Investors: Roll Up Your Sleeves!

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2014-08-11 12:12

StriveTogether’s new paper, “The Role of Investors: Lessons Learned on Critical Roots that Drive Quality Collective Impact,” focuses on how investors can best contribute to the work of cradle-to-career partnerships. Read it here.

Throughout my career, I’ve played both a funder and an investor role in collective impact work. I’ve seen examples of good – and not-so-good—investors and the impact they can have on the work, outcomes and community as a whole. The new StriveTogether paper calls on investors to adopt and embrace a different mindset and become actively engaged with community partners on initiatives focused on long term solutions to difficult community problems. This is a much different role than that of a “funder” who writes a check and sits back waiting for a report.

As a business leader in Portland, Oregon, I had the opportunity to co-chair the start-up of the local cradle-to-career partnership. There, I saw the importance of being not only an investor, but a leader who committed to the shared outcomes and used my cross-sector contacts to help build the civic infrastructure needed to achieve the desired results. I couldn’t just sit passively at the table or write a check; I needed to dive into the work along with the rest of the community partners.

That’s what quality collective impact is about: Working with people for people. Investing in the work can’t be just about the money. It’s about advocacy and action—rolling up your sleeves to work on the ground with other cross-sector leaders who are dedicated to shared outcomes.

Now, as CEO of KnowledgeWorks, I once again have the opportunity to embrace the role of investor, supporting the work of the local StrivePartnership and the national StriveTogether organization, a KnowledgeWorks subsidiary. As a long-term investor in StriveTogether, KnowledgeWorks has made the commitment to invest in collective impact work, giving the StriveTogether team an opportunity to dive deeper and provide a level of quality that is critical to the success of the work.

Our sustained commitment has also encouraged other foundations and funders to partner with StriveTogether on work throughout the country. The future of this work relies on investors embracing a new mindset, diving in and rolling up their sleeves as full partners dedicated to achieving shared outcomes.


StriveTogether, a subsidiary of KnowledgeWorks, works with communities nationwide to help them create a civic infrastructure that unites stakeholders around shared goals, measures and results in education, supporting the success of every child, cradle to career. Communities implementing the StriveTogether framework have seen dramatic improvements in kindergarten readiness, standardized test results, and college retention. For more information about StriveTogether, visit


Categories: Blog

Insight from recent White House, U.S. Department of Education forum

Posts from WOL - Fri, 2014-08-08 13:46

The forum, which took place last week, focused on “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

It’s no secret that communities can boost education initiatives through innovation and community partnerships. For years, we’ve been doing this work through our subsidiaries, EDWorks and StriveTogether.

And now, the White House and U.S. Department of Education (ED) are not only noticing, but also expanding efforts in this work. They are calling on communities to work together toward ambitious college success goals through shared plans and commitments.

Last week, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy Lillian Pace, EDWorks President Harold Brown and StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson traveled to D.C. to meet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and attend an ED working session, “Strengthening Partnerships Across K-12, Higher Education, and Communities for College Access and Success.”

albany and duncan

The Albany Promise, a StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network member, talks with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about their on-the-ground work.

The session invited 10 communities, including three StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network members, to Washington, D.C. for breakout sessions and conversation, all revolving around college access, continuous improvement and collective impact. They discussed how to break down silos and barriers to collective impact, ensuring that school districts aren’t working in isolation, but rather collectively with the entire community. Communities were asked to take what they learned during the event to identify goals and key commitments that will help their community improve college access and success.

“The event highlighted challenges and opportunities in bringing together K-12, higher education and community leaders to focus on key objectives and priorities,” Brown said.

Visiting with community partnerships during the day, including several StriveTogether cities, Duncan heard about their on-the-ground work. White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and ED Under Secretary Ted Mitchell also participated throughout the day.

Here are some insights from the day in D.C.:

  1. Collective Impact | There is a growing awareness that we need to move from collaboration to collective impact. To deepen resources to help them understand the complexity of moving to true collective impact communities learned more about tools like the StriveTogether Framework and Theory of Action.
  2. Data to Inform Continuous Improvement |Data can be empowering if used correctly. The White House and ED are stressing the use of data – not to “admire the problem,” but to improve outcomes over time. “They didn’t speak of evaluation, but of continuous improvement,” Edmondson said.
  3. Cross-sector Leadership | Everyone recognizes the need to work together toward common goals. Attendees were an impressive cross-sector of community leaders, including superintendents, business leaders, and college leaders. “There was a strong presence of cross-sector leadership that could really begin laying some important groundwork,” Pace said.

Participating communities included: Albany, New York; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Spartanburg, South Carolina; Providence, Rhode Island; Denver, Colorado; Kansas City, Missouri; Camden, New Jersey; Rio Grande Valley/McAllen, Texas; Riverside County, California; and Baltimore, Maryland.

