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What if students designed their own schools?

Charles Tsai

The best small town in America (Great Barrington, MA) is experimenting with self-directed learning at its public high school. A group of students gets to create their own school-within-a-school and they learn only what they want to learn.

Does it work? Charles Tsai finds out by spending a week with the Independent Project.

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  • Becky Slogeris

    This is amazing! Can't wait to try it in Baltimore!

  • Diana L L Hill

    The high school project I was part of was call The Center For Self Directed Learning. It had 150 students and 5 facilitators (teachers) and was part of a large public high school outside of Chicago. The program ran from 1972-1984. I was part of it for the last three years of high school. We were self govern and self taught with encouragement and input from our facilitators and anyone else in the community who would help. Some of us were highly motivated, others on the verge of dropping out. We had written evaluations rather than grades and all of us who wanted to got into good colleges. We had a reunion this summer and we all were so glad to have been a part of it and it set us up in life with a very useful and optimistic perspective on education, ourselves, governance, our role as members of a community.... I was so disappointed I couldn't find anything like it for my daughters. I hope MMRHS continues with the program. Did you see the winner of the TED wish this year? Organizing education around self organizing and directed learning?!

    • Charles Tsai

      Yes. Saw TED Prize - couldn't be happier. The tide is turning. :)

  • Colleen O'Neill

    We offer students what we call "Learning Intensives" for the last three weeks of the school year. Students attend just one class for the three weeks. I will try to incorporate this into my section. This is very exciting!

  • Deisa

    It looks amazing! I have some questions: I watched very few students at school, where are the others?
    If the whole school was involved, I mean about 200 students or more, would this project work?
    Thank you very much for sharing this great experience!

  • Luke Flegg

    This is really cool.

    My life ambition is to get my voluntary project off the ground:

    its objective is to change the way we shape UK education, and also allow us to redesign our schools.
    It's also based on the idea that young peoples' voices are missing most from the debate and the shaping process, despite being the most important people to involve.

    • Charles Tsai

      Very cool. Keep me posted. :)

      • Luke Flegg

        Hi Charles! Glad you're interested : ]
        However, I'm not sure how I could personally keep you posted (along with the other people who are interested) so it's probably best for you to keep yourself posted via our Facebook page : ]


    I am actually wishing I could go back to high school now, only, to THEIR high school.
    This is so amazing.