring models right, he says. While some districts may be eager to rush in these days, Safran argues that it’s best to introduce the tutoring slowly—starting small—if it’s going to be a system-wide change.
Safran sees the new exchange as a tool for advancing evidence-based tutoring.
Platforms like the exchange model, Safran says, make it easier for district leaders to connect with programs that have already been vetted.
“It’s a door opener for us, which is a big deal when there’s so much noise out there,” Safran says.