The Way of the Future: Carpe Diem

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Last week I visited the Carpe Diem charter school in Yuma Arizona. Yuma is off the beaten path, in far western Arizona near the borders of California and Mexico.
Carpe Diem is a 6-12 school with 240 students. A value added analysis of test scores found that they have the biggest gains in the state of Arizona. Their math results are really off the chart, with some grades averaging at the 98th percentile on Terra Nova.
Carpe Diem is a hybrid model school, rotating kids between self-paced instruction on the computer and classroom instruction. Their building is laid out with one large computer lab, with classroom space in the back. They had 240 students working on computers when I walked in, and you could have heard a pin drop.
Carpe Diem has successfully substituted technology for labor. With seven grade levels and 240 students they have only 1 math teacher and one aide who focuses on math. Covering 6-12 and 240 students and getting the best results with a demographically challenging student body = no problem for Carpe Diem. Their founder, Rick Ogston, told me they use less staff than a typical model, and have cash reserves in the bank despite relatively low per pupil funding in AZ. They have never received support from philanthropic foundations, making due with state funding, but their model seems like it could be brought to scale with the right investment. 
They have a classic innovation story in that they tried this radically different approach because they lost their space they were renting some years ago, and the only one available did not lend itself to a traditional approach. The only space they could find was at a University of Phoenix campus. The available space did not lend itself to the traditional 22 kids in multiple classroom model, so they innovated.

Mr. Ogston and his team have created a much more sophisticated version of the Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers model I have written about over the last two years. One math teacher, seven grade levels, 240 students, best value added gains in the state, 90th plus percentile ranking, diverse student body. Check, check, check, check and check!

When I first bounced the idea of the Rock Star Pay for Rock Star Teachers model off of Gisele Huff some years ago, she told me in her delightful French accent “Matthew, you must incorporate TECHNOLOGY into this model. Then the teachers would be SOCRATES!” I knew she was right, and Rick Ogston has proved it.

You are the value-added champion of the year dude!

I want to congratulate the Carpe Diem team for creating a truly innovative school, and encourage others to make the trek from San Diego or Phoenix to see the school for themselves.

7 Responses to The Way of the Future: Carpe Diem

  1. Ben says:

    Reminds me a lot of the Rocketship Education charter network, which has started in San Jose and is looking to expand. Rocketship uses an innovative hybrid model to get remarkable results from high-poverty elementary student populations with efficiency and sustainable funding:

    Rocketship, meet Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem, meet Rocketship. The future of education is unfolding before our eyes.

  2. matthewladner says:


    I have heard good things about Rocketship as well, and that KIPP is planning on opening a hybrid school in the fall.

  3. […] Lander reports the following from his visit to Carpe Diem: Carpe Diem is a hybrid model school, rotating kids between self-paced instruction on the computer […]

  4. Sue says:

    Carpe Diem also follows a non traditional school day. Students are in class until 4pm Monday-Friday and have Friday off. The school is open on Friday for those who need to come in and complete extra work.

  5. Larry Hobson says:

    My name is Mr. Larry, adopped from the name parents at my school crossing have given me. As a retired Electronics Engineer from Burr Brown Tucson, now Texas Instruments, I have long recognized the short comeings of Public Education, (as Tom Brown also did), I love what you are doing! I have a meeting with Heather Carter at the State House on September 20. Can we converse by phone oe EMAIL before then?

    Mr. Larry at or 623.251.3449?

  6. […] from 2010, when education reformer Matthew Ladner visited a Carpe Diem campus in Yuma, Arizona. “The Way of the Future: Carpe Diem”, Matthew Ladner, Jay P. Greene’s Blog, May 27, 2010. Ladner was impressed, and speculated […]

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