William Penn High School in New Castle has been known for many things — its massive size, its football team, and an outdated “bad” reputation — but what it should be known for in 2019 is innovative programs, not least of all the Dual School program.
Dual School is a project-based learning program that replaces typical textbook learning with student-driven projects aided by mentors. It was developed by a group of educators and education activists with experience working with organizations such as SummerCollab and Horn Entrepreneurship, and inspired by an education model from San Diego’s groundbreaking High Tech High.
The program originally launched only as an after-school program where students from various public, charter and private schools come together weekly at 1313 Innovation for project development, mentoring, and culturally and economically diverse interaction. It now has multiple 10-week after-school cohorts a year.
Though this is only the second year since the program launched after a successful beta in 2017, Dual School alum have gone on to do things like publish a children’s book and write a column for Technical.ly before even finishing high school.
This year also marks the second year for Dual School at William Penn, which happens during the school day at the school’s Innovation Center.
“The story of Dual School at Penn starts all the way back in the first cohort during the fall of 2017,” said Dual School Program Director Zack Jones. “Katie Strouss was a [Penn] Spanish teacher, and one of her students, Adé Robertson [who we met back in 2017], was participating in Dual School. Strouss was curious about the program, so she visited us at 1313 Innovation. She liked what she saw and was interested in bringing Dual School to William Penn.”
Dual School at William Penn had its pilot in the spring of 2018; Stephanie Diggins, who was specially trained in project-based learning by teachers at High Tech High, stepped up to teach a full-year Dual School class during the 2018-2019 school year.
“The program at Penn is different in a few ways,” said Jones. “The students are participating in Dual School fully during their school day around 9:15-10:45 every other day of the week. The students receive credit for their participation and are assigned grades by submitting reflections, action plans and presentations.”
Instead of a 10-week program, the class at William Penn is a full year, which “allows students to dive deeper into their topics,” Jones said.
Some of Dual School’s past projects have ranged from a financial literacy program to an AI career compatibility test to a rotorless drone.
At William Penn, projects such as Education in Times of Immigration, which was started in the spring 2018 pilot and continued in the fall of 2018, have had an impact, Jones said: That team “recently launched a student-led professional development series for teachers at William Penn to learn more about how to work with English language learners.”
While the program hasn’t been launched in other schools yet, Jones is interested in increasing the reach by bringing the model to other schools. Interested teachers, administrators or parents can reach out to him firstname.lastname@example.org.