What School Could Be
Imagine if the purpose of school were to prepare children for life.

The Challenge & The Possibility

As an uncontrolled pandemic wreaks havoc on communities, everyone is on edge. There’s never been a more difficult time for educators, and we’re deeply grateful for your heroic efforts. Decades from now, you’ll look back with pride on this period.

It’s understandable if this disruption leads to a “let’s just get through this” mindset in what many are already calling a ‘lost year.’ But in an education world turned upside down, there’s never been a better time to innovate — in small ways, and big.  

For those ready to pounce on possibility, we offer a mosaic of learning innovations, organized with a powerful change model that:

  • Rallies your community to an aspirational vision of what school could be
  • Supports teacher-led innovation that elevates learning and life outcomes.

 

You entered the profession dreaming of schools that engage and inspire students. Schools that prepare children for life, not standardized tests. Now, the door to change is wide open. Don’t settle. Barge through. Why not now? 

Essential Change

While change is generally hard, it doesn’t have to be. We’ve seen you change schools in a few months, entire districts in a couple of years. How? Not by micro-managed teachers or yet a new curriculum and testing regime. Instead, you set the conditions that unleash student and teacher potential. You understand that meaningful, embraced progress is possible once you:

  • Mobilize your community toward a shared, aspirational vision
  • Equip students with the skills to direct their learning
  • Connect learning to the real world
  • Assess student work authentically, based on evidence of mastery
  • Ensure every child is supported by your caring and connected community.

 

Mobilize Your Community (thumb)
Mobilize Your Community
All things are possible if with a mobilized community that’s energized to work together toward an important goal.
Student-Driven Learning (thumb)
Student-Driven Learning
When students have voice in their learning, they draw on their intrinsic motivation, set and exceed stretch goals for themselves, and learn deeply and joyfully. We know that adults need to be able to direct and manage their own efforts. So why wait?
Real World Challenges (cover)
Real World Challenges
Imagine the dynamic shift that can happen when students take on challenges connected to the real world.
Authentic Assessments (thumb)
Authentic Assessments
Most agree the most powerful learning experiences invite bold, creative work that helps students develop their own distinctive competencies. But this type of vital student learning can’t be captured in a bubble test. It requires us to re-think assessment frameworks.
Caring & Connected Communities (thumb)
Caring & Connected Communities
In normal times, students need, and deserve, social and emotional support if we expect them to do their best learning. In a pandemic, this support is imperative.
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A Powerful
Change Model


Welcome to the Innovation Playlist

The Innovation Playlist helps you mobilize your community to embrace change and reach consensus on your North Star. Then, it empowers teachers to lead the way forward, innovate how they see fit, and build expertise through their success. It’s a powerful change model based on small uplifting steps to essential change that elevates learning and life outcomes. 

Educators have endured endless top-down edicts that they have no voice in, and don’t believe in. This model stands in stark contrast. It trusts teachers to lead. It helps you set the conditions that empower joyful, purpose-filled learning. It’s based on what educators have proven effective in the field.  So get started . . . today! 

Drawing on Best Practices

What School Could Be Book Cover

Innovation expert Ted Dintersmith spent an entire school year on a most unusual education trip. He went to all fifty states, visited 200 schools, and convened 1,000 community forums and meetings. He set out to raise awareness about the urgent need to reimagine education to prepare students for the career and citizenship demands of an increasingly-innovative world.

But as he traveled, Dintersmith met innovative teachers all across the country — teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.  Students engaged and inspired by teachers who help children develop purpose, agency, essential skill sets and mind-sets, and deep knowledge. The insights of these teachers offer a vision of what school could be, and a model for how schools can achieve it.

Resting on Core Beliefs

Machine intelligence is racing ahead, completely changing the competencies needed for fulfilling careers and responsible citizenship. Our children will be adults in a world that values higher-order competencies — critical thinking, creativity, audacity, collaboration, the ability to leverage resources.  Yet these very competencies are undermined by data-driven education policies resting on a model designed brilliantly . . . over a century ago . . . to prepare kids for the industrial era.  That era is long gone, and we need to re-imagine school to prepare kids for their futures, not our pasts. 

Each child has distinctive interests, talents, and potential.  Toddlers are curious, creative, bold, and willing to stare down failure – essential traits for adults in our dynamic, innovation-driven world. But by high school, these traits have largely disappeared from most students, in most schools. This isn’t the fault of our teachers; it’s inherent in the system’s design. It’s collateral damage from a relentless focus on ranking students (and their educators) with high-stakes standardized tests of low-level capacities. This intense standardization robs America’s youth of the opportunity to go deep on what they care about, to build distinctive competencies, and to create differentiated paths forward – the very things that enable them to blossom into purposeful, contributing members of society.

America has spent decades seeking to improve education through data-driven policies, with the hollow goal of increasing aggregate test scores and closing a test-score ‘achievement’ gap. After massive amounts of time and money, we have little to show for it, other than ill-prepared students and demotivated teachers. We hold educators accountable to measures they have no voice in, don’t believe in, and that differentially penalize educators working with our most challenged students. In chasing higher test scores, we impair — not prepare — kids for their futures, and lose all touch with school’s true purpose.

There is deep expertise in the classrooms and schools across America. We need to listen to, and learn from, educators in the field.  We need to support them in creating learning environments that help students develop essential competencies. We need to trust educators to develop authentic accountability frameworks.  For decades, we’ve piled more and more demands on teachers, with declining levels of trust, respect, and financial support.  And now, the pandemic has turned steady erosion into an avalanche of mistreatment — jeopardizing the future of our schools, our children, and our nation.

Our Declaration of Independence promises every American the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That promise is empty unless every child in America has access to a world-class K-12 education that launches them into a life of dignity and freedom. We may be polarized as a country, but most agree that our education system shouldn’t perpetuate centuries of racial injustice and income inequity.  We can’t keep short-changing children who need the most support, while affluent kids receive excellent early childhood care, attend well-funded K12 schools, and dominate enrollments at selective four-year college.  We need education priorities that give every child in America a fair shot at the ‘pursuit of happiness.’

Thomas Jefferson forewarned that education is the foundation of our democracy. Today, America’s democracy is in peril. Catchy slogans and more testing won’t produce the education transformation that we need.  But if we bring urgency to restructuring funding models and vision to re-imagining learning experiences, we can elevate the futures of millions of children, thousands of communities, and our nation.  We can’t wait for policymakers to offer sensible priorities or inspiring vision.  We the people must change the system – not next decade, not next year, but now.  Our educators know what to do, and our communities need to support them.  The stakes couldn’t be higher — the very future of our democracy hangs in the balance.

With Humility and Respect

This isn’t about us. It’s about you. We work hard to listen to and learn from remarkable educators in the field. Our goal is to capture your insights in ways that help you and your school elevate student learning outcomes . . . and life trajectories. Credit amazing educators in the field with all that’s good on this site. Attribute flaws to our small team. But please know we’re doing our best to capture your insights, and we’re oh-so-grateful that you’re fighting so hard for the futures of our children.