Nightly News   |  September 22, 2012

School preps kids for life beyond the classroom

A public charter school in Arizona is taking a new, computer-based approach to teaching its students. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> we're back uh nnow with our education nation report about a school taking a unique approach to teaching. done are the traditional textbooks and lectures, even the classrooms. the folks say it's working. our chief education correspondent rahema ellis has our report.

>> reporter: it is a big open space with hundreds of cubicles. fingers racing over keyboards but this is no office.

>> this is my 7th grade language arts class.

>> reporter: this is carpe diem , a public charter school in arizona that opened seven years ago for students 6 through 12. all 240 students spend two-thirds of the day completing coursework and listening to online lectures in addition to core lectures like math and science there is a wide range of electives.

>> green means you're ahead in your courses.

>> reporter: students can move ahead when a task is complete.

>> for history if i'm good i can go faster.

>> reporter: or spend extra time on challenging subjects. the experience isn't just about computer-based learning. students spend time in classrooms where they participate in group workshops and can have one on one time with teachers.

>> a student who doesn't understand, say, dividing fractions, they have listened to the lecture on the computer but they still don't get it, they can come to workshop and ask a math teacher to please explain this another way.

>> reporter: with just four teachers organizers say it's cost effective, too. there are critics.

>> the integration of technology into the classroom is very scattered. i don't think the evidence is there.

>> reporter: teachers here are quick to point out this type of blended learning is not for everyone. but test results are encouraging. 90% of students at carpe diem are proficient in core subjects compared to 70% statewide.

>> i enjoy the new style of learning.

>> reporter: he and two of his siblings attend to school where textbooks and live lectures aren't all that's missing.

>> no homework policy.

>> reporter: that probably makes you sad.

>> oh, it's tragic. so tragic.

>> reporter: mom and dad say the approach teaches more than academics.

>> there will be a point when they have to pace themselves. there will be no teacher to stand over them.

>> it's not like a high school where you sit down. you have to take advantage of it.

>> reporter: lessons that go beyond the classroom. equipping students with the ability to seize success. rahema ellis, yuma, arizona.

>> for the third year in a row nbc news is hosting education nation, a look at what's working and how you can bring solutions to your community. it includes a summit in new york and a teacher town hall moderated by brian williams tomorrow. it will air live on msnbc at 12:00 eastern, 9:00 pacific. plus we'll have coverage on air and online including interviews with president obama and mitt romney . up next tonight, thousands