Curriculum and Innovation Overview

RIS is committed to excellence through creativity and inspiration. We strive to develop balanced, successful, and compassionate thinkers who seek to make a difference in the world around them.

Each year we host a TEDx event that includes student presenters from elementary, middle, and high school. A TEDx event is a local gathering where live TED-like talks and videos recorded at the event and are shared with the community. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. Topics this year ranged from service learning to overcoming fears to the importance of recycling.

RIS believes that students learn best in an environment where classes and programs are structured around an intellectually stimulating curriculum that is suited to each student’s ability, achievement, motivation, and interest. We offer students choice in pursuing their unique interests through a wide variety of challenging, standards-based courses that allow for their creativity and interests to flourish.


MS takes an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. At each grade level, we offer authentic and challenging learning experiences. For example, our 6th grade students study Greek life, myths, and culture, which culminates in a cross-curricular Greek Festival. In 7th grade, the Peace Conference pushes students to explore solutions to current world conflicts. Our 8th grade students use their knowledge of statistics and economic laws to create successful businesses, concluding in a marketplace where they connect and form business partnerships.

Our core curriculum is based on the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) standards, including NGSS for science, NCAS for the arts, the SHAPE standards for PE, and the ACTFL standards for languages. Standards-based instruction and assessments provide guidelines to ensure our teaching and learning practices deliberately focus on identified, specific performance-based outcomes.


The focus in high school is for our students to develop skills that emphasize intercultural understanding, critical thinking, communication, self-management, research, and collaboration to help them be successful for life beyond RIS. One example is the 9th grade Shakespeare Day. This drama unit requires students to read and analyze Romeo and Juliet in the context of the Elizabethan era. Students focus on its dramatic conventions, literary analysis, and connections to character and theme. The final assessment requires students to adapt their knowledge of Romeo and Juliet’s theme, characterization, and writing conventions by creating and performing their own unique interpretations.

Professional Development and Research

We pay more than lip service to the concept of educational excellence and lifelong learning. We actively promote and support the professional growth of our faculty. The primary goal of professional growth is to strengthen our Student Learning Outcomes, also known as our Principles of Phoenix.

We know that an active professional development program is essential in creating a high-quality learning environment. Our staff members take pride in staying current in their skills and knowledge, continually strive to improve their performance, and work to achieve school-wide, divisional, and personal goals. This consistent improvement requires an extensive variety of professional growth opportunities, including workshops, seminars, and courses, and a professional culture of collaborative sharing and support.

RIS supplies both annual and monthly funds for every teacher to pursue professional growth experiences to enhance teaching and learning at RIS. We regularly host on-site workshops and send teachers to national, regional, and international conferences. Our teachers travel all over the world for NESA, EARCOS, and other regional conferences and workshops on topics that focus on an inquiry approach to problem-based learning, visible thinking strategies, and the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) centered on the needs of each learner.

Research plays a valuable role in informing our teaching practices and can contribute greatly to improving our approaches to learning.

We use internal and external sources of data to research and support our initiatives and practices. Internally, the evidence we gather is used to monitor the development of our students, classes, grade levels, and other sections in our school to be sure we are working toward and meeting our stated outcomes.

External research serves two functions. Educational literature—such as Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelly, John Hattie’s Visible Learning, and Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown et al.—helps inform our teaching practices. Beyond that, research helps support our innovation initiatives and helps teachers and school leaders address key educational issues.

Instructional Technology

RIS promotes instructional and extracurricular activities that use innovative approaches and technological resources to nurture students’ development. We care how our students grow and mature, therefore we seek to understand the impact technology has on our students’ lives, both in the classroom and outside of it. While RIS views technology as an essential resource, we endeavor to instill a sense of responsibility for its use in our students’ lives—one full of opportunity and distraction. One way we do this is by define purposeful and proper use of technology through comprehensive and applicable Learning Innovation Markers. These markers outline a comprehensive framework that enables students to identify the purposes and skills behind the technology and strategies they use in their learning and their daily lives. Innovation markers integrate and reinforce existing RIS programs and values, such as the IB Learner Profile in high school, the Habits of Mind program in middle school, and the school-wide Principles of Phoenix.

We further define the proper use of technology through our Responsible Use Policy, known as RIS-CARES. This unique policy seeks to guide students’ growth and maturity by building constructive dialogue with students and parents at each section, grade level, and in each class. Our goal is to help families negotiate and practice appropriate digital health so that when our students leave RIS, they have a concrete understanding of how to use available resources and innovative tools in creative ways to contribute unique, long-lasting solutions for their own communities and the world at large.