Saturday, July 12, 2008

Henry Ford Learning Institute (HFLI)

There is a high school right in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The school is called Henry Ford Academy. There is also a Learning Institute that wants to help other schools develop inside museums or community venues.

A group of education innovators (right) met at the Henry Ford Learning Institute on June 13, 2008 to talk about how schools could be more innovative in developing learning strategies for the 21st century. Included in the group were representatives from the Henry Ford Academy, HFLI, Davis Publishing, IDEO, Apple, Oracle, Big Picture, Stanford's d.school and other education innovators and foundation representatives. They are part of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/).

The Henry Ford Learning Institute (HFLI) describes itself as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the belief that education reform cannot take place within an educational system that isolates students and teachers from the community and separates teaching and learning from the real world. They envision a future where public education becomes a truly public endeavor, engaging a community to create vibrant educational models, leverage underutilized local resources, and remove boundaries between learning and the real world. To this end, HFLI creates innovative small schools that bring national and local community resources into the educational process and help to create thriving communities where education is everyone's responsibility.

Focusing on communities where traditional public schools have struggled to meet the diverse educational needs of all students, HFLI is developing a network of small high schools located in America's premier cultural institutions and community organizations. These schools will be based on Henry Ford Academy, the acclaimed small high school launched in Michigan in 1997 that is the nation's first school developed jointly by public education, a global corporation, and a nonprofit cultural institution. Over the next six to eight years, HFLI will work with communities around the nation to design and open ten new Henry Ford Academies.

HFLI's mission is to create educational models designed to serve as a visible learning laboratories, where innovations in teaching and learning are shared with the wider community. Classrooms on museum floors or on college campuses are used for community-wide education programs, and every effort is made to share existing resources — including curriculum and professional development opportunities — with the public education system. The model provides a real educational venue for community institutions to come together and think about education in new ways. Once that happens, innovations and ideas occur that move beyond an Academy, as partners share ideas and programs that can be leveraged to drive change in new and exciting ways.

The current system of public education has isolated high schools from their communities, and therefore from significant untapped educational resources. It also creates an environment where teenagers feel no formal connection to their communities. We see the result of this disengagement in unacceptably large drop out rates, anemic college-entrance rates, high college remediation rates, and a frustrating lack of progress in raising long-term high school educational attainment as measured by standardized tests. To reverse this, we must begin to create models of education that engage students, connect them to their communities, and show them the relevance of what they are learning.

HFLI was founded on the belief that public education must become a truly public endeavor. Nowhere is this vision more urgently needed than our nation's urban centers. Schools must strive to bring the entire community together to drive meaningful, long- term educational change. It is not enough to simply create an outstanding school for 400 students — instead, HFLI is focused on creating dynamic community change agents. By nature of its design, the Henry Ford model is uniquely qualified to make a significant difference in urban communities.

Click on the heading above to go to the HFLI site.

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