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Philadelphia Experiment Finally Yields Results

School of the Future in Philadelphia

In the fall of 2006, working alongside Philadelphia school officials, Microsoft placed a $63 million bet that it could overhaul education using technical innovation and reform-minded teachers. As a result, the School of the Future opened in the city’s hardscrabble Parkside district — a gleaming, white, cool-looking building crammed with the latest classroom technology. The last four years have not been easy, and there have been a few reboots, the Associated Press (AP) reports. Several principals have come and gone, and the paperless School of the Future, which issued laptops to its majority low-income population, struggled with a student body that was alien to computer culture. There were also tensions over curriculum and assessments, with students being rated by with letter grades but as “Advanced” down through “Not on the Radar.”

But for now, at least, the school can claim success. This month it graduated its first senior class, and all 117 students will be continuing on with some form of postsecondary education, from community colleges to top universities like Villanova, according to the AP. Teacher Aruna Arjunan says the school’s strength comes in providing students academic, technical, and real-life skills. Student Mahcaiyah Wearing-Gooden told the AP that as a freshman she never considered a collegiate future. But she’ll be in Vermont this fall on a scholarship to study climatology at Green Mountain College. The School of the Future indeed seems to have one.

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