The RISE Project FAQ

What does the price include?

  • Professional development fees 
  • Facility and parking fees
  • Overnight accommodations for 3-day sessions and one day sessions if the school is more than 200 miles from the PD location 
  • Food/snacks for each event 
  • Supplies during events
  • Resources for site assessments and building a culture of innovation
  • Travel of facilitators
  • ~12 days of direct service 
  • Sustained consulting services of at least 2 experienced facilitators for the 2020-21 school year


Objectives & Outcomes:

  • Participants will evaluate how their current school mission/vision aligns with the goals of this project and with the day-to-day actions students are doing. Where appropriate, schools will use protocols to refine their mission & vision to address the creative tension between vision and reality.
  • Participants will assess their current level of student and teacher collaboration (PLCs, classroom rounds, critical friends, student collaboration, advisory, etc.) and through the use of protocols, determine what structural changes might be needed to build a culture of collaboration.
  • Participants will use a formal protocol to evaluate their current level of teacher autonomy and leadership capacity. Based on this evaluation, each school team will determine what additional autonomies are appropriate as they move to a more distributed leadership model to build teacher leadership and the free and open sharing of ideas and resources.
  • Participants will receive training in Design Thinking and then use this new knowledge to assess where the design process can be implemented in their school and classrooms to enhance a fail-forward culture of innovation, where empathy, constructive critique, revision, reflection, and continuous improvement are built into the DNA of the school.
  • Participants will spend time identifying and adapting innovative teaching and learning best practices aimed at building capacity for sustained inquiry, questioning, just-in-time scaffolding and supports for students, increasing student voice & choice, authentic assessments, and effective project management.
  • Participants will do a needs/asset assessment to determine how they can increase community involvement in their schools, from expert mentors to community-based projects, to public exhibitions.
  • Teacher participants will be given the opportunity to assess their depth of knowledge of their own standards and identify ways to make them more relevant and engaging to students. Participants will also develop a deeper understanding of alternative assessment and grading models and experiment with aspects of Competency Based Education.


Who will be providing professional development and facilitating the RISE project?

  • Ben Owens is a mechanical engineer who spent a career in manufacturing and R&D locations across the US before becoming a public school teacher in rural Appalachia. While at Tri-County Early College for 11 years, Ben and his colleagues transformed the school into one that has gained international recognition for its unique approach to wall-to-wall, mastery-based, community-facing PBL. After co-authoring the book “Open Up, Education!” in 2018, Ben founded the nonprofit, Open Way Learning, and now helps schools everywhere create the cultural conditions for localized, learner-centered innovation in their own schools. Ben has earned multiple awards, such as the 2017 Bridging the Gap Distinguished Teacher in STEM Education; and the 2016 North Carolina Center for Science, Mathematics, & Technology Outstanding 9-16 Educator. He is on the National Faculty for PBLWorks, a member of Transcend’s Yellow Hats League, and an Open Organization Ambassador. Follow him on Twitter: @engineerteacher
  • Michelle Benigno is an educational engineer with over 25 years experience in education. Michelle has spent her career collecting research based strategies for learner-centered classrooms, teaching all grade levels of students, coaching as a school level administrator and district curriculum coordinator, and currently directing the Mountain Office of The Science House of NCSU. Michelle has active educational partnerships with National Geographic Explorers, Joy Labz (Makey Makey), Vernier Software and Technology, and the Moog Foundation: Dr. Bob Sound School.  She is on the faculty for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching and has earned multiple awards for her commitment to helping other educators, such as the Outstanding Outreach Award for NCSU and the Distinguished Service in Science Education Award from NCSTA. Follow her on Twitter: @mtbenigno and Instagram: @mtbteacher

When is the total amount due?

  • Amount will be invoiced in late October/early November 
  • Amount will be due by December 31, 2020.


What additional costs might schools have to cover?

  • Schools would be responsible for their individual travel costs(mileage, etc.).
  • Any substitute fees are also the responsibility of the school.


Is there funding available to help schools cover the cost of enrollment?


What resources will be included?

  • There will be a variety of open source materials that the facilitators encourage participants to use.
  • Participants will also receive a copy of Ben Owens book, Open Up, Education! How Open Way Learning Can Transform Schools. 
  • NC State University will also provide materials related to current STEM pedagogy and educational research.


How will this be adapted to fit the unique goals of my school?

  • Each school will be guided through a design process. During each step a school will identify specific goals, strengths and weaknesses.
  • Once these are identified, schools will develop a plan of implementation which uniquely addresses the target areas. 
  • Throughout the yearlong design process, facilitators will provide personalized professional development for the school team.
  • Facilitators will also be available for 2 days of school-based support services.


What is the timeline of this program?

July 17, 2020: accepting applications through July 17, 2020

July 31, 2020: finalist schools selected by 7/31/20

August 7, 2020: (one day) overview for finalists

August 31, 2020: Commitment agreement must be signed and submitted

August-September, 2020: Facilitators visit the 6 participating schools for initial feedback discussions

September 15-16, 2020: (2 day PD with cohort schools) Initial Professional Development Sessions

  • Relationship building (activities and sessions to set expectations and build community)
  • What is PBL and what does it look like in classrooms and a school? (training on gold-standard model of PBL)
  • How can I determine if my school is ready to implement? (needs assessment step one)

September/October, 2020: visits to model schools

November 19, 2020: (one day PD with cohort schools)

  • Needs assessment step one analysis (focus = elements of school culture)
  • Step two instructions

January 21, 2021: (one day PD with cohort schools)

  • Needs assessment step two analysis (focus = how to shift/collaboration & innovation)
  • Step three instructions

February- March, 2021: Facilitators visit 6 participating schools for progress feedback discussions

April 29, 2021: (one day PD with cohort schools) Final reflection/next steps


ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS: Contact Michelle Benigno at 828-206-3014 or