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  • Brittney Highsmith, MS.Ed

What sets The Nikola Tesla School of Social Entrepreneurship apart from other schools?

Updated: Oct 11, 2018

The difference between a high performing school and poorly performing school is the school leader, not the children.

In today's start up market, people are often inclined to ask, "What makes NTSSE special? What's the niche?" At The Nikola Tesla School of Social Entrepreneurship, we are not in the business of creating for sake of branding. We are here to provide excellent education to all students through proper implementation and fidelity in our instructional mastery and design. While there are many themed charter schools such as schools geared towards sports, civic engagement, or personalized learning, we know that in reality, children are dynamic, and therefore so is our approach.

At NTSSE, we do not overemphasize one strategy over another. We believe that children need a full circle experience in education that includes, experiential learning, projects, writing, inquiry, and oral presentation. Our Lead Founder, Brittney Highsmith, specializes in blended learning for both general and special needs students. You are welcome to review our bell schedule which enables us to provide various entry points into a lesson, reaching all learning styles.

How We Achieve the Difference

Personalized Learning

Personalized learning is a buzz word in today's education climate. We know that we need it, however, as a nation, we are still struggling to uncover what this actually looks like from day to day for our scholars. What is clear is that students thrive when given immediate feedback on their thinking, thus creating the small class room advantage within a average-sized classroom. We accomplish this through our thoughtfulness in how we schedule our instructional time, how we manage individual student data, and the speediness in which we respond to it. NTSSE is a 1:1 school that sees technology in the classroom as apart of the solution to advanced learning, rather than a mere luxury, and while we do not solely depend on it, we employ it with fidelity to explore beyond boundaries to achieve 2.8+ years of growth in reading and math, as measured on the Northwest Evaluation Association Measures of Academic Progress (NWEA MAP) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC).

While NTSSE is well prepared for students with special needs and see major gains for them as well, we are also skilled in gifted education. For when classrooms are truly differentiated, we naturally see greater instances of academic excellence through mere exposure to above grade level content. This is only made possible by positioning the teacher as facilitator and learning monitor, as children are exposed to the skilled tasks that they can complete, regardless of their age or grade level. Moral of the story? Let kids do what they can do.

“One of the essential problems for education is that most countries subject their schools to the fast-food model of quality assurance when they should be adopting the Michelin model instead. The future for education is not in standardizing but in customizing; not in promoting group think and “de-individuation” but in cultivating the real depth and dynamism of human abilities of every sort.”

- Sir Ken Robinson

Learner-Driven Community

Along with personalized learning, NTTSE believes in extreme agency. We teach kids to self-report and steer their own learning with the guidance of a skilled adult. As a result, students and teachers interchange roles as needed, creating an environment where all members are learners, and skilled adults can model various starting points for answering ones questions. When students are invested and can articulate their own strengths and needs, learning accelerates. By taking the focus off of the teacher and promoting student-led learning, scholars internalize information more deeply and retain more overtime.

While many schools claim to be learner-driven communities, they are often teacher-driven and prescribed. With a true personalized learning school, learners drive every decision and we create authentic learning experiences through nature, field trips, laboratory exercises, student-led discussions, 21st century classrooms, and play. With monitored productive struggle, students develop their own methods of problem solving and creation.

Practitioner-based Leadership

While many schools are ran by leaders who have minimal classroom experience, or who have never demonstrated instructional mastery themselves, NTSSE prides itself on its hard skills. We are masters of instruction and possess the core competencies (classroom management/ systems & routines, instructional delivery and progress monitoring, family engagement, and socio-emotional learning) to execute a high performing school. We believe that the best way to learn a craft is through practice and immediate feedback, and while we applaud the efforts of many fellowships, leadership training programs, and teacher lesson plan internalization initiatives, experience proves that teachers learn best when excellent teaching is explicitly modeled for them in real time, with real students.

Brittney Highsmith, is a master teacher of 9 years, with a proven record of student success as well as successful teacher training. Her ability to model masterful instruction is not only inspiring for new an experienced teachers alike, but it is a call to action for all educators to invest in the craft of teaching to achieve true mastery and beyond. Super modeling, or immersion, speeds up the learning process and allows teachers to learn both consciously and subconsciously, from the sound bite of how a teacher gives an instruction to the specific order and display of books in a classroom library. This is intricate work and it not for the weak-skilled. Our children deserve to learn from the best, rather than the well-liked. This is not politics; this is school for real children. We intend to raise the bar for excellent school leadership and by doing so, will create equity among schools.

Special Needs & Gifted Education

While many schools reach for a inclusive model, special needs education has often taken a back seat among the general education setting in day-to-day decision making. Sad, but true, many special needs and gifted students (who are often one in the same, and arguably of the same group of children who require special accommodations) are left to the wayside for the sake meeting overall progress benchmarks based on a school-wide average. The problem with averages, however, is that it focuses on middle growth. Thus, schools are able to demonstrate "success" even though their highest performing scholars have largely remained stagnant. At SIS, we do not call this growth.

A truly differentiated classroom requires the orchestration of a highly skilled instructor/facilitator that has vertical awareness of where children need to go and where they have come from. As a nation, partnership between general education and special needs education has been largely lacking, with many in the general education sphere deeming those of the special education sphere as less of a teacher, or not having to work as hard as their general ed counterparts. Instructors that have the greatest impact on students that fall out the traditional bell curve average are those who are intentional about investigating and receiving coaching around authentic and effective learner-driven learning, and are practiced at seeing results with these children.

In addition, SIS goes beyond traditional boundaries by creating virtual classrooms for children who are sick and unable to attend school within a traditional setting so that they may participate live in classroom discussions and never miss out on the benefits of collective learning. In addition, with robotics and video conferencing, students can be virtually present without ever proper medical care.

The Silicon Valley Way

At SIS, our motto is to explore beyond boundaries. We employ technology, not only to make learning more engaging and more aligned to a 21st century world, but as a key form of access for children who are sick and unable to attend school outside of a hospital setting. For many children, their physical disability limits the schooling they can receive and often miss out on opportunities to socialize and reach their fullest academic potential.

With special skills in reaching children with attendance challenges, Brittney Highsmith brings a wealth of knowledge and strategies for providing regular access to an authentic school experience for students with cognitive, physical, and psychological impairments.


At the core of this conversation, it is best stated that at the very basic level, Americans are in dyer need of excellent schools. Every year, we become less and less competitive in a global market, yet we continuously allow inexperienced instructional professionals to lead our schools. NTSSE is not in the number years you have served or the what you have observed. Experience resides in the quality of those years in practice, responding to real life situations, and ultimately, achieving results that are reflected in student academic outcomes, as well as character building and agency creation. Real results need real skill and while we our invested in the soft skills that make us a great team, they are not in leu of the hard skills, the very core competencies, that move the needle towards the mission of this organization: to provide children around the world with exceptional education, character development, and love for the advancement of all people.

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