Why More and More High Schools Are Acting Like Startups | Fast Forward

A railroad bridge had become a rusty eyesore in Marion, Iowa, and a local firm was on the hunt for a new design. So Martin Gardner Architecture turned to high school students. A group of budding architects from Iowa BIG, which brings in students from seven Cedar Rapids area high schools to spend part of their day on intensive, real-world projects, designed a new bridge and presented the proposal to the city council, which is still considering multiple designs.

The juniors and seniors who participate in what Troy Miller, BIG’s director of strategic partnerships, calls the program’s “community crowdsourced” curriculum report more confidence in their communications and real-world problem-solving abilities. The 2-year-old program is one of a growing number across the country embracing a startup mentality as schools try to build a bridge to the careers of the future. More and more administrators have “innovation” in their job titles. At Education Reimagined, a Washington-based think tank, the term “student” is out and “learner” is in to describe a never-ending process. Businesses large and small are getting involved as partners.

College isn’t the end goal.

Stephen Spahn, chancellor, Dwight School

“Once we have an education system that supports adaptive, flexible learning spaces and places, we think it will spread like wildfire,” says Kelly Young of Education Reimagined, who notes that the past three years have seen huge growth in such environments. “It’s a matter of letting go [of] how we’ve done things and inventing the next generation of systems that recognize kids don’t need standardized education. They need flexible and adaptable education.”

A flexible model can conflict with measuring students based on standardized tests, and testing’s defenders say there’s no better way to measure students’ progress compared with a wide range of peers. “The jobs of the future aren’t going to be filling in bubble tests,…

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