Studies Highlight Importance of Successful Student-Centered Learning Implementation

For years at Nellie Mae Education Foundation, we've known how important and impactful student-centered learning is because we've seen it in action in the districts we fund. Last year, we were so proud to fund a series of four case studies that show the importance of successful student-centered learning implementation on today's education systems. Written by The Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), the research looks closely at four California high schools that use either the Linked Learning or EnvisionSchools model to achieve positive outcomes for all their students, who are predominately low-income students and of color. These signature models of student-centered learning can inform efforts to address the national opportunity gap through student-centered practices.

The City Arts & Technology High School (CAT), using the Envision Schools model, is a small charter school that supports academic rigor by requiring that all students complete the necessary coursework to get admitted to the University of California and California State University systems. The case study shows how CAT aligns its expectations and practices through promoting critical reflection, peer learning, and parent involvement, while encouraging collaboration, professional development and personalization.

Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS), which practices Linked Learning, has more independence than is common among district schools and as a result, has been able to create and implement its own vision for teaching and learning. The school offers a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that looks different from traditional academic instruction as students engage in hands-on, applied, and interdisciplinary experiences consistently infused with a health care focus. The DLMHS case study describes the unique strengths of the school's approach, the challenges and trade-offs the students have experienced, and the implications of DLMHS's experience for other schools seeking to implement different aspects of a student-centered approach.

Impact Academy, which also implemented the Envision School model, is using project-based teaching to foster strong academic growth and deep, meaningful learning experiences for its students. This case study goes in-depth to uncover the ways by which Impact Academy establishes, fosters, and builds upon its student-centered approach to education. The case includes descriptions of the school and its student outcomes, analysis of the curricular and pedagogical approach, and opportunities for teacher learning to support the school's instructional model. It also takes a close look at both the benefits and challenges associated with this particular approach to learning.

Life Academy, the second school to implement Linked Learning, is a small public high school that weaves a student-centeredness into nearly every aspect of its work and culture. The case study describes how Life Academy's focus on students drives every decision: what and how to teach authentically, which structures will equip students and teachers to know and believe in each other, and how to bring out the best of the students and their community. The case includes a description of the school and its outcomes, the major performance assessments, the college and career preparation curriculum, and the school's ongoing challenges.

Please check out all of these case studies on our resources page, here:

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