This from Education Week by Ian Quillen:
To explain the School of One, Joel Rose has a short list of long metaphors.

Imagine a hectic airport, he says, where students are the planes, the lessons are the gates, and the passengers are the skills each child needs to master. Or envision a hospital where teachers are surgeons summoned only in crucial cases, and the students are patients whose injuries are the most difficult questions.

Even the student workspaces for the program are an exercise in symbolic reality. For example, at the 800-student Middle School 131 in Manhattan’s Chinatown, students shuffle between “Brooklyn Bridge,” “Pier 17,” and “City Hall,” each designated for a different method of instruction.

Yet beneath the program’s 5,000 online lessons from more than 50 content providers, the math-skills flow chart that brings those lessons together, the algorithm that turns lessons into an individualized “playlist” on a student’s netbook, and the data that tell teachers where and when students get lost, the fundamentals perhaps aren’t so unusual.

“The School of One is based on the premise that, in a regular school, … there are basically three or four math classes that are going on in any given period,” explains Christopher Rush, the program’s co-founder and chief product officer, who is in charge of the project’s analytics. “So why don’t we take all the kids from those math classes, and all of the teachers from those math classes, and try to use those resources more strategically?”

Maybe the open spaces and sight lines at the three School of One locations—MS 131, IS 339 in the Bronx, and Brooklyn’s David A. Boody School (IS 228)—resemble schools from the open-classroom movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Much like that movement, which lost steam in the 1970s because of the setup’s perceived distractions and organizational problems, it remains to be seen whether the approach can be effective on a grand scale.

Started as a summer program at MS 131 in 2009, the School of One’s projected budget is $7.7 million for fiscal year 2011 in mostly federal and private money, and the program currently reaches 2,000 students in grades 6-8 for one subject, math. Even with unlimited funds, developing software that could run the program’s algorithm for hundreds of thousands of users at once would be challenging, says Rose, the program’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

Yet believers in the concept, envisioned by Rose, previously the chief executive of human capital for the city’s schools, as a more effective way of structuring school time, are convinced the School of One is on to something that could change the very definition of a teacher, a student, an administrator, or a content provider.

Those believers include a strong stable of private partners, such as tech companies Cisco and Microsoft and major educational publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and McGraw-Hill. The program also recently won $5 million in funding from the Investing in Innovation, or i3, federal competitive-grant competition.

“Once you understand what they’re trying to do, you realize how archaic the current teaching method is,” says Steve Mock, the general manager of North America for, a London-based website that counts itself among School of One’s content providers. “You think, ‘Oh my God, of course it doesn’t make sense.’ That’s the thing that strikes me over and over again.”

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