What We Do

The EL model is based on research and honed by 17 years of working closely with schools and districts. This experience has consistently demonstrated that our model:

  • Develops leadership capacity across the school to build a shared vision for school transformation and a professional culture rooted in quality, continuous improvement, and trust
  • Builds teacher effectiveness through on-site coaching as well as regional and national professional development
  • Organizes learning around an experiential project-based approach in which students do original research and create high-quality products for audiences beyond the classroom
  • Develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills as essential elements of the deep learning that prepares students for success in college and beyond
  • Creates a school culture based on strong adult-student relationships and positive character, with rigorous expectations for behavior and achievement
  • Empowers school leaders, teachers, and students in collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources to improve student achievement
  • Balances an academically rigorous, and well-defined approach with teacher creativity and judgment

High achievement

Schools that implement our model have test scores that exceed district averages, often by substantial margins, particularly for high-need subgroups. In our exemplary high schools, 100% college acceptance is the standard. Not only do students achieve at higher levels than their peers on state tests, but they also gain skills critical to college readiness and success — problem solving, critical thinking, persistence toward excellence, and active citizenship.

Transformational professional development

We combine on-site coaching in classrooms — differentiated by teacher capacity and need — with off-site residential institutes that put teachers in the role of student learners, researching real-world topics. Traditional professional development often places teachers in a passive role of being told how to teach. In contrast, our coaches model effective, active classrooms.

Active, interdisciplinary learning

Our instructional practices emphasize student inquiry, critical thinking, and craftsmanship. Students engage in original research and create high-quality academic products to share with outside audiences. Learning expeditions - deep, interdisciplinary investigations of rich academic topics - bring together teachers from different disciplines or enrich the work of individual teachers in discipline-specific classrooms.

Data-driven planning

Our tight, data-driven planning cycle keeps a sharp focus on student achievement, local context, and changing needs. A school’s work with us begins with a holistic needs and assets inventory and proceeds with the development of work plans aimed at dramatic improvements in student achievement and implementation of our core practices.

High-quality staff

The heart of our work happens in the interaction between EL’s coaches – called school designers — and staff. Our school designers are themselves experienced teachers and school leaders who draw upon the collective power of our national network to mentor and guide new members.

A professional network

Through our annual National Conference, content-specific professional development institutes, Local Collaboration Clusters, and our online collaboration space, EL Commons, educators learn from one another through best-practice sharing.

Core Practices

Our core practices address five key dimensions of life in school

Learning Expeditions

Our approach to curriculum makes content and skill standards come alive for students by connecting learning to real-world issues and needs. Academically rigorous learning expeditions, case studies, projects, fieldwork, and service learning inspire students to think and work as professionals do, contributing high-quality work to authentic audiences beyond the classroom. 


Our classrooms are alive with discovery, inquiry, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. Teachers talk less. Students talk and think more. Lessons have explicit purpose, guided by learning targets for which students take ownership and responsibility. In all subject areas, teachers differentiate instruction and maintain high expectations in order to bring out the best in all students and cultivate a culture of high achievement.

Culture and Character

Our schools build cultures of respect, responsibility, courage, and kindness, where students and adults are committed to quality work and citizenship. School structures and traditions such as crew, community meetings, exhibitions of student work, and service learning ensure that every student is known and cared for, that student leadership is nurtured, and that contributions to the school and world are celebrated. Students and staff are supported to do better work and be better people than they thought possible.


Our leaders, teachers, and students embrace the power of student-engaged assessment practices to focus students on reaching standards-based learning targets and drive achievement. Students continually assess and improve the quality of their work through the use of models, reflection, critique, rubrics, and work with experts. Staff members engage in ongoing data inquiry and analysis, examining everything from patterns in student work to results from high-stakes tests. 


Our school leaders build professional learning communities that focus sharply on student achievement and continuous improvement, use data wisely, and boldly shape school structures to best meet student needs. Leaders celebrate joy in learning and build a school-wide culture of trust and collaboration. Leadership in our schools goes beyond a single person or team – it is a role and expectation for all. 

Download new Core Practices book here.