Gabrielle Alicino

Designing with students in mind

Julia Ciciora

I first learned about the engineering design process in a class called IPRO (Interprofessional Projects Program) while doing my undergrad at the Illinois Institute of Technology. As a non-engineer major, I didn’t think much of it but did my part as a member of the two required interprofessional projects. The class required students from different majors to work together to design solutions. The program originally started with companies bringing design problems to the class for students to work together to resolve. I was a member of the pilot group that actually got to explore the design thinking process from the beginning and explore design problems our group identified and wanted to pursue. We were encouraged to examine our surroundings, complete empathy research, and explore current solutions to our design problem and how those solutions could be improved or reimagined. The interprofessional groups got to present their design problem and possible solution at the end of the semester to propose working on the solution with a company the following semester.

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Creating the time and space for authentic parent engagement in the design process

Jim Kline

Teachers and school leaders are busy people. I know this firsthand because I am one. And in the crux of the school year, I know how easy it is to go about tackling problems through the lens of students and teachers: two stakeholders that are critical in student learning. In reflecting on some of my biggest lessons learned through my work at TrueSchool, there is one question I can’t seem to let go: what is the ideal model for parent involvement in the school design process?

As a teacher in New Orleans, I rarely have the time to open my classroom doors and invite parents in for open-brainstorming sessions and the “how might we” exercises we do with our kids. Parents are working, I tell myself. Or parents are seemingly satisfied if they aren’t complaining, right? Not quite.

I remember one story, in particular, a few years ago from my project-based seminar. My seniors were pitching local policy proposals to our city council members, and one of my student’s mother was in the audience watching. After the presentations, she asked me what kind of mobilization and voter registration we were doing to ensure these ideas could live beyond our presentations. A light bulb went off – why was I treating this presentation as the ‘end point’ for their ideas?

This one comment sparked a two-year obsession to empower my students to push for real change in our community. A few legislative bills and one successful state law later, my students are leaving their mark every year in our community through advocacy and research. As a teacher, I needed the time, space and process to meaningfully engage my student’s parents in a way that wasn’t just “checking the box” for parent engagement.

At TrueSchool Studio, we put teachers in the driver’s seat to create innovative solutions for students. Too many of our school models are outdated and broken, and we have to work on pushing research to innovate from within our schools. Our model replaces the notion that outside professional development providers are the agents of change; in fact, we believe that teachers and leaders are the real R+D departments at schools all across the country. We innovate not for the sake of innovation, but for equity – because when one school discovers a new learning model, we all benefit. But what role do parents play in this R+D? What role should they play?

Over the past few years, TrueSchool has worked with hundreds of teachers, school leaders, parents, and community members in designing new learning models and solutions on the ground level, across traditional public, charter, magnet and independent schools. Whether it is at the beginning stages of the design process or generating implementation feedback, there’s been incredible growth among schools in creating the space and process for engaging parents in a meaningful way. One school in particular, the Immaculate Conception School in downtown Los Angeles, designed a workshop series to address communication gaps between parents and educators, all generated from community focus groups and stakeholder surveys.

Creating the space for parent voices is the first step, but TrueSchool also builds the know-how for educators like myself to discover and incorporate our parent’s ideas into better solutions for our schools, leading to better outcomes for all. We couldn’t be more excited by the potential and power of parents on our design teams, and above all else, creating time, space and the processes to solve our school’s most pressing challenges.

About Jim Kline
Jim Kline is a teacher leader at Sci Academy, one of the top performing charter schools in New Orleans. He teaches a project-based seminar in design thinking as well as leads the school’s college readiness initiative. He is passionate about project-based learning and the limitless potential of our teenagers. In the past few years, Jim’s students have changed a state law, advocated state representatives to reform education, and pressed city council members for meaningful oversight into our city’s criminal justice system. Jim’s education experience began in St. John Parish, Louisiana, as a high school civics teacher with Teach For America. Jim has also served as a Curriculum Specialist and Instructor for both Teach For America and The New Teacher Project (TNTP), and has won numerous teaching awards, including the St. John Parish District Teacher of theYear Award, and the New Schools for New Orleans Excellence in Teaching Award. He holds a B.A in Public Policy from Rutgers University, and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.

VOTE TrueSchool for Tory Burch Foundation Fellowship!


