Authored by our co-founders, Aylon and Jeff, and our board members, Stacey Childress and Diane Tavenner, this paper describes a vision for better school models that prepare and inspire all students for long-term success, and an emerging theory of change for what it would take to support their design and spread in the coming years.
What if every young person in America finished high school prepared and inspired to achieve their most ambitious dreams and plans? What if students were empowered and equipped to take control of their learning, and it was tailored to their individual needs and interests? How might we focus on more than scoring well on state tests and college entrance exams, helping students build habits and skills they need to achieve personal success throughout their lives? How might we design schools and classrooms that accomplish this? How close are we to having them, and what will it take to get there?
Today you can visit almost any school or classroom in the country and find students who struggle. They can’t read, write or calculate. They have a hard time sitting still, following directions, and getting along with others. If you are able to really talk with them, they’ll tell you in their own way that school isn’t working for them. They sense that the path they are on isn’t going to lead to the life they really want – the economic opportunity, the personal and career options, or the happiness. Meanwhile, in these same schools and classrooms, you will also find students who can read, write and calculate, sometimes very well. They follow directions, do what they are told. When you talk to these students and their parents, the word you most often hear is “fine” – they’re doing fine, they will be okay, they will turn out alright in the end.