Phoenix International Academy, set to open in Fall 2019, is a charter school that will take a unique approach to learning. It’s designed to teach children and to help them prepare for their future.
“It would be a failure on the part of education to prepare students for a specific thing instead of help students prepare themselves for anything,” Ivette Rodriguez, PIA executive director and co-founder, said. “So, to get to that we’re going to have our school, in terms of operation, be significantly different in four pretty specific ways.”
The charter school’s model will use project-based learning, restorative practices, personalized learning and global competency.
Rodriguez said the students will investigate “either their immediate surroundings, themselves, their family, something regional or something global. They’re figuring out a potential solution and they’re presenting it- so project-based learning.”
Students will use hands-on experiences and realistic issues to learn and develop useful skills.
“The restorative practices are around acknowledging when there are breaches in the community and working to restore the environment to what it needs to be, so people can genuinely come back and work together,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said PIA will be a positive and supportive environment for the students. Instead of issuing suspensions or excluding students from their academic community, they will be encouraged to learn from their mistakes and move forward.
Rodriguez explained that when students are excelling in a certain subject, they should have the option to move up. When students are behind in a subject, they need extra guidance and extra time so they can catch up.
Rodriguez wants to ensure every student is being challenged and will move on to the next level when they are ready.
“Are we producing globally competent students? Can they investigate the world around them? Can they communicate with diverse audiences and recognize diverse perspectives- or even know what their own perspective is? Are they able to take action on problems that they see in the world?” Rodriguez asked.
PIA students will not only be taught how to learn from local and global communities, but also how to make an impact on these communities.
PIA’s creative model has garnered support.
It is the first in Arizona to receive funding from the NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit that supports innovative public education.
Rodriguez said that in addition to financial support, PIA receives “ongoing support from a team who has a lot of resources to make sure we have everything we could possibly need to open an excellent and innovative school.”
Those supported by the NewSchools Venture Fund have access to a supportive network of academic leaders who are developing or in the early stages of a new school.
“Opening a brand new school is really hard. We’ve found that being able to provide the space for them to develop relationships with other early-stage school leaders, who are opening up a new school, is a really helpful thing,” Debbie Veney, NewSchools Venture Fund director of communications, said.
PIA is set to open in Fall 2019 in South Mountain, Phoenix. Upon opening, it will welcome students in fifth through eighth grade, but will eventually serve students in kindergarten through eighth grade.