The Tory Burch Foundation launched its inaugural Fellows Competition to select 10 entrepreneurs for a yearlong fellowship. Their mission is to empower women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

Over 500 applicants from across the nation applied. TrueSchool Studio is one of thirty finalists selected to compete for mentorship and coaching for one year, funds towards business education, and the opportunity to compete for a grant investment of $100,000.

With your help we can continue to grow our impact by empowering educators with the time, space and process to lead system-change solutions in their schools and regions. We have worked with over 1,100 educators, impacting over 50,000 students with innovative solutions to solve pressing challenges in their schools.

Help us grow, by voting daily!

  1. Visit Amy Vreeland’s Fellows Page.
  2. Click Vote.
  3. Enter your email address.
  4. Click Vote Now.

Your support will help us become a 2016 fellow and enable us to grow our reach to impact more educators + students! Please share this article or voting link with your friends and family to amplify our reach!


“The Mirage” or The Dream? A discussion of what might be if we think boldly…

TNTP’s “The Mirage” sets out to identify bright spots of teacher growth to determine what type, frequency and delivery of teacher professional development yield the most improvement. Researchers identified “improvers,” as 19-30% of teachers in 95% of schools they surveyed and compared their experience to “non-improvers.”* Surprisingly, both groups had very similar levels of engagement and satisfaction with professional development activities. The key differences between “improvers” and “non-improvers” are openness to feedback and awareness of personal strengths and weaknesses. TNTP’s deeper investigation revealed an underlying lack of trust or confidence in evaluation practices, no clear standards for improvement, and disjointed support efforts prohibit meaningful teacher growth.

“The Mirage” illuminates the lack of understanding about what makes professional development effective, and more importantly, ignites a broader discussion about where we go from here.

We believe the best way forward is to set a bold vision for reimagining the teaching profession and defining mindsets, skills, and competencies needed to educate 21st century students.

At TrueSchool we have hypothesized several core mindsets and competencies for education innovation. This is just a start to how we might frame teacher mindsets of the 21st century:

  • Demonstrate deep empathy with students and community
  • Identify and seize opportunities from change
  • Collaborate, create and problem solve as a team and community
  • Actualize a vision by taking a big goal and breaking it down into specific actions
  • Leverage existing resources and assets
  • Take risks, fail forward fast
  • Measure, track, and reflect on impact
  • Continuously iterate and adapt based on findings
  • Lead implementation, impact and sustainability at scale

As a nation, we have redefined what it means to be a student in the 21st century through the adoption of rigorous standards and a shifted focus to critical thinking and growth-oriented learning. Teachers need aligned standards that clearly define what mastery of teaching and instruction now require.

Schools can create the cultures to cultivate human potential and excellence, for both students and teachers. School leadership that promotes excellence, and encourages learning forward rather than attaining perfection, cultivates a growth mindset and creates safe space for people to test, challenge, and improve themselves. Schools can reorganize education by studying the current experience and needs of their students and crafting new roles for teachers that allow for specialization and diversification of responsibilities. For example, teachers could specialize in an area like data and evaluation, innovation, or curriculum and become the expert for their grade or school, assuming the responsibility to ensure all teachers are moving toward mastery of that competency and provide additional coaching or support.

Districts are key levers for transformational change at scale. As districts have a broad reach over access to resources and data for many schools, they can critically study all efforts that improve student and teacher growth, and facilitate cross-school collaboration to test and scale effective systems, tools, trainings, and innovations, to ensure that all schools deliver an excellent education to each student.

The findings of “The Mirage” undoubtedly ignite the need for a fresh look at how we evaluate and support teachers. If we reimagine the status quo and explore approaches that align the evaluation to what teachers need, just like we do with our students, we can create a more effective, rewarding, and just education system for students and teachers alike.


* TNTP identified teachers who improved significantly using multiple definitions of growth. They analyzed simple and detailed change in the district rating and grouped teachers into quartiles, assessing who was making the most and least growth over a two- to three-year period. TNTP tracked this type of movement across four different measures of growth: change in total observation scores, change in value-added scores, change in total evaluation scores and change in standardized overall evaluation scores. For a detailed explanation of TNTP’s methods for identifying “improvers” please see page 44 of “The Mirage.”

Los Angeles Sprint 2015 Information

Hello Los Angeles Sprint 2015 EDesigners!
This is where you’ll find all the information you need about the Sprint Studios and updates. If you have other questions or feedback, please reach out to Maggie at



Studio 1 – Saturday September 19th, 8:30am – 3:00pm
Studio 2 – Saturday September 26th, 8:30am – 4:00pm
Studio 3 – Thursday October 1st, 5:00pm – 8:30pm

Please bring a laptop or tablet. Dress code is business casual. 