KnowledgeWorks— through its subsidiaries StriveTogether and EDWorks— plans to work with the White House and ED to support communities, while helping to mobilize additional communities to join the nationwide effort to improve college access and attainment.


Categories: Blog

Race to the Top Flashback

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2014-08-07 08:00

Last week, several of my favorite blogs wrote about Race to the Top’s (RTT) five-year anniversary: Education Week’s Politics K-12 and Rick Hess Straight Up. Because the data on the program is still inconclusive, I think it’s too soon to tell whether the program “worked” or not.

What I do think is interesting to look at is the competency-based elements contained in the winning applications. If you’re familiar with KnowledgeWorks’ policy work over the past 18 months, you know we have more than a passing interest in competency education. In fact, my super-smart and talented colleague Lillian Pace has published several papers on the subject including a piece examining the federal government’s early investments in competency education through competitive funding programs, such as, you guessed it, RTT.

Our research showed that, despite not specifically including competency education in the grant application, many states included elements of competency in their winning applications. Here’s a look:

Comprehensive State Assessment Systems

While all applicants were asked to adopt new high-quality assessment systems, many applicants proposed comprehensive assessment systems with the capability to measure deeper learning skills, provide real-time data to inform instruction, and ensure multiple formats to improve the utility and flexibility of assessments. Some states even proposed to give students multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery on summative assessments throughout the school year. Almost all states incorporated plans to help expand district and classroom access to formative assessment tools so educators can personalize instruction.

Emphasis on 21st Century Professional Development

Nearly every applicant proposed significant changes to its professional development system to ensure educators have the expertise to deliver high-quality instruction. Many states proposed the creation or expansion of digital platforms that give educators real-time access to professional development experiences, resources aligned to college and career ready standards, assistance developing instructional plans, and the ability to network with other educators throughout the state. Many states also emphasized the importance of preparing educators to analyze data in real-time to inform the development and continuous improvement of personalized learning plans. 

Provision of Multiple Learning Pathways

Many states included proposals to provide multiple learning pathways to increase relevancy and student engagement. These proposals would empower students to design their own educational path based on individual interests, learning preferences, and proficiency-level. Some states also emphasized the importance of integrating community partners to provide students with opportunities for experiential learning.

The fact that the grant applications containing competency-based elements were funded even though the application didn’t specifically request those elements tells us two things:

  1. Though the folks designing RTT didn’t write competency into the application, many of the innovations they were seeking are best operationalized through the implementation of competency education.
  2. States writing the applications have an appetite to implement elements of competency in their work, regardless of whether the application called for them.

As I said before, it is too early to judge whether RTT has been, or will be, successful. What is clear is that the federal government, states and districts believe that transforming education through personalized approaches is the best way to ensure each student receives the education he or she deserves. What is also obvious, from the amount of competency-based elements included in states’ applications, is that one of the most effective ways of operationalizing personalized education is through competency education-making learning the constant and time the variable.

To learn more KnowledgeWorks’ competency education work, visit our competency education page and sign up for our newsletter.


Categories: Blog

Welcoming Bridge to Success to the Cradle to Career network

Posts from WOL - Tue, 2014-07-15 14:00

Judy presents certificate

Peppler presents a certificate to Bridge to Success.             (Photo submitted by Bridge to Success)


Waterbury, Conn., had cause for celebration last week.

With engagement from business, philanthropy, civic, non-profit, faith-based, early childhood, k-12 and post-secondary education, healthcare, parents and students, the entire community has bridged cross-sector gaps and joined hands to support their students from cradle to career.

Last week, I attended a Bridge to Success Community Partnership event, welcoming the partnership into the Cradle to Career network. With the mayor, three school board members, superintendent and 70 other community partners in the room, the group publicly announced their goal to be the 10th StriveTogether sustaining community.

Part of what is making Bridge to Success productive is the dedication of partners and the community. Already, the partnership has made huge strides in garnering community-wide support.

  • They’ve established six outcomes that partners have agreed to work toward.
  • Every community council member has signed a partnership agreement for Bridge to Success.
  • The local school district has given their support, which builds and maintains trust across the partnership.
  • And the active Bridge to Success collaborative action groups bring together like-minded and passionate public and private partners, parents and caregivers to improve the lives of children in their city.

It’s easy to see that the entire community is energized and committed to the work, proving the possibilities in working collectively for student outcomes.

Congratulations to Bridge to Success and Waterbury, Conn., for your strides in this work. From our experience, we know it’s not easy. It takes a high level of engagement. It’s complex. But through the work of a dedicated community, change can (and will) take place.

We look forward to working with and learning from your community. Keep up the good work.

