Coaches and Trailblazers: Venture Academy

  Bill Kelley, MinnPost

Bill Kelley, MinnPost

How far away is the “Ideal Learning System” for the 21st Century?

It’s happening right now.     

Check out Venture Academy, a second year charter public school in Minneapolis serving 6-8th graders, with 95% free and reduced lunch students.   Only 6% of 175 students in the school are Caucasian.

Venture Academy was the first recipient of a Next Generation Learning Grant in Minnesota, and is highlighted as one of four Next Generation Learning models in a recent report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools after its successful first year.  Students there progressed 1.5 years in math and 1.7 years in reading aggregated across the school in the first year it opened.

Venture Academy blends personalized digital and entrepreneurship learning in a highly-innovative model, where students are in charge of their own learning.  Teachers are “coaches” and students are “trailblazers.”

According to Head Coach (Chief Learning Officer and School Leader) Kerry Muse, students create their individual learning plans and individual projects to showcase their research or skills.  With help of technology, they work their plans with guidance from teachers.  The coach’s role is creating a menu of options for the Trailblazer and managing the process.  The outcome for students is learning how to navigate their day—and their future.

Their learning space is an open former warehouse without interior walls.  Students are free to move about, and work with each other in small groups.

Note that this model is not just about providing tablets like a large Minnesota school district did this year.  It is about using time and talent of teacher coaches in addition to technology to meet student needs.

You can find out more about Venture Academy, co-founded by Chief Entrepreneurship Officer Jon Bacal, in this interesting article written by Beth Hawkins and published by MinnPost.  You also can learn more at Venture Academy’s website.