Studio is a fast-paced, facilitated professional learning experience that incorporates hands-on engagement, rapid prototyping, and collaboration within and across your school team.

During Studio you can expect:
  • Engagement in facilitated actions with your school team using your Toolkit
  • Support from your Mentor
  • Resources + support specific to your challenge from a Content Coach
  • Work time to reflect, analyze + dig deeper with your school team
  • Opportunities + actions for cross-school collaboration
  • An EDesign Portfolio to be completed over the course of Sprint to capture your actions, learnings, and action steps



Intersession 1: September 20th– September 25th
Intersession 2: September 27th– September 30th
Intersession 3: October 2nd– October 25th

Intersessions are periods in between Studio days for independent, team-driven R+D actions. EDesign Teams meet on their own schedules to get out into the field to engage with students, users, and stakeholders to learn about their experiences and gather their input.

During Intersession you can expect:
  • Clear action steps in your TrueSchool Toolkit to engage with stakeholders in your school community, including students, teachers, parents, and community members
  • Flexible support from the TrueSchool team
  • Check-in call with your Mentor


Feel free to read the articles below to gain context on the design process + potential for impact.
“Bootcamp Bootleg” from the Stanford (Pages 1-8)
“Design Thinking for Social Innovation” by Tim Brown & Jocelyn Wyatt, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter. 2010. (10 pages)
“Improving School Lunch by Redesign” by Courtney Martin, New York Times, Fixes Column, October 23, 2013. (4 pages)
“Innovation in Education: Not Just a Term for Startups” by Molly Levitt, EdSurge, March 28,2014. (2 pages)


Teams from 10 Catholic Schools from across Los Angeles are participating in Sprint this fall.
Ascension Catholic School
Immaculate Conception School
Our Lady of Holy Rosary
Precious Blood Catholic School
San Miguel Catholic School
St. John Bosco High School
St. Odilia School
St. Pius X – St. Matthias Academy
St. Raphael Catholic School
St. Turibius Catholic School


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
555 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2707

(213) 680-5200


After you park, follow the posted signs and take the elevator to the first floor. Studio will be in Meeting Rooms 6, 7, and 8. There is a security desk in the lobby with directions as well.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels
555 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-2707
(213) 680-5200

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is located on Temple, between Grand and Hill Streets in downtown Los Angeles. The entrance to the parking structure is located off both Temple and Hill streets. Parking will be validated. A security guard is posted at the entrance to assist in parking instructions during regular operating hours.Cathedral Parking


From the North:
If you are taking the 101 South:
Take the 101 Hollywood Freeway South to downtown. Exit on Broadway and make two right

turns– Broadway, then Temple. After crossing Hill Street, turn right from Temple Street into the parking garage.

If you are taking the Harbor Freeway, 110 South:

Exit at Hill Street. After you cross over the 101 Freeway, the entrance to the parking structure will be located on your right.

From the South:
If you are taking the Harbor Freeway, 110 North:

Stay on the 110 North to downtown, approaching the 101, 5, and 10 freeway merge. Take the freeway exit marked “5 South, 1 San Bernardino–Freeway” (merge to the right). Do not take the 101 Freeway to Hollywood. You will travel on the merge lane for the 5 and 10 Fwys for about 100 yds, exit at Temple. At the end of the freeway ramp, turn left on Temple. Proceed over the Grand intersection and the Temple street parking entrance will be on your left before Hill street.

From the East (or North on 5):
If you are taking the Pomona 60 west or traveling north on the Santa Ana 5:

Take the Hollywood 101 Freeway north to downtown. You will pass through the tunnel, proceed approximately one mile to the Grand Avenue exit. Turn right on Grand Avenue, turn left on Temple Street, and turn left into the parking garage from Temple Street.

Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Highway *

Santa Monica, CA, 90402

*Important: In some navigational systems the address may appear as 415 Palisades Beach Road,Santa Monica, CA

Questions? Call 310-458-4904

From Los Angeles:

Take the 10 West, which will become Pacific Coast Highway when it reaches the beach. At the second traffic light, Beach House Way, turn left into the parking lot.

From Malibu:

Take Pacific Coast Highway south. Turn right at Beach House Way, into the parking lot.