Bridge to Success partners

Bridge to Success partners pose in celebration. (Photo submitted by Bridge to Success)





Categories: Blog

StriveTogether Expert Convening: Exploring What Works

Posts from WOL - Wed, 2014-07-09 14:00

What better way to learn about moving local-level student outcomes than asking people who are striving to move student outcomes in local cities across the country?

That’s exactly what StriveTogether has organized during their first-ever Expert Convening, which takes place today and tomorrow in Salt Lake City, Utah.

During the next two days, StriveTogether and six of the most advanced cradle-to-career partnerships will explore innovative ways attendees are using data to drive action and results to help kids throughout the country. With less than 25 participants at this invite-only event, StriveTogether will facilitate focused, dynamic conversations and interactive exercises to draw on participants’ knowledge and experience.

The conversations from this event will ultimately help inform future StriveTogether tools and resources that help the nationwide network in its collective impact efforts.

“This convening is the first time in which StriveTogether is bringing together its most advanced cradle to career communities to explore the innovative ways in which partnerships are using data to drive action to improve student outcomes,” Cradle to Career Network Senior Director Jennifer Blatz said. “Unlike other convenings on collective impact, this one doesn’t focus on building the partnership or creating a shared vision, but instead focuses on what are the actual actions that move outcomes.”

StriveTogether will use its Annie E. Casey Foundation results-based facilitation training throughout the convening. And, most excitedly, they will learn from and engage the cradle-to-career network in a new way.

“The goal is for participants to really connect with each other and learn from one another,” Cradle to Career Network Director Jennifer Perkins said. “At the same time, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to learn from these sites. We will leverage the knowledge and insight from this Expert Convening to help the network as a whole.”

Participating cradle to career partnerships include: All Hands Raised in Multnomah County, Oregon; Milwaukee Succeeds in Wisconsin; E3 Alliance in Austin, Texas; The P16Council of Greater Bexar County, Texas; The Commit! Partnership in Dallas County, Texas; and StrivePartnership in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

To learn more about what’s happening on the local level, join the conversation on Twitter by following @StriveTogether and #actionSLC, and check out the StriveTogether blog for updates.


Categories: Blog

Eyes on Iowa: Imagining Student-Centered Education

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2014-07-03 13:00

Is climbing a rope really an effective measurement of physical endurance? I may be dating my public school education, but these are the kinds of questions educators are asking.

With a growing movement in competency-based education and personalized student learning, innovators are exploring the future of education and our ability to provide meaningful learning opportunities for each individual student.

Last week at a conference with Iowa ASCD and Iowa Department of Education, educators, higher education representatives and policy makers took a deeper dive to discuss Katherine Prince’s new paper, “Forecasting the Future of K-12 Teaching,” and our future of learning infographic, which both paint a picture of a learning ecosystem entirely focused on the individual student.

In an ideal future, education will be entirely focused on the individual student. There will be multiple learning platforms and more forms of school. Communities will take ownership and accountability of learning, and we will create new innovative educator roles to support all students in more creative, personalized ways. These learning agents will work with parents and students to develop individualized learning playlists in formal and informal contexts, based on each student’s values, aspirations and dreams.

At the conference, Katherine discussed this vision for the future of learning during the keynote address. Participants also engaged in an activity designed to help “imagine breakthrough change toward a diverse learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners,” she said.

Katherine also hosted a breakout session to discuss the future of K-12 educator roles, focusing on teachers, diversifying learning agent roles, and plausible futures for the profession. The session ran twice.

Lillian Pace, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of National Policy, also hosted a twice-run breakout session, “From NCLB to CBE: Identifying a New Federal Policy Framework for Competency Education.” The session explored major policy barriers for competency-based education and explored solutions to give communities and states the flexibility to study and scale this work.

“I love engaging with educators about federal policy because they bring new and important insights to the conversation,” Lillian said. “Iowa’s educators will be an important voice as we work to create a new federal K-12 policy that supports the growth of competency education.

“After two days working alongside educators in Iowa, I can see why the nation’s eyes are on the state. They have a focused vision and a tremendous amount of energy to make competency education a reality for Iowa students. I believe their leadership will create some compelling proof points that will move the national dialogue forward in an impactful way.”

Hopefully toward a discussion about creating opportunities for personalized learning, helping kids climb their own ladders to reach their aspirations, hopes and dreams.


Iowa ASCD serves more than 1,100 educators, including teachers, principals, superintendents and principals, while collaborating to impact learning for every student in Iowa. “Competency-Based Education: Define! Design! Deliver!” brings together thought leaders and educators to focus on competency-based education, while building capacity to transform the current education system in Iowa.


