Boasting an immersive bilingual program that pairs English instruction with either Mandarin or Spanish, this Manhattan institution — split into an Early Learning Center, Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School — aims to prepare children for the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
At the moment, Avenues’s sole location is in New York City, but its leaders hope eventually to establish 20 other campuses across the world, all synced in their curriculum and principles so that students studying in London one semester could easily transition to Buenos Aires for the next, or follow their parents on a trip to Delhi or Mexico City. The first two international campuses will open in Beijing and Sao Paolo in 2017, and 14 campuses are on track to be created by 2021.
Even with its single campus, Avenues is already preparing students for international possibilities with the required World Course. The program, created by the Director of International Education Policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr. Fernando Reims, is a component of each grade level at Avenues and enables students to learn about world religions, developmental economics, and more. Eventually, once additional campuses open around the world, students will work collaboratively with peers on global projects. While all of these academic innovations come with a steep price tag — annual tuition is $43,000 — the for-profit private school provides $4 million in financial aid each year.
Avenues was founded by former president of Yale University and former dean of Columbia Law School Benno Schmidt, media and education mogul Chris Whittle (who recently left Avenues), and creator of Greenberg News Networks Alan Greenberg. Schmidt and Whittle had previously worked together to found (in 1992) Edison Schools, a for-profit organization that managed public schools for districts throughout the U.S. and the U.K. — one that is widely credited with having begun the charter school movement.
What are the outcomes of Avenues’s innovation?
Avenues has yet to graduate its first high school class (though it will in spring 2016), so it is difficult to judge its students’ preparedness for college and beyond. The demand, though, for what Avenues has offered thus far is clearly high among many families: The school’s enrollment has exceeded expectations (by about 32 percent), impressive success that has allowed Avenues to expand its initial pre-K–9 offerings to include grades 10, 11, and 12.
The school’s brochures outline its “primary educational objectives”: core academic skills, global preparedness, an area of specialized study, values, life skills, fitness, and entry into higher education. In a great many of these domains, Avenues has already made big strides. For instance, in the academic realm, students apply what they learn through creative projects, such as invention conventions and theater performances in both English and Mandarin. To foster a global perspective (beyond meeting the school's language requirements and taking the World Course), students have dozens of opportunities to travel internationally, and the school has already led trips to Ecuador and Beijing. As far as specialized study is concerned, students select a subject they will focus on mastering beginning in ninth grade, and ultimately create a related capstone project, such as a thesis or portfolio, in 12th grade.
Several parents interviewed for a local newspaper explain that they’re happy with how receptive teachers and administrators are to feedback — going so far as to alter the schedule of the school’s signature language immersion programming to address parental concerns. Other parents note the success of the program as their kids Skype with friends in Mandarin and are able to chat with native speakers.
How is Avenues’s innovation relevant to the larger ed space?
While several universities have set their sights on creating a global network of campuses, this idea is still relatively new to K–12 education — and Avenues is leading the way with its ambitious plans. Whereas a couple of other Manhattan private schools have opened some international campuses, the scope of Avenues’s expansion is unrivaled. Once it reaches full capacity, this network could allow seamless exchanges not only for students and families, but also for teachers and administrators, thus giving these education professionals the ability to share best practices around the globe. The possibilities of such international connections are thrilling: Avenues students in Paris and Moscow could compare how their countries commemorate World War II, while a teacher from Avenues Rio de Janeiro could create a Portuguese language program in Sydney or Seoul. A global exchange at this scale could set the standard for future international K–12 educational networks. (Repost from: https://www.noodle.com/articles/innovative-schools-2015#avenues)