The La Crosse Design Institute (LDI) is a public charter school in the La Crosse School District.
The seventh and eighth grade program has been around for two years, and test scores show the program has been a success.
"Our students in reading actually demonstrated that they were growing faster than the national average," said Nick Pretasky, La Crosse Design Institute advisor. "And our students in math were growing at the national average."
LDI is just one of several public charter schools in the La Crosse School District available to students who are interested in project-based learning.
"Everything that we're hearing from the community... from the parent groups that we listen to... they're saying thank you for the choices and options," said Troy Harcey, La Crosse School District associate superintendent of instruction. "Lets see if we can continue to innovate, and see what's in the best practices for the kids."
So, this month the La Crosse School Board voted to allow the district to apply for a $175,000 grant which would give them the opportunity to explore the possibility of having a project-based charter school, like LDI, for high school students.
"We're thankful for the board's support to at least continue to research," said Harcey. "They feel it's a valuable enough option philosophically for our school district, for our parents, that they're willing to let us go forward and turn over every stone as we research the possibilities."
"I think it's a really good program," said Colin Klos, LDI Governance Board president. "The outcomes are incredible."
The Governance Board for the middle school which oversees the charter.
"If it is showing that it is very successful, it can only be more successful at the high school level," said Klos. "And that's when those next four years are so important, because after those four years you're on your own."
Klos is also the Vice President of MBA, an architecture firm in Holmen. He says project-based charter schools, like LDI, are producing workers with 21st century skills.
"It's very hard to find quality employees," said Klos. "Whether they have degrees or not. Whether they're out of high school, whatever. It's that person that can problem-solve, that can think on their feet, that don't have to be directed every minute of the day. And can then produce."
And now the School District of La Crosse hopes to start researching whether this model of education can be successful at the high school level, too.
"So, we're hopeful," said Harcey. "We're excited. We've got a lot of zeal and passion and energy behind the possibilities. So, hopefully that will lead us ultimately to a good place."
And that place would allow the district to offer its students and families a charter high school.
TEACHER/ADVISOR, LA CROSSE DESIGN INSTITUTE
ASSOC. SUPERINTENDENT, LA CROSSE SCHOOLS
PRES., LDI GOVERNANCE BOARD