Categories: Blog

Cultivating New Cultures of Learning

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2014-07-03 09:00

Last week I had the opportunity to engage in Grantmakers for Education’s 2014 Education Grantmakers Institute at the Harvard School of Education, which aimed to “get all of us thinking about how education and our learners are changing, and, as result, how our organizations need to change to have the kind of impact our missions demand.”

The conversation ended on a broad note, with emphasis on the need to cultivate large-scale systemic change to help the current education system transform into a vibrant node within the expanded learning ecosystem that our forecast on the future of learning projects. Of course I was pleased to hear this call, as I’ve been speaking and writing for some time now about how we’re facing much greater disruption, and much greater need, than incremental improvements within the existing educational paradigm can address.

But the conversation when beyond emphasizing the striking need to redesign our education structures to focus on learning for and in a world of anytime, anywhere access to knowledge and the continuous remaking of the conditions in which we live and work. It also explored the equally strong imperative to create new cultures of learning. Without them, my fellow participants observed, people operating in new structures will risk simply rubber banding back to the cultures we have always known.

The need to cultivate new cultures of learning has arisen in other recent conversations as well. In collaborating to design Grantmakers for Education’s June 30 event, “Transforming the Learning Ecosystem: Putting Personalized Learning Within Reach for All Learners,” I learned of Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s A New Culture of Learning. It argues that we need to design learning – even more flexible learning experiences than characterize today’s typical public school – not around specific learning objectives but around a process of inquiry that fuels a broader set of skills and dispositions for lifelong learning.

During a tour of MIT’s Media Lab, Mitch Resnick, who leads their Lifelong Kindergarten group, described that group’s focus on fostering creative learning for the world. In so doing, they create learning cultures characterized by projects, peers, passion, and play. As he put it, “Learning particular content is not the answer; people need to find creative solutions to the problems we know they’ll encounter.” Within our current education system, he said, kindergarten comes the closest to embodying this kind of learning, although it is increasingly becoming more regimented and more like the rest of the school system.

I hope we can reverse that kind of trend and strengthen the trends that are opening up learning to include many more possibilities for how, when, and what young people learn. That we can open ourselves to exploring fully not just new structures for learning such as competency education but also new cultures for learning that can support truly personalized learning. Learning that is not just paced to the individual but which is driven by his or her interests in meaningful collaborative contexts.


Categories: Blog

Creating the Future of Teaching

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2014-06-19 10:42

 Four Scenarios for a Decade of Disruption.

I’m delighted to be releasing a new paper on the future of teaching! “Forecasting the Future of K-12 Teaching: Four Scenarios for a Decade of Disruption” examines how the disruptive changes shaping education might affect teaching in the next ten years. I wrote this paper given the crucial role that teachers play in young people’s lives. As we face dramatic changes to the fundamental structures of education, we need to be intentional about how we design for adults’ roles in supporting learning.

To help education stakeholders around the country create positive futures for the teaching profession, this paper presents four scenarios for the future of K-12 teaching in the United States:

  • A baseline future, “A Plastic Profession,” that extrapolates from today’s dominant reality to project what teaching is likely to look like in ten years if we do not alleviate current stressors on the profession and do not make significant changes to the structure of today’s public education system.
  • An alternative future, “Take Back the Classroom,” that explores what teaching might look like if public educators reclaim the learning agenda by helping to shape the regulatory climate to support their visions for teaching and learning.
  • A second alternative future, “A Supplemental Profession,” which examines what teaching might look like if today’s public education system does not change significantly but professionals from other organizational contexts become increasingly involved in supporting young people in engaging in authentic and relevant learning opportunities outside of school.
  • An ideal future, “Diverse Learning Agent Roles,” that explores how a diverse set of learning agent roles and activities might support rich, relevant, and authentic learning in an expanded and highly personalized learning ecosystem that is vibrant for all learners.

Each of these scenarios represents a plausible future for K-12 teaching reflecting different drivers of change that are at play in the world today. Emphasizing one set of key drivers versus another leads to different fundamental assumptions about how the future might play out, and therefore to very different narratives about how it might look. Even today, any one of the scenarios might not be equally likely in all places.

While it is unlikely that the future of K-12 teaching will unfold exactly as articulated in any of these scenarios, engaging with them can help us surface key issues facing the profession today, develop visions for what we would like teaching to look like in ten or more years, and create strategies for pursuing those visions while at the same time mitigating against less positive outcomes. We have the opportunity – and the responsibility – to look ahead and channel the forces of change at play in the world today toward outcomes that we want to create.

The choices we make about teaching today will affect not just teachers’ experiences of their profession but also the very design of learning itself and, most importantly, the extent to which we are able to support all learners in achieving their fullest potential. What future of teaching do you want to create?


Categories: Blog

Creating Community Learning Landscapes

Posts from WOