Students Learn to Make a Difference

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This is a great school,

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This is a great school, teachers and great kids (men and women by now). I wonder where all these kids are and what did they do with these wonderful teachings.

Instructional Designer

Inspiring and interesting. I

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Inspiring and interesting. I love the critical literacy activity!

Arleen Prairie (not verified)

Quality counts

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I am heartened when I see teachers and schools continuing what they believe in--in spite of the unbalanced load of mandated tests that spur the content and skills side of learning. Our schools can be crucibles for all students who actively learn, use higher order thinking and problem-solving. Unfortunately the NCLB has drastically influenced the downside of drills and skills.

Drills and skill--and test taking--are not the skills needed today. In order to meet the work world today, education must prepare children to think critically, be creative, solve problems in novel ways and work profitably as a team. Let's prepare our kids for the 21st century by implementing what we know about kid's learning and what is needed in creative thinkers and leaders for today's world and for their world tomorrow.

jem (not verified)

Multiple intelligence

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Would love to know more about where these teachers were trained. What an ideal school!

Karen North (not verified)

Sustainability and replication

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"They learned that people want to hear what they think and value their high quality work. They also learned about the rewards of investing a great deal of time and energy into one project. They learned to persevere and also how to plan projects and manage their time."

This should be the primary focus in all schools and I don't see LNCB putting resources into this kind of learning. This is exactly the kind of K-8 school I would like to be part of in Houston ISD. This is exactly the programs I have been working on in my 20 years of teaching computer science and math.

  • So, why is this fabulous school not replicated in every urban school district that has the same demographics? Not only do students want their work valued, so do teachers.
  • How long do you think it will be before their is a major paradigm shift out of the 20th century mode of teaching and assessing learning?
  • I see that HTML tags can be used in this post. When do you think computing literacy and learning to read and write code will be as important English literacy?
Elena (not verified)

What Happened to These Kids . . .

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I haven't seen this video in a few years. It brought up so many emotions.

These students (my babies; I taught them for 3 years) graduated from ASCEND in 2004. I officially conducted research on them through high school, because I was a little obsessed with them and had to know what happened once they left us. I also wanted to know what the effect was of all this project-based, real-world learning -- on their academic development as well as in other areas of their lives.

They went to all different kinds of high schools -- from the huge traditional high school to new ones that took radically different approaches to schooling.

Last spring, I went to the graduation ceremonies for the majority of these students. As far as numbers go, I lost contact with two of the 48 I had taught. Of the remainder, 39 graduated from high school; in comparison to overall district graduation rates, this was very high.

Many of the students you see in this video are now in college. Huber Trenado, who spoke on the Today Show, is in his 2nd year at UC Berkeley, where he is studying politics (he received more scholarships than he knows what to do with). Jeremy, who was the cell about to be hijacked in the HIV movie, is studying film at UC Santa Barbara. Brenda got a 3.8 in her first semester at Mills College. Others are attending other UC or California State University schools, private colleges, and community colleges.

A handful really struggled in high school. They got caught up in the street life that surrounded them, family problems and home responsibilities became overwhelming, and a few became parents. I grieve for what they lost, what we all lost.

There's a lot to say about what effect this kind of learning had on these students. Overall, I think it gave them a lot of confidence in high school, as well as foundational positive experiences with learning. They learned how to direct their own learning, how to challenge ideas, and how to debate and conduct research. They learned that people want to hear what they think, and value their high-quality work. They also learned about the rewards of investing a great deal of time and energy into one project. They learned to persevere and also how to plan projects and manage their time. Those who went to high schools where these skills were valued and further developed really blossomed. Those are the students who in great part are the ones who are now succeeding in college.

Many of these students continue to be a part of my life. (I write about them sometimes on my blog here at I continue to learn about what impact their years at ASCEND had on them. The story is not yet complete; it's a thrill to be a part of it, and I look forward to the next installments.

Ken Ellis (not verified)

Excellent questions. Many of

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Staff comment:

Excellent questions. Many of the ASCEND students attended MetWest High School, in Oakland, another project-learning school we profiled. I believe Huber Trenado got a scholarship to Cal, and many of the other students featured have done well. We hope to do a follow-up on these inspiring kids and their teachers.

See the update in a comment above by former ASCEND teacher Elena Aguilar, one of's bloggers.

Ken Ellis
Executive Producer, Edutopia video

Sandy Lampert (not verified)

What a fabulous example of

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What a fabulous example of how a learner-centered school environment can create discerning, questioning, creative students completely vested in their educational experience!!
I would love to see a follow-up piece, which shows where those students are now, whether they have been able to move forward in their education with the same hands-on, inquiry driven, pertinent curriculum that got them so fired-up about learning when this video was filmed. If so, where has it lead them? If not, what got in the way?

Vickie Halfacre (not verified)


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This is what we all dream about. Getting our students to value education, question, take risks. Way to go!

Cassandra Paz (not verified)

Students who are really engaged with learning

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Wow! This is such an inspiring video! This is video that says the truth! And life isn't an answer it is a question. They are right the students and kids have a voice and it should be heard! Good Job you guys!

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