New Designs for School
New Designs for School

We’ve all had the experience of truly purposeful, authentic learning and know how valuable it is. Educators are taking the best of what we know about learning, student support, effective instruction, and interpersonal skill-building to completely reimagine schools so that students experience that kind of purposeful learning all day, every day.

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Primary Contact Name:
Perry White
Award Date:
May 2014
Grant Type:
National Planning and Launch
Start Date:
Fall 2014
Startup Type:
New School

School: Vertus Charter School
Grades Served: 9-12
Location: Rochester, NY
Operator: Vertus Charter School
Operator Type: Charter
Setting: Urban
Students at Start: 96
Students at Capacity: 384

Blended Model Type: Lab Rotation

Key Features: Competency-Based Learning, Next Generation Staffing Model, Social-Emotional Development, Career Readiness

The Operator:
Vertus is a career prep high school serving boys in Rochester, New York, who otherwise would face high odds of dropping out, violence, unemployment, and prison. The student body is largely African American and Latino from low-income families. Rochester has the country’s lowest high school graduation rate for minority boys, graduating less than 9 percent of African American and less than 10 percent of Latino boys. Vertus is designed to meet the needs of these young men. The school’s mission is to prepare leaders of character for the community and the workplace. Its core values are courage, leadership and responsibility.

The Academic Model:

  • The school's personalized, year-round model combines 1) strong, stable, low-ratio relationships with staff, 2) proven and effective online curricula, 3) character education and life skills training, and 4) career development.
  • Vertus combines an unprecedented level of social and emotional support with individualized, self-paced online learning. Students are organized into teams of 12 led by full-time Preceptors who serve as role models, mentors, and tutors.
  • Each student develops an Individual Life Plan that maps progress toward short and long- term goals for academics, character development, and career.
  • Students complete the majority of their academic coursework using self-paced online curriculum under the guidance of teachers and learning specialists. They move on when they demonstrate mastery.
  • In addition to college preparation, Vertus offers students pathways into mid-skill jobs that require technical training or two year degrees. Each student is expected to earn a job credential as well as New York’s Regents Diploma.

Application Deck

The Organizational Model:

  • Vertus has 205 instructional days in a year-round, quarter-based calendar and a 7.5 hour school day, creating 30% more learning time than a traditional school. Over four years, students gain more than a year of instructional time. All staff work a full year and a full day.
  • Vertus’ organizational model involves small, accountable units, each headed by a leader with a clear set of skills and responsibilities. There is a well-defined career ladder. Staff are expected to advance to positions of greater responsibility as they learn and prove themselves. For example, Preceptors may move to Lead Preceptor to Cohort Preceptor to Head of School. This progression will support scaling through developing leaders who can run their own schools.
  • Preceptors do not need to be certified teachers. They are adults with a track record of success who understand and can support boys of the inner city and are willing to be 100% responsible for the success of the students on their team.
  • The founders believe that the school can be rapidly scaled when its new vision for human capital is successful, which depends on the following:
    • The ability of Preceptors to motivate and support students and to help them meet their goals for academics, career training and character development
    • The ability of teachers to be effective learning engineers, able to tailor online content and tools to fit the needs of students, monitor progress, and teach what online tools cannot provide.