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CPS goes outside the box to sponsor a charter school at Aiken

It's unusual for a public school district to partner with a charter school, but that will happen this fall when Carpe Diem opens inside the new Aiken High School in College Hill. It is one of two schools at Aiken. The other is New-Tech, focused on project-based learning.

Carpe Diem is focused on personalized learning. It's a concept that is spreading nationwide. Students in grades 6 through 12 are enrolled in classes based on an assessment. One student, for example, could be enrolled in 6th grade math and 10th grade English.

WVXU went to Indianapolis to see the Carpe Diem model. Carpe Diem-Meridian (Indy) is just the second such school to open nationwide. The first was started in Yuma, Arizona by Rick Ogston, a former marine, marriage counselor, pastor, businessman and educator. Frustrated with the status quo of learning, it was 2001 when Ogston said he had an Ichabod Crane moment.

"When you realize that Ichabod Crane would just be as comfortable in my classroom on that day at that time as he was in his own, evidence that not a lot had changed then."

The concept was born

Ogston started Carpe Diem at the University of Phoenix. The personalized learning was a concept he said he thought would work some years earlier. Top testing scores put it on the map, and foundations nationwide began to spread the word. Indiana's governor wanted to know what it would take to get Carpe Diem to his state. Carpe Diem-Meridian opened last fall.

Carpe Diem-Meridian (Indianapolis)

Just north of downtown Indianapolis is the brand new building experts say is on the cutting edge of education. Carpe Diem students spend half their day in the classroom, half in a self-guided digital learning center, and are constantly monitored to see how much progress they're making. To stay on track students must average 1% progress each day during a 90 day semester. Principal Mark Forner even reads a top ten list every morning

The 90 students are all income levels, all education levels and come from a mix of public, private and home schooling. In August they are tested and put on a personalized track. This can change throughout the year .

8th grader Jaylen Byard is doing his honors math homework focusing on space figures and drawings. He wants to be an air traffic controller. Students are asked what kind of a career they want and take aptitude tests. Byard used to get D's. He's now getting Bs. Anyone who scores below an 80% in is forced to stop and get extra help from teachers.

Carpe Diem will open up inside Aiken High School this fall

Carpe Diem founder Ogston says CPS Superintendent Mary Ronan had heard of his school and visited it in Arizona. He credits Ronan for looking past the competition of public vs charter.

"There tends to be more of a competitive attitude, rather than collaborative and Mary has just taken that out of the picture."

Here are renderings of the new Aiken High School

 The school is tuition-free and will get money from the State of Ohio. Enrollment is underway for Carpe Diem and Aiken's other new school, New-Tech.

Other Carpe Diem schools are planned for Texas and Idaho. 

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.