School of One: Design Charrette

What if you could take the conventional learning environment of the public school and completely transform it? What would it take to replace the outmoded, one-size-fits-all classroom model with a new curriculum customized to meet the needs of each individual student?

What has long been the vision of educators is now a major step closer to reality. Under the leadership of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein, the New York City Department of Education has developed a pilot program that will use technology to deliver personalized instruction for every child.

The department’s Chief Executive for Human Capital, Joel Rose, conceived of this technology-driven “School of One” to improve student achievement at New York City schools. Rose recognized that such personalized programs would require a new learning environment, one that is radically different from the traditional classroom.

But how to implement such a bold vision and sweeping change? In early 2009, New York turned to the American Architectural Foundation (AAF) for help.

Nine weeks before the start of the School of One pilot project, AAF sent a resource team to join Rose and his team at the site selected for the pilot: M.S. 131, Dr. Sun Yat Sen School in New York’s Chinatown. AAF, through its Great Schools by Design initiative, has years of experience helping education leaders tackle facilities challenges in innovative ways. For this project, the AAF team would use the charrette approach to encourage collaboration and creative thinking, ultimately helping Joel and his team to create a school that TIME Magazine named one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2009.”




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