How They Came to Be
Da Vinci RISE’s Super School Origin Story
In Los Angeles County, there are more than 63,000 homeless students. Another 28,000 of the County’s children are in foster care, and close to 20,000 students in Los Angeles are incarcerated. When the team at Da Vinci Schools recognized the lack of adequate educational, social emotional, and material resources for these students, they knew they had to develop a new approach. Based on a pilot that began in 2015, Da Vinci RISE High was launched in 2017 to provide a highly responsive, holistic, and integrated model that meets the unique needs of youth navigating the most challenging types of disruptions to academic journeys. Through collaborative work with youth and community members, the team at RISE learned the importance of providing not only equity of outcome, but equity of experience. Built upon the Da Vinci Schools model, RISE provides youth with a hybrid learning as well as a competency based and project based learning curriculum to prepare them for a competitive and changing world. RISE provides these resources through co-locating and integrating services with non-profit organizations around Los Angeles. Da Vinci RISE High serves as a home for students where student voice is amplified and student needs are prioritized, resulting in a family environment where all individuals feel affirmed, valued, trusted, and supported towards their future goals. RISE has graduated 27 students in the 2021-22 school year.
For young people in the foster care system, juvenile justice system or experiencing housing instability, school may be the only place where they can reliably find stability and security. Da Vinci RISE’s mission comes in the form of a simple but powerful sentiment: meet students where they are and get them where they need to be—both physically and academically. To accomplish this, educators at RISE work with students to create a learning environment that nurtures personal and academic growth while cultivating the confidence they need to successfully navigate their futures in an uncertain world.
RISE understands the myriad ways that trauma can impact students’ ability to succeed academically. RISE prioritizes on-campus provision of comprehensive services in partnership with community nonprofit organizations. Within this safety net of holistic care, RISE students begin to feel safe and heal, which allows them to take full advantage of the personalized, project-based learning that is built around their individualized needs, passions, and goals. The passionate commitment and solidarity of the RISE staff with their students, co-location partners, and stakeholders is changing the game for these young people. Youth in foster care and/or who have experienced homelessness typically attend at least three schools per year. RISE disrupts this trend entirely: 90 Percent of foster and homeless students return to RISE each year, a number that speaks volumes about the quality and depth of their wraparound services.
Da Vinci RISE High Design Features
1.Supporting students in every way
RISE operates year-round and offers extended hours, flexible scheduling, and both face-to-face instruction and an online curriculum that teachers customize to each student, so students can complete their academic work when and where they are able. There are no rigid course sequences or grade levels. Instead, educators and students customize Personalized Learning Plans (PLP’s), based on where students need to catch up and what they need to graduate with a diploma that counts for their individual post-high school goals. Students progress at their own pace and according to their unique goals and needs. RISE provides qualifying students with transportation through a rideshare program to make sure students don’t miss school, work, or appointments.
“The biggest thing we are doing is putting kids back in the center of everything. We really are trying to gather their input, their schedules, the different learning pathways, then they have the services they need. [The current education system has always] taken kids and put them into a system, and now we’ve flipped that. We’re bringing a kid in and changing the system for them.”
2.A culture of trust built through community
Caring relationships, rebuilding trust, and valuing each student are essential underpinnings to the structures and practices in the RISE community. Student voice and empowerment are reflected in multiple ways in the school’s culture, systems, and routines, and teachers integrate social-emotional support and academics. For example, students share their perspectives on school policies and culture with the staff through one-on-one conversations and in surveys. Rather than traditional punitive disciplinary practices, RISE uses restorative practices designed to solve problems and help students who broke norms reflect on their actions. Community building circles occur at least twice weekly, where students have an opportunity to raise issues and resolve differences through authentic, respectful conversations. Smaller advisory circles focus on personal reflection and feedback, while larger circles focus on school-wide or community based issues and concerns.
Hi, I'm Kijera. Class of 2023.
“I’ve become extremely passionate about Los Angeles’ housing crisis. I can’t vote yet but through my time at RISE I’ve become an advocate for those experiencing homelessness and supporting changes for this community in LA.”
3.Empowering educators for impact
RISE intentionally recruits staff members who want to work closely in a small, tight-knit team and to build a strong, nurturing community from the ground up. Staff members receive professional development to help them adapt to the school's unique teaching and learning norms and processes, and they also receive special training in trauma-informed care, nonviolent crisis intervention, restorative justice, and the workings of the legal and foster-care systems. RISE staff members are also deeply involved in case management for many of their students and provide additional support through home visits, online availability, and connecting students with services.
“In the shift to remote learning, we created a crisis team for higher-need students, which included a teacher, an academic coach, a special education teacher, and a counselor. These teams were structured around a point person to make sure that the students weren’t overwhelmed with five calls a day.”
4.An ecosystem of student-centered supports
RISE partners with social services agencies and operates from three locations: the newest at Richstone Family Center, one of the most progressive centers for trauma-focused treatment and prevention in Los Angeles county in Hawthorne; one at A Place Called Home, a “safe haven” multi-service agency for Los Angeles youth that provides a nurturing environment with proven programs in arts, education and wellness; and one at New Earth, a non-profit that provides mentor-based arts, educational, and vocational programs that empower juvenile justice and system-involved youth ages 13-25. Each serves as a familiar home base for students, where they can develop deep relationships grounded in trust and consistency. This model allows students to access critical services and resources without taking them too far from their academic experience. The atmosphere of equity, care, and community ensures students can step out of class, as needed, to take advantage of available services without judgment, stigma, or discipline.
Theory Into Action
Student work: Presentations of learning and reflection
In the lead-up to graduation at RISE, students undertake a culminating project and presentation of learning that is aligned to their interests and demonstrates their learning. "In spite of the pandemic, RISE students continued and completed a semester-long multidisciplinary project between four content areas, applying literacy skills, deep quantitative and qualitative research, and mathematical investigation. One student recently researched immigration reform and shared the negative impacts that current policies had on their life, and then shared their ideas for more just and humane policies moving forward. Others focused on issues such as gun safety, healthcare, or climate change. Many students chose to research the history of voter suppression and racial injustice. After this project is complete, students are required to reflect not only on their culminating project and presentation of learning but on their time at RISE as a whole. They are asked to consider which components of the RISE vision they felt they embodied and to provide examples of how they had lived out that part of the vision while at RISE. They also share the ways they feel they grew, and how the lessons they learned at RISE would lead to their success in their post-secondary goals.
- Effective Communicator
- Skilled Problem-Solver
- Empowered Citizen
State Standards Met
- SL.11-12.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence (e.g., reflective, historical investigation, response to literature presentations), conveying a clear and distinct perspective and a logical argument, such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning, alternative or opposing perspectives are addressed, and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and a range of formal and informal tasks. Use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
- HSS-11.11: Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.
- 58.0% xLatinx
- 0.0%Native American/Indigenous
- 0.0%Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- 0.0%Any other ethnicity
- 4.0%More than one ethnicity
- 83.3%Free and Reduced Price Lunch
- 2.3%504 Plan
- 15%English Language Learners
Student empowerment in action
Learn the history of voting rights and how to increase voter awareness through an interactive session with teacher Lauren “Lo” Murray, two high school students from Da Vinci RISE High, and actress and activist Logan Browning.
“In a city with such high numbers of homeless youth, such high numbers of foster youth, there’s really no other option but to create something that is gonna be different. Something that’s gonna really rethink the needs of those communities. And the work that we’re doing is really to provide equity for communities who have never seen that.”
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