Innovative Schools

Innovative Schools

The Challenge

Education is entering a period of transformation, driven by our changing world and evolving technologies. Despite great potential, the traditional model of a teacher standing in front of a group of students continues to be the norm. What would it mean if we reimagined school to provide every student a personalized path to success? How can we unlock the potential of technology for our kids?

Audacious experiments to date have yielded mixed results and unintended consequences, but impactful new school models are emerging. Some organizations are leveraging technology to personalize teaching and learning. They monitor students’ progress and improve their instructional decisions. Other organizations are rethinking school structures, including the length of the school day and the role of a teacher. In the process, they are redefining success. How else can we push ourselves and encourage the entire field to transform our schools and create better results for kids?

By investing in these experiments, testing them in the field, and measuring their success, we can further empower educators design the bold, new classrooms of tomorrow that our children deserve.

What we know:

Our current model of school is failing students:

  • In America, 10% of schools are labeled as failing[i]. In New York City, one quarter of schools—some entire neighborhoods of schools—are failing 90% of their students[ii].
  • American students lag behind other developed countries in math, reading, and science performance, even after adjusting results for poverty levels[iii]. The U.S. performs at the same level as the Slovak Republic, which spends less than half as much on education, so more education spending does not translate to better performance[iv].

Our current model of school needs to adapt to the demands of the 21st century:

  • Instruction in American public schools today is the same as instruction in 1893, even as the world has changed dramatically.
    • There is growing demand for a new school paradigm that shifts away from the one-size-fits-all factory model, and prepares all students for success in 21st century college and careers.
    • Educators across the country are rethinking previously fixed elements like time, space, and teacher roles in service of ensuring every learner grows and thrives in deeper more meaningful ways.
  • Many of today’s jobs—app developer, social media manager, search engine optimization specialist—did not exist a couple decades ago. In the future, today’s students will hold jobs that do not exist yet, and careers in STEM will grow at almost twice the rate of other careers in the next decade[vi].

Technology in education in here to stay, so it is imperative we determine how it can be effectively integrated and leveraged in classrooms.

  • Some estimates show 75% of America’s school districts are implementing some form of blended learning (Clayton Christensen Institute).
  • A 2014 survey showed across the 8 regions,79% of voters support the use of new technologies for individualized learning opportunities[vii].
  • 95% of teachers agree that technology use in the classroom can enhance student learning[viii].

2015 Strategy

Here at Overdeck Family Foundation, we see exciting possibilities in reimagining and redesigning schools.

  • Our goal is to increase the supply of proof points for these models, and inform the broader field on the core elements that drive their success. We believe increasing exemplary work on the ground will influence change in these communities as well as at the policy level.
  • Our core strategy seeks to support early-adopters with developing classrooms and schools that reflect a learner-centered paradigm, personalizing pace and path, enabling students to take ownership over their learning, and building an environment where all kids can realize their full potential.
  • We also know early-adopters can only take the work so far, and seek to simultaneously improve conditions at the system level that will enable school-level innovation to spread.
  • We seek efforts that increase school districts’ capacity to support learner-centered models at scale, and support the adoption of more enabling policies at the local and state level.
  • We believe in the power of building innovation ecosystems, where an ecosystem of human capital, school and policy efforts begin to influence the culture and practice of a specific region. For this reason, we are currently building up investments and collaborating with local intermediaries in mid-sized urban districts like D.C. and Oakland.

Organizations We Support