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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Starting a school — slowly

In a New Orleans charter high’s first year, students beat the state school performance average, writes Matt Candler, a board member, on Forbes. Eighty-four percent of students earned technical certificates that lead to $20 a hour jobs. How did Rooted‘s founders do it? Slowly.

Education reformers tend to be impatient, writes Candler. Rooted’s founder, Jonathan Johnson, spent nearly three years planning the new school, which focuses on preparing students for tech careers.

Johnson “tried to imagine what a few hours of Rooted might be like for students,” writes Candler. “Then he hosted pop-up experiences for a few students at a time based on that trimmed-down definition of what made Rooted unique.”

Feedback from the pop-ups persuaded him to teach “industry-grade coding skills.”

He partnered with Operation Spark, a local code school, to see what a week-long version of Rooted might look like. They ran a series of summer camps to test it out. This led to major changes in the school design – changes you see in that amazing year one stat of 84%. A third trial included recruiting 15 students at a local high school to voluntarily enroll in a semester-long version of Rooted. They stayed enrolled in their home school and spent the semester in a small cohort – a micro-school inside a larger campus – trying out a more advanced version of the curriculum.

School founders with big ideas should start small, writes Candler. Let students and families play “a co-design role.”

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