Project staff have found that designing schools for the future is a learning process in which staff, students, community, and designers work together to discover new ways to design a school's learning experiences and environment. The project staff had several goals for the characteristics and features of the learning experience and school design when the project, New Designs for the Comprehensive High School, was initiated. Goals included: (1) representing the leading edge of a new breed of schools that would create some new space in which to think about the operation of high schools; (2) promising the idea of a common set of learner outcomes for all graduates; (3) relating learner expectations to the challenges and opportunities in work, family, community, and personal life; (4) operating the high school more as a learning community; (5) more closely aligning learner expectations, the learning process, the learning organization, and the learning environment; (6) drawing more attention to learning in contrast to teaching; (7) having a positive special character that gives more focus, coherence, and spirit to learning; and (8) wanting schools that don't cost any more to build or operate than existing schools. The design-down process has 12 learning elements: context, audience, signature, expectations, process, organization, partnerships, staff and staff development, environment, celebration, finance, and accountability. Lessons for gaining agreement on decisions include looking inside and outside the school for design group members; involving those members from the beginning; using a clear and powerful process; relying on more than one way; and thinking comprehensively and long-term.
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