We envision a world where breakthrough education innovations allow for all children to have access to effective learning opportunities.
Theory of Change
Students entering Kindergarten this year will graduate into a world that looks vastly differently than it does today. To give these students a chance to succeed in an uncertain future they need an education radically different than the antiquated curriculum so common in classrooms today. They need innovative ideas and they need them fast. That’s why we work to find the most effective solutions addressing our community’s biggest pain points and rapidly bring them to scale.
Education in Kansas City today is unequal.
Just one in three of our public school students reads on grade level, and inequities are most pronounced for children of color. Last year’s achievement statistics belied a grave injustice: while nearly 60% of white students scored proficient in English Language Arts in 2017, just 30% of the district’s African-American students and 40% of Latino students did.
Dedicated people are fighting for change--but progress is far too slow. Four years ago, a report found that if the district sustained its then-present rate of academic growth, it would take more than 20 years to bridge the English Language Arts proficiency gap between Kansas City and Missouri at large. Today—nearly half a decade later—growth patterns remain mostly stagnant.
Faced with this challenge, schools turn to “best practices” developed more than a century ago; fear of falling even further behind stifles innovation. Meanwhile, the voices of those most impacted by the inequities—parents, students and educators—aren’t being heard. These are the real experts in this space, but they haven’t being given the chance to engage.
What will it take to make innovative solutions accessible to all students by 2030
Our road-map for the next five years at LEANLAB centers around this question and we believe the answer is scaling innovations with proven effectiveness. We’ve learned, that many of these innovative solutions already exist or are being develop by entrepreneurs. Through our fellowship, we have a process to validate these innovations and give companies a toolkit to build a sustainable business. But there are still barriers that are preventing them from reaching more students in Kansas City and across the nation: deep fragmentation between and within school systems.
Kansas City is uniquely fractured, with 83 school options for K-12 students within our metro area. This fragmentation creates a host of challenges, but it also provides a unique opportunity to uncover and codify ways to scale effective innovations in areas rife with systemic barriers that prevent innovative ideas from permeating.
Moving into the next five years, we’re getting serious about scale. We’ve begun research, through a Chan Zuckerberg Initiative grant, to figure out the specific barriers to scale and collaboration amongst schools within our region. We have our assumptions about why innovations with proven effectiveness aren’t readily integrated into classrooms but we’re using our listening tour to learn directly from the decision makers what those obstacles are.
This theoretical groundwork is an important step, but it’s only the first step for us. This year, we’re also putting it into practice by organizing a collaborative group of school leaders that can work together to share costs on proven innovations and incentivize the creation of innovations that don’t yet exist.
We believe that when schools have more opportunities to work together and adopt innovative ideas, all kids will have access to ground-breaking solutions that are proven to improve student outcomes.