From Santa Monica (downtown):

Head west towards Ocean Ave. Turn left at Ocean Ave. Turn right at Moomat Ahiko Way (afterColorado/the pier entrance) which will have signs for Pacific Coast Highway. Turn left at Beach House Way into our parking lot.



Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns, or feedback.
Maggie Riddell, Manager of Community + Programs

VOTE for TrueSchool – Big Idea Finalist


The annual New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW), presented by IBERIABANK, hosts one of the largest crowd driven pitch extravaganza – The Big Idea. 22 nominees are competing to secure a place in The Big Idea – Vote for TrueSchool via the voting platform. Nominated companies work across various industries – ranging from education to agriculture, all competing to win the grand prize of $25,000.

Big Idea This year, TrueSchool Studio, nominated by 4.0 Schools, has the opportunity to compete for the grand prize. 22 companies are nominated, but only 12 companies get to present at the Big Idea, and only three make it onto the stage for the final pitch. In order to make it to the Top 12 finalists, we need your help. Your continual vote each day will help us increase the impact we’ve made in education. Impacting over 550+ educators and empowering 20,000+ students, we continue to enable educators to drive innovation in their classrooms, schools, and systems.


Help us further our impact and mission by taking 20 seconds to vote daily!

1) Visit the voting page at, scroll down, and select TrueSchool Studio.

2) Fill out the CAPTCHA and click Vote.

Your support will make the biggest difference and an even greater difference if you share this article or voting link to your friends and family. Help TrueSchool Studio help educators help students.

Vote now and share this post on your social media sites.

Purchase tickets to NOEW The Big Idea here

Read more about NOEW here

Chicago Educators: Apply Now for the Summer Design Program 2015 (applications due by 5pm, March 23)


The Summer Design Program (SDP) enables educators to create and implement innovations to transform student learning in their classrooms or schools. Educator teams from public schools across Chicago engage in a series of sessions led by TrueSchool Studio and the Chicago Public Education Fund. Together, we clarify a school-based, student-centered challenge, identify new or known solutions in Chicago and elsewhere, and design a classroom or grade level innovation. School teams include the principal, at least one classroom teacher, and one additional member of the staff.

At the conclusion of the SDP, teams have the opportunity to earn financial resources and additional support to implement their innovations in the coming school year.


Core Commitments for participating in The Summer Design Program:

  • Team of 3, including the principal, at least one classroom teacher, and one additional member of the staff.
  • School leader attends one kick-off event.
  • Full team attends all three 1-day in-person sessions and one evening event.
  • Engage in team meetings, independent research, and collaborative preparation of projects during the weeks between in-person sessions (approximately 10-20 additional hours per person total).
  • Collaborate and coordinate as a team to submit deliverables on time.
  • Be open to feedback and adjust course as needed.
  • Share insights and findings, including interviews, written documents, photos, and videos to track progress, measure impact, and build knowledge around best practices.
  • To create a big, bold vision for your innovation and to act with focus and urgency.
  • Have fun!



  • Monday, March 23:  Applications deadline
  • Early April: School selection
  • Saturday, May 16: In-person session one
  • Thursday, July 16: In-person session two
  • Thursday, July 30: In-person session three


Focus Areas for the Summer Design Program 2015:

Teams will have the opportunity to work to create solutions focused on addressing one of three identified challenges:

  • Personalized Learning: How might we rethink teaching and learning through the inventive use of our schools resources (e.g., time, space, staff) to more effectively meet the learning needs of each individual student?
  • Transitions: How might we ensure smooth and successful transitions from early childhood education to elementary school, of middle grades to high school and from high school to post-secondary?
  • Professional Development: How might we create more time for collaboration during the school day and identify opportunities to personalize growth opportunities for teachers based on their needs and interests?

“Build Better Edtech Products By Connecting Early And Often With Teachers”

Startup Stock Photos

Many edtech developers create what they believe is the best and brightest edtech solution only to find that teachers aren’t using it at the rates they expected – one of the reasons this can happen is when developers have not developed understanding of the teacher experience. Falkenthal of UP Global names the top reasons to engage with educators both early and often.She also includes the best strategic questions to ask teacher to elicit the feedback you need. 

“100 Schools Worth Visiting”

100 schools

Tom Vander Ark has compiled 100 schools worth visiting across the US all the way from elementary and K-8 schools through high school. One of the most-prized association skills innovators possess is to see awesome ideas in other settings and fields and steal them to apply to a new context. This list provides lots of opportunities to learn and adapt new models or programs to your school!