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Breaking Ground on the School of the Future

by Black Issues

Breaking Ground on the School of the Future
Philadelphia high school to offer cutting-edge technology and learning experiences for urban students

PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphia city officials in partnership with the Microsoft Corp. broke ground on the construction of the School of the Future last month, a cutting-edge facility that will marry technology and education to boost learning for its students. The new high school, estimated to cost $50 million, is expected to open in 2006.

The School of the Future will be the first school of its kind designed to be a “sustainable and replicable model for improved instructional development through the use of technology,” according to officials. Total project costs are being funded by the city’s capital program and supported with human resources and technical assistance through Microsoft’s Partners in Learning (PiL) initiative.

“This project will be a national example of what can be accomplished when the community, school district and private sector combine efforts for the city’s overall good.

“Strengthening public education is a prime ingredient in our quest to grow the city’s economy and enhance the quality of life for our citizens,” said Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street.

The public high school will enroll roughly 750 students who will have access to amenities, such as one-on-one computing in a wireless environment, smart cards they can employ for functions, from the cafeteria to an interactive learning center, a home and school broadband connection, and a digital format for all paperwork and processes. In addition, teachers and administrators will have instant access to student assessment records through a digital dashboard, while daily functions will become more efficient through Web-based procurement and online human resources tools for time reporting and payroll management. At the root of the school’s mission will be the focus to embed research and development methods into the daily curriculum, so that teachers and students can investigate and discover new instructional practices to boost student achievement.

“To ensure that our students have every opportunity to embrace the potential in their future, we need to approach education with a community effort rooted in business practices. With the support and help of Microsoft, the Philadelphia School of the Future will provide a unique learning experience for many students and an example for other schools to learn and adopt from,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell.

Philadelphia school officials say that 75 percent of the students will come from the predominantly minority west Philadelphia area of the city where the school is being constructed. Twenty-five percent of the students will come from the remaining sections of the city. Admitted students from those who apply in fall 2005 and in following years as eighth-graders will be chosen by lottery, officials say.

In addition to the technology amenities, the architectural structure of the school is designed to create a cutting-edge learning environment. The school’s performance center will have moveable seating so auditorium-type settings can be easily converted mechanically to settings suitable for small work groups. Classrooms will have great flexibility, with minimal fixed assets and audio enhancement systems.

In an effort to promote environmental sustainability, the building is being built in accordance with the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System. The school will be eco-friendly, using natural lighting, water conservation and recycling, and cabinets made from the few trees that had to be removed from the site. Among the blend of learning and architectural design elements, the building’s photoelectric glass will not only generate a portion of the power supply but also will transmit real-time data for students so they can see how much energy is being generated and the positive impact on the environment.

To make sure that schools across the nation and around the world can adopt some or all of the methods and practices from this project, the Microsoft PiL is recording the process. Information about the school can be found at <www.microsoft.com/education/
schooloffuture.aspx>. 



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