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Reimagining the Purpose of School


As we think of them today, schools have not changed much since the start of the twentieth century. Due to the reality of the times, American public schools were built to train kids for factory labor. Like in a factory, kids sat in rows, were told what to do, and only moved when the bell rang. In the many decades following, authoritarian, compliance-driven mindsets became highly valued in many settings where people gathered to learn or work. As a result, schools need to evolve with the times. While schools haven’t changed, the world certainly has. To prepare students for the society and economy of their lifetime, we need schools that meet the moment in which we’re living.


We need schools that rise to the occasion - flexible, innovative, and inclusive - for all children. Buffalo Commons is that kind of school. Commons is completely flipping the paradigm of traditional education, one where schools have typically viewed students as vessels needing to be filled. Buffalo Commons operates from a different premise entirely - we believe that every student has unique talents and perspectives needed by the world. A Buffalo Commons education empowers students and unlocks their potential to become a force for the common good.


We are reimagining education through four core principles:


An Actively Diverse Learning Community

Buffalo is a wonderfully diverse city. We have no racial majority, we speak more than 85 languages, and we represent every socioeconomic level. Yet, almost none of our schools reflect that diversity. Commons aims to change that. We foster a demographically diverse community and then go beyond that idea to a more active vision of diversity.

Commons embraces diversity as a way of being transcending demographics and extending beyond descriptions and categorizations. At Buffalo Commons, active diversity is creating a supportive learning community where there is freedom for every student to truly be themselves and have the opportunity to discover who they want to be.


Compelling Academics

At Commons, we believe that school should prepare every student to attend a four-year college or university. Yet, we know that not every student’s path will go through a traditional college pathway.


Commons has an academic program that acknowledges the whole person. We offer a curriculum that provides students with strong foundational skills that will open innumerable opportunities later in life while ensuring that they are also exploring their unique areas of interest.


Additionally, Commons’ curriculum reflects the diversity of our students and our world. Every subject area explores the multitude of perspectives that make up our wonderful country and interrogates what we thought we knew as truth with a capital T.


Innovative Real-World Curriculum

At Commons, learning goes beyond standards and test scores. We believe that students deserve the opportunity to apply the skills they have learned within real-world contexts.


Furthermore, our community deserves schools that help students understand the challenges we’re grappling with so that they can become the next generation of leaders we need. By partnering with local organizations, Commons students will have an opportunity to tackle the challenges we face in real-time.


Finally, it’s in the messiness of real-world problem-solving that the true strength of diversity emerges; it’s not just about sitting together in a classroom. It’s about shared goals and collaborative solutions that draw upon diverse perspectives. In these moments, students see the intrinsic value and common humanity of one another.


A Guiding Sense of Purpose

Commons’ approach disrupts the stark individualism that has characterized American schools for the past few decades. Our program transcends the idea of the school as a factory; we are no longer producing cogs in the machine. Instead, Commons students focus on developing robust answers to a few key questions.


  • What brings me joy?

  • What am I good at?

  • What does the world need?


At the intersection of these questions lies a student’s purpose. We don’t know what any student’s purpose is - that is deeply personal. But we know that having a sense of purpose matters, and we can’t wait to help each of our students figure theirs out.


Now that you have a sense of how we are reimagining education, can you imagine a Buffalo with hundreds of Commons graduates leading the way? Now that’s All Together Different.


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