The mission of Durango Big Picture High School is to empower students to use their interests and passions to drive their learning through real world application and experiences in order to reach their personal, social and academic goals.
Durango Big Picture High School began its first year on August 24, 2009 as one of Durango School District 9-R’s educational options for high school students. We went on to graduate our first class in May of 2012. Our unique high school follows the Big Picture Learning model, which is centered on individual student growth through community-based internships and student centered curriculum. Durango Big Picture High School is a public, four-year Colorado Department of Education accredited high school with an enrollment of approximately 75 students. We have a student to teacher ratio of no more than nineteen students to one advisor.
The 10 Distinguishers of Big Picture Learning
Several elements that distinguish us from others:
ONE STUDENT AT A TIME - The entire learning experience is personalized to each student’s interests, talents and needs. Personalization expands beyond mere academic work and involves looking at each student holistically.
ADVISORY STRUCTURE - Advisory is the core organizational and relational structure of a Big Picture Learning school, its heart and soul, often described as a “second family” by students. Students stay with an advisor and a group of fellow classmates for four years, building close personal relationships that last a lifetime.
LEARNING THROUGH INTERESTS AND INTERNSHIPS (LTIs) - Real world learning is best accomplished in the real world. Big Picture students intern--often twice a week for an entire school day--with experts in their field of interest, completing authentic projects and gaining experience and exposure to how their interests intersect with the real world.
PARENT AND FAMILY ENGAGEMENT - Parents are welcome and valued members of the school community and play a proactive role in their children’s learning, collaborating in the planning and assessment of student work. They use their assets to support the work of the school, and often play an integral role in building relationships with potential LTI mentors.
SCHOOL CULTURE - In Big Picture schools, there is palpable trust, respect and equality between and among students and adults. Students take leadership roles in the school, and teamwork defines the adult culture. Student voice is valued in the school decision making process and visitors are struck by the ease with which students interact with adults.
AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT - Students are assessed not by tests, but by public displays of learning that track growth and progress in the student’s area of interest. Assessment criteria are individualized to the student and the real world standards of a project. Students present multiple exhibitions each year and discuss their learning growth with staff, parents, peers, and mentors.
SCHOOL ORGANIZATION - Schools are organized around a culture of collaboration and communication. They are not bound by the structures of buildings, schedules, bells, or calendars. There is an interdependence between school and community.
LEADERSHIP - Leadership is shared and spread between a strong, visionary principal; a dedicated, responsible team of advisors and other staff; and students. The community functions as a democracy. A pervasive sense of shared ownership drives a positive culture dedicated to ongoing improvement.
POST-SECONDARY PLANNING - Students develop plans that contribute to their future success--be it through college, trades, schools, travel, the military, or the workforce.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT - Regular advisor development is conducted at each school by principals, other school staff, and BPL staff and coaches. A Big Picture School is a community of lifelong learners who embrace continuous improvement.