Alice Carlson Applied Learning Center in Fort Worth, Texas, was the first school in the district to open its doors to students from anywhere in the city. The school distinguishes itself by an emphasis on applied learning -- an approach to education that connects classwork to the world beyond school and allows children to make choices and assume responsibilities.
"We teach through projects," explains first-grade teacher Elizabeth Donaldson. "We don't just have children working from a book." Students learn data collection and graphing skills, for instance, while working on a local weather project. And, with the support of telecommunications technologies, they work with peers to integrate their findings into larger projects.
Teams of educators, parents, community members, and students share decision-making responsibilities for all aspects of the school's operation, from instructional programs to purchases. Alice Carlson operates on a year-round calendar with three-week breaks between nine-week regular sessions. During the spring and fall breaks, students can register for workshops taught by teachers or members of the community on topics ranging from enriched academics to arts and crafts.