WE START WITH EMPATHY
To Innovate, we have to Know our User
We conducted surveys and interviews with 8th graders and high school students who have been retained in order to understand the challenges they face the needs they have.
- Students have been retained at least once.
- Students are over-aged.
- Enter high-school with gaps in knowledge.
- Read at a lower grade level.
- Perform math at a lower grade level.
- Feel disenfranchised with school and with adults.
- Feel that "class is boring."
- Students are leaving class when work is completed; do not like "sitting in class" for 90 minutes.
- Tardy for the first period, or leave the last period. "School and classes are too long."
- Students feel they are "not learning anything."
- Want school to have "spirit."
- Want to feel connected to other people, want a community.
- Want a fresh start.
- Need a way to overcome personal, family barriers.
- Face challenges brought out by poverty - hunger, lack of opportunities, complex family challenges.
- Need to see a “real way to [graduation]”
- Want to know how this [school] helps them in real life.
- Want to graduate, or get out, as fast as they can.
- Want or need to work to help family.
- Care about family and friends.
- Like to share ideas with others if their is trust.
Students have been disenfranchised by a combination of personal obstacles, family issues, financial challenges, societal misperceptions, misprision, negative school experiences, and gaps in academics.
A common thread in our interviews with students was a sense of powerlessness to change their current reality, their school experience, their grades, their homes.
This disfranchisement leads some students to say "I don't care."
More conversations with students uncovered at least two major needs:
A need for an innovative educational program that works to at least graduate students from high school as quickly as possible, with a flexible school schedule to allow for a shorter day.
A desire for a school that offers rigorous, engaging learning experiences in a safe, compassionate school environment where adults treat students with empathy on both an academic and social-emotional level.
Defining the Focus
In our design team conversations, we focused on the following needs:
- Flexible Schedules
- Engaging, rigorous, relevant educational experiences
- Compassionate, empathetic relationships
- Innovative solutions to student challenges
How Might We...
Our conversations settled on two design questions:
- How might we create a school culture that empowers students to build relationships grounded in empathy and dignity?
- How might we create a school culture that reinvigorates students' interest in learning?
Two main philosophies emerged from our ideation. Our solutions would be rooted in the mental models provided by practicing restorative justice and design-thinking.
- We will create an empathy-driven culture in which students are treated with dignity by implementing restorative justice as the frame for how we interact with each other, how we resolve conflicts, and how we make decisions for our school.
- We will foster a culture of innovation by implementing design thinking as a method for decision-making, pedagogy, problem-solving, and continuous improvement at all levels of our school.
Excel Academy at Lanier will propel powerful, compassionate innovators into the community to effect positive change.
At Lanier Excel Academy our mission is for ALL students to become leaders in their communities by providing an innovative education that promotes problem-solving, flexibility, and healthy relationships. We will offer wrap-around services in order to tackle barriers that tend to inhibit student success. Through non-traditional learning, individual course setting, while in a compassionate environment, students will be EMPOWERED with skills for 21st century careers and higher education.