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District seeks design leaders to craft new high school models

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Despite closing 24 schools last spring, the School District of Philadelphia is looking to open new innovative high schools in the next few years.

Over the summer the District advertised in Education Week for two “school design leaders” to “create and launch two innovative school models.”

The online application period has closed, but according to the job post, the new hires will work over the 2013-14 school year to design an innovative school model that could be ready to launch in September 2014. Part of the motivation for the new high schools is to better incorporate the new and more demanding Common Core curriculum.

The two positions tentatively have funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Opportunity by Design Challenge Initiative. The new school models would be based on the design principles established by the Carnegie Corporation’s Education Program. Most of the corporation’s initial investments have been in the growth of charter schools that, according to their website, provide “an emphasis on the use of technology and other innovations to provide more personalized and effective instruction.”

“[In 10 years], high schools will not look very much at all what they look like now,” said Deputy Superintendent Paul Kihn in an August interview with the Notebook.

“We fully anticipate 20 or 30 different models of schools that take more or less advantage of technology, partnerships in the community, and youth development work.”

A model for the Carnegie program was the initiative in New York City starting a decade ago that involved the closing and replacement of 20 large neighborhood high schools that had high dropout rates by 200 smaller secondary schools, mostly located in the same buildings, but each with its own theme and pedagogical approach.

The District itself has launched a number of schools in the past decade that have introduced innovative school models. Science Leadership Academy, Constitution High School, High School of the Future, and the four Kensington High Schools are some of the smaller, theme-focused secondary schools in the District.

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