How They Came to Be
PSI High’s Super School Origin Story
When district leaders in Seminole County Public Schools learned about the XQ Super School competition in 2015, their first response was to seek advice from students. Derek Jensen, manager of digital and blended learning for the district at the time, invited high school students from around the district to join a design team. In turn, the team gathered insights from their peers. What they discovered was galvanizing: students felt bored and alienated, shut out from learning that mattered to them, and frustrated by inequitable opportunities. They responded with the plan for Problem-Solving Incubator, or PSI High. “Designed by students for students,” the proposal declared, “PSI High will serve as living proof that students can play a leading role in changing the world for the better.” In 2021, PSI High had 10 graduates in their first senior class.
PSI High is a program focused on real-world learning at Seminole High School in Seminole County Public Schools. Seminole High School offers additional choice programs, including the Academy of Health Careers, the International Baccalaureate Program, and the Aviation Academy. PSI High designs teaching and learning around outcomes that represent an expanded definition of what it means to be college and career-ready. Teams of students learn in an environment that looks more like a high-tech office than a classroom and work in teams to solve real-world community, business, and social problems. Students can determine how they will demonstrate their mastery of content as they work on projects that matter to them.
PSI High Design Features
1.Projects and partnerships
Real-world learning is the priority at PSI High. Projects are organized around key themes—humanities, STEM, and Innovation and Design. All projects have three things in common: a challenge or question, an authentic audience, and a high-quality deliverable. Students complete projects that serve a real need or add real value to the community, made possible through robust partnerships between PSI High and local government, businesses, and nonprofit service organizations. Students also select from an enrichment track within the program to specialize in either digital design computer science, or application design.
Theory Into Action
Student work: A smart project
Working closely with an industry partner for over six months, a team of PSI students recently created a Smart Mirror for Siemens’ internal communications group in their Digital Information Technology course. The mirror hangs in a high-traffic, collaborative space at Siemens to communicate time, weather, and important news. The project was fertile ground for the students to master state standards in an authentic and operational way. As real-world projects tend to do, the work created an intersection of required English, math, and science standards as well as professional skills like effective email communication. Additionally, the work fostered design thinking mindsets like creativity, flexibility, and collaboration. Students learned how to assess their progress, identify deficiencies, and figure out how to fill any gaps with more research, experimentation, or ideation. Together, the standards and competencies serve to create future-ready students, prepared to lead and innovate in college, career, and beyond.
Skills for Future-Ready Graduates Met
- Information and digital literacy
- Communication and collaboration
- Problem solving
- Innovation and imagination
Some of Many Florida State Standards Met
- SC.5.P.11.1: Investigate and illustrate the fact that the flow of electricity requires a closed circuit
- MAFS.912.G-MG1.3: Apply geometric methods to solve design problems
- LAFS.910.L.1.1: Demonstrate command of the conventions of English grammar and usage when writing or speaking
2.Students in the driver’s seat
At PSI High, students decide how they want to engage with each project and demonstrate mastery of course skills and content. Throughout high school, students choose the work that they feel best showcases their growth, culminating in a multi-year portfolio of learning which they present formally. Every student’s journey is grounded in their unique interests and skills, allowing them the freedom to grow as a scholar and as a person.
Former Instructional Strategist
"Our students’ future is shaping up to be a place where learning how to learn will be the ultimate skill they’ll need to master. That’s why it’s time we shift the power dynamic and give students a proper seat at the table in their own education."
As a part of the Seminole County Public Schools graduate profile, PSI High has expanded the definition of what it means to be college and career ready. Students collaborate on teams to solve real-world problems and build skills in the district’s ePathways Skills for Future-Ready Graduates. Teachers, students, and community partners collaborate through advisement and skill sessions on topics like academic help, personal skills, emotional well-being, and other topics.
Director of Teaching and Learning
“Designed by students, for students, PSI High will serve as living proof that students can play a leading role in changing the world for the better.”
4.Mastery, not memorization
At PSI High, students continue to revise and iterate on their work until they demonstrate they have mastered the skill or standard. PSI High accomplishes this by abandoning the traditional assignment-driven grade book and replacing it with standards-based grading using rubrics that define when a student has mastered a competency. Every PSI High student curates a portfolio of their work and maps their progress towards mastery of the graduate skills. Every school year, students lead formal presentations of learning aligned to their individual goals.
Hi, I'm Lacie. Class of 2022.
“My team designed, prototyped, and built animal enrichment games with the Central Florida Zoo in our Digital Information course. The 'Chow Chucker' is used with the black bears, warthogs, cheetahs, and rhinos. It’s like a t-shirt cannon that can 'chuck' food throughout the enclosures to help animals dissociate people and food. Our 'Lemur Locker' is a puzzle box to engage lemurs and spider monkeys in using their hands more like they do in the wild. I learned about animal behaviors when designing the devices, geometry and ratios when building the devices, and communication skills when pitching and presenting the team’s ideas.”
- 0.4%Native American/Indigeous
- 0.0%Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
- 0.0%Any other ethnicity
- 0.0%More than one ethnicity
- 51.7%Free and Reduced Price Lunch
- 11.6%504 Plan
- 1.9%English Language Learners
Step into the PSI High student experience
Curious about how students get started in planning what learning will look like when it's so vastly different from what they've ever known? Check out the PSI High website where you'll find sample learning plans, schedules, and advice for managing your time.
Hi, I’m Kira. Class of 2022.
“I'm planning a lot of art installations around campus. These are about beautifying our school but, more importantly, they’re about making sure students feel represented here. When I’m not working on my art, I like writing stories for the role-playing web servers that I run and I’m creating a graphic novel! All these things are fun and I’m learning a lot. I need to be familiar with biology concepts to create my fantasy creatures and many ELA concepts to write a successful narrative. Math, physics, and physical science are things I need to investigate to be successful in my hobbies.”
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