How we are different

Big Picture Learning schools often look dramatically different from one another as each serves its own population of learners. There are many elements within our learning design that are uncommon and distinct, which pull our network together and distinguish them from most other schools:

What makes us stand out

One scholar at a time

The entire learning experience is personalized to each scholar’s interests, talents, and needs. Personalization expands beyond mere academic work and involves looking at each scholar 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 scholars. After their first introductory trimester, scholars stay with an advisor and a group of fellow classmates for the rest of their high school careers, building close personal relationships that last a lifetime.

Learning through interests and internships (LTI)

Real world learning is best accomplished in the real world. Big Picture scholars intern once 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/guardians 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 scholar 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 scholars and adults. Scholars take leadership roles in the school, and teamwork defines the adult culture. Scholar voice is valued in the school’s decision making process, and visitors are struck by the ease with which scholars interact with adults.

Authentic assessment

Scholars are assessed by public displays of learning that track growth and progress in the scholar’s area of interest. Assessment criteria are individualized for the scholar and the real world standards of a project. Scholars present three exhibitions each year and discuss their learning growth with staff, families, peers, and mentors.

School organization

Schools are organized around a culture of collaboration and communication. They are not bound by the structures of buildings or calendars. There is an interdependence between school and the community.


Leadership is shared and spread between a strong, visionary principal; a dedicated and responsible team of advisors and staff; and scholars. The community functions as a democracy. A pervasive sense of shared ownership drives a positive culture dedicated to ongoing improvement.

Post-secondary planning

Scholars develop plans that contribute to their future successes—be it through college, trades, schools, travel, the military, or the workforce.

Professional development

Regular advisor PD is conducted at each school by principals and other staff, as well as BPL staff and coaches. A Big Picture School is a community of lifelong learners who embrace continuous improvement.