The Consortium works in district and charter contexts to design new public schools and transform existing ones. Our work with schools is guided by a set of design principles informed by Big Picture Learning's "distinguishers" and refined in collaboration with the Consortium’s national advisors, including founders and senior leadership from High Tech High, EdVisions, Fenway High School and the Boston Arts Academy, and the North Carolina New Schools. 

These principles prioritize engagement as the strongest lever for both lasting academic gains and development of non-cognitive competencies (e.g. positive self-concept, realistic self-appraisal, leadership experience, preference for long-term goals, etc.) linked to post high school success and wellness. Our partners are working to create schools that are…

Real. Community partnerships (e.g., internships, virtual and in-person project coaching, and place-based learning) connect students to adults in their workplaces, giving real context to academic learning and supporting authentic career exploration. Students learn to navigate ambiguity and innovate to solve open-ended challenges as they apply skills from various disciplines. 

Personal. Learning pathways are highly individualized and personalized, and students are known well by multiple adults in and outside the school. Instruction is grounded in the interests of students, who have a significant voice in what and how they learn. Innovative uses of technology support individualized academic pathways. Families are meaningfully engaged in planning, supporting, and assessing their students’ learning.  

Lasting. Long-term college and career planning is integrated into all grade levels. Non-cognitive competencies shown to support life-long learning and post-secondary success are incorporated into academic work through learning experiences outside the school and assessments such as performance tasks, exhibitions, and portfolio reviews. Graduates are tracked and supported in their postsecondary educational and career endeavors.

Equity-driven. Big Picture schools and partners have a mission to serve low-income and diverse students and communities. Viable pathways exist for students whose credit deficiencies would deter participation in a traditional school, and innovative approaches to truancy and discipline (e.g., restorative justice) are components of a tenacious approach to retaining and serving students who have been marginalized by traditional systems.

Selected projects

Highline Big Picture School is a key player in the Consortium’s regional learning lab for doing school differently. Our current work involves taking an improvement science approach to strengthen Learning Through Internship. Here’s how various partners in the BPL network described the “pinnacle internship experience.”

This video was created by Highline Big Picture Middle School students and teachers to help others learn about their school:

Over the past two years we have partnered with the Issaquah School District in the design and launch of Gibson Ek High School, opened September 2016.

Opened in September 2015:
Chelan School of Innovation

Opened in September 2015:
Nampa Union High School

Our original partner school in Idaho, Silver Creek High School, transitioned to Big Picture design over 2 years. Here is senior Desmond Porth describing his internship experience at a mentor appreciation event.