We decided to pursue the idea of a smaller learning community for several reasons. First, it will allow us to test-drive some of the more radical ideas (flexible bell scheduling, cross-curricular projects, community involvement in education, etc.) on a smaller and more manageable scale before trying to implement them in the larger school setting. Second, it will (ideally) provide us with a model school for peer observation and research so that teachers can see project-based learning in action. Third, it will allow us to target some of our most disadvantaged subgroups and work more intensively with them than a larger environment would allow.
This coming year (2014-2015) is the design year, so there are not a lot of details in the plan just yet. Currently, we intend to start in 9th grade with 4 sections of students. At least three of these sections will be from the Summer Bridge, a program that helps identified at-risk students transition into high school. There will be four core staff members: English, Math, Science and Art who will work together to design large-scale cross-curricular projects that all students work on. In order to facilitate these cross-curricular connections, the school year will be broken into units and each unit will have a theme and a core project that encapsulates the learning from all subject areas.
It's a big ambitious plan and there is still so much to be worked out, but I am very excited to be working on the creation of something with so much positive potential for student achievement and school change.