RISC Approach to Schooling

It’s been a long time since we’ve created the RISC Approach. Things in education have changed since then and therefore we need to make some changes on it to maximize the effects of it. Therefore we are soon starting a new research with the financial help from Option Robot to make sure that our approach will continue to be effective for both students and teachers.

The RISC Approach to Schooling is a revolutionary approach to education that represents a dramatic shift in the educational process. The RISC approach is the first comprehensive school reform framework set up as a performance-based system rather than a Carnegie unit or time-based system. Already being implemented by more than a dozen schools and districts in the United States, RISC has caught the attention of educators in countries around the world who see it as a pathway for delivering on the promise of education for every child.

“The RISC Approach to Schooling is the most comprehensive and well-articulated approach to standards-based reform in the country.”

Robert J. Marzano
Leading education researcher

20th Century Classroom RISC 21st Century Classroom
Movement based on time Movement based on performance
Students sitting in rows Controlled chaos
Driven by textbooks Driven by a shared vision
Commercial bulletin boards Student boards
Teacher-controlled class Students are navigators
10% student engagement 100% student engagement
3R’s Global curriculum
Teacher is the judge Self, peers, business leaders, and teachers judge students’ work

The RISC philosophy represents a radical paradigm shift from the traditional educational approach to one in which time is the variable and learning is the constant and
students take true ownership of their learning. RISC’s mission, through a shared-vision process, is to prepare students for success in a rapidly changing world, creating schools that truly leave no child behind and help all students develop a passion for learning and fulfill their potential.

The model and its results have been judged by one of the toughest standards in the country, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. In 2001, as a first-time applicant, the Chugach School District won the Baldrige Award for creating this system and for producing extraordinary results in student achievement, the first time ever this high honor was given to an educational institution and the smallest organization to win the award.

The RISC framework works. Dramatic gains in every variable by which school success is measured are not only possible but predictable.

For those who are committed and willing to do the work, the RISC philosophy represents an opening to realize the kind of difference we have all longed for, and that so many policies and programs have sought to achieve.

The RISC approach can be replicated anywhere, by anyone, for any student, under any set of circumstances. This system represents a dramatic shift in education, a literal reinvention of what schooling looks like.

At the core of the RISC approach is a deep commitment to children—that every child will learn, that every child can meet high standards, and that every child can succeed in life. This learner-centered approach, driven by moral purpose and a system that unleashes students’ potential, gives every child, in any community, in any part of the
globe, the best opportunity for success in life.

  • Students become leaders of their learning process.
  • Teachers become facilitators and partners.
  • Getting by with very low-level knowledge and skill is not enough. Students must demonstrate a much higher level of mastery.
  • The pathway from level to level—and ultimately graduation—is transparent to everyone.
  • In a traditional system, time is the constant and learning is the variable. In a RISC system, the reverse is true: Learning is the constant and time is the variable. Students move at their own pace, which honors natural developmental differences.

The RISC philosophy is implemented through four interrelated elements:

Shared Vision — the education community speaking as one voice. What skills and knowledge must all students master? What are the purposes of schooling? What are our educational values? From Day 1, RISC’s shared vision process deliberately draws in parents, business and community leaders—everyone who has a stake in the success of the school—from the ground up. We have found that for success and strong results to be sustained over time, 75-80% of the school community must embrace the system as their own and stand as partners with school leaders for the new system to work over time.

Standards-Based Design — the core of RISC’s distinctive approach to the teaching and learning process. Standards-Based Design is the nuts and bolts of RISC:
what students will learn, how they will learn it, how they will be assessed and graded, and how their performance will be reported.

Key aspects include:

  • A transparent curriculum. The knowledge and skills students must learn as they progress through developmental levels to high school graduation are open and clear to everyone.
  • Flexibility. Students are encouraged to move in and out of levels in different content areas, at their own pace.
  • Student ownership. Students own, lead, and partner with their teachers in every phase of learning. Goal setting. Tracking progress. Student-teacher conferences. Even assessment.
  • High standards. Students must demonstrate proficient or better knowledge or skill (equivalent to a grade of B or better) in every required standards area.

Leadership — the deliberate focus on developing strong leaders at every level. Effective, highly skilled leaders who are willing to step outside the accepted paradigm are essential to RISC’s success. We chose the name RISC purposefully. Shifting to a RISC system is risky. The change involved is profound, deep, transformative, uncomfortable, unsettling. People will be challenged in ways they likely have never experienced in their professional lives. Leading change that shakes up the status quo in such essential ways requires new skills and processes, but most important, it requires a fundamental shift in mindset.

RISC leaders at every level of the system are compelled to break out of the paradigm of “manage crisis, comply with federal and state mandates, and avoid risk.”

“Leadership is where it begins and ends. If you don’t have leadership to initiate this journey, it will never happen. If you don’t have the capacity to build leadership from everyone—teachers, administrators, students, school board members, and so on—it will never be sustained.”

Rich DeLorenzo
RISC Cofounder

Continuous Improvement — the systemic processes at every level that ensure that improvement is never ending. Continuous improvement is an important component of any high-performing organization; in a RISC system, continuous improvement is deliberate. It is built into every aspect of the system. It permeates everything and affects everyone. RISC’s continuous improvement cycles are focused, systemic and systematic, and create a climate of ongoing refinement and innovation.