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About Our Study

Deeper-learning schools. Student-centered schools. Progressive schools. These terms all refer to a general approach to education that begins with students’ interests and strengths, addresses social and emotional as well as academic learning, breaks down the barriers between schools and surrounding communities, and emphasizes experiential learning. Around the country we are seeing an increase in the number of student-centered, innovative high schools serving urban students. Compared to traditional public high schools, these schools embody a fundamentally different understanding of teaching, learning, and school culture. Yet we currently know little about the extent to which they are able to create nurturing, personalized environments while still maintaining high academic standards and supporting students’ intellectual growth. This study is the most comprehensive exploration of student-centered, innovative schools to date. It includes extensive ethnographic data collection at two schools, site visits to 10 additional schools, and nearly 150 interviews with educators and administrators. It will document the strengths and challenges associated with this approach to educating students, identifying strategies and policy solutions that will have broad relevance for the field of urban education.