What’s an Innovative Public School?

May 3, 2019

By Deborah Veney, Director of Policy and Communications

Nearly everyone has been inside a school. But, stepping into an innovativepublic school is a very different experience. It can make you rethink what learning looks like, and more importantly, what students are capable of doing. In an innovative public school, something magical happens.

With passionate teachers whose development is supported, and features like open spaces that lend themselves to experiential learning, it feels like possibilities are limitless. These schools are designed in every way to help students develop a strong academic foundation along with the other mindsets, skills and habits they’ll need for success in life.

It’s what we call an expanded definition of student success.

What does it look like? It looks like a place where students feel accepted, encouraged and challenged. It can be a district public school, or it might be a public charter school. It’s a place where educators can be creative and students are taking charge of their own learning. It’s a special place.

Inside innovative public schools, I’ve seen kindergartners learn to code — without touching a computer. I’ve seen a shy third grader find his voice and lead his class through morning meditation. I’ve seen the spark of joy in the eyes of a little girl who used to struggle with reading and now reads with confidence.

I’m on the team at NewSchools Venture Fund, and I feel fortunate to see these moments happen in innovative public schools all over the country. My colleagues are tasked with finding, funding and supporting educators and innovators with the vision and skill to reimagine learning.

One of my jobs is to tell their stories. And, it is one of my favorite things to do because I believe the more opportunities people have to see inside these schools, the more they will be inspired. In that spirit, I asked NewSchools CEO Stacey Childress to explain why we invest in innovative public schools, with a spotlight on one school in particular: Solar Preparatory School for Girls.

We created a video to tell the story even better. I encourage you to watch it. It says everything about why we invest in innovative public schools, and so much about what we stand for as an organization.

I visited Solar Prep last month and spent two days at this all-girls elementary school within the Dallas Independent School District. Solar Prep is one of the highest performing schools in Texas, based on every measure used by the state. They focus specifically on science, technology, engineering, art and math. And there’s also a healthy dose of girl power.

When I saw what these little girls were able to do and how they were able to express themselves and present their ideas, I was completely blown away. I think you will be, too, when you see what’s happening inside that building.