One Year Later, One Year Wiser
August 21, 2018 and September 4, 2018, respectively, marked the start of the second year at both Quest Forward Academy Omaha and Quest Forward Academy Santa Rosa. Just one year earlier, in the fall of 2017, the two academies had been launched to demonstrate what could be accomplished at school operating entirely under the principles of Quest Forward Learning. For mentors and students, that first year was a journey into the great unknown. They started the year with only a general idea of what the experience would be like. While individual Quest Forward Learning courses had already been offered at the high school and college levels for several years, no one knew for certain whether the full-time experience might differ in substantive ways.
Fast-forward one year, and the two schools are showing what can be accomplished with a full implementation of the Quest Forward curriculum at a Quest Forward Academy. Omaha’s enrollment increased from 13 students in Fall 2017 to 29 on the first day of class, and now to 32 after being open for two weeks. Meanwhile, Santa Rosa’s enrollment has increased from 19 students in Fall 2017 to 44 for the new year. Both campuses have added new mentors due to this growth, as well as new classrooms and programs.
What is most exciting, however, is the evolution of the schools as learning communities inspired by a singular vision. On their first day of the school year, students and mentors on both campuses could be found discussing the Essential Habits and how students need to take responsibility for their own learning. For these students and mentors, the principles of Quest Forward Learning are not just concepts listed on posters on the wall; they are attitudes being consciously cultivated.
The 2017-18 school year was notable in many ways. A diverse group of students came together in two separate places to establish a new concept of what school is and can be, and remarkable learning took place. The effects of this approach could be seen in firsthand observations by both parents and mentors, as well as in student performance on national examinations. Even though the schools were newly established (and, in the case of Santa Rosa, several weeks in the fall were lost to a natural disaster), students clearly relished this new approach to learning and found many kinds of success, some for the first time in their lives.
Now, as the new school year begins, Omaha and Santa Rosa are building upon their initial achievements. Students previously in the Foundation Phase will move into the Exploration Phase, and through this progression they will continue to amplify what they have already learned, and see where their newly honed skills can lead them. At the same time, new groups of students will benefit from this kind of collective learning as they begin their foray into the revised and improved Foundation Phase.
What does the future hold? Only time will tell. But from everything we have seen from the start of last year to the opening of his new school year, exciting adventures await.
Raymond Ravaglia is the Chief Learning Officer of Opportunity Education. He leads the development of the Quest Forward Academies and the development of the Quest Forward models of learning, assessment, and efficacy. He formerly served as Associate Dean and Director of Pre-Collegiate Studies at Stanford University.