This is the third in a three-part series on Da Vinci Schools in California. Start the series here.
Da Vinci won a $10 million XQ ‘Super School’ grant to create RISE, a competency-based school for homeless students, foster youth, and other diverse learners in connection with a national competition to reimagine high school. It’s designed around four themes: care, connect, challenge, and create.
RISE is drawing from the best of the best ideas from Da Vinci and the best from alternative education. It is organized around eight pillars: flexible scheduling, advisory communities, hybrid learning experience, competency-based, project-based, culturally-relevant curriculum & instruction, enrichment opportunities, jobs, internships, and career-readiness. RISE offers Da Vinci’s rich, real-world learning with strategies to respond to the needs of students. They have offices in multiple locations, including social service providers so students can stop by to meet with staff. There is a rich array of support services including counseling, case management, tutoring, and job readiness training.
RISE is designed for anyone who has had their education disrupted and needs highly individualized scheduling and pathways. This includes over-age, under-credited students; those with medical challenges; those with jobs; and those that are homeless or have chaotic lives. When students come to RISE, the initial focus is on building relationships and understanding the teen. Through multiple mediums – drawing, talking, writing, video – students tell the story of who they are. A RISE teacher explained that there isn’t a formal on-boarding protocol, as it would likely trigger resistance. Community building, described as “teachers and students wrapping around each other,” also begins immediately. They might try to collect student records, but that can take time. Thus teachers use observations and student work to get an idea of where students are in their learning. Although RISE was just getting started when I visited, I could definitely see evidence of a highly personalized approach in which students are working along personal learner continua. Students were already describing appreciation for the level of support and care at RISE.
The individualized approach at RISE means that every day is different. A teacher explained, “The only thing that is the same is that I come with a purpose and I leave with a purpose. Every student is different. What they need or are learning is different every single day. That means what I’m learning is different every day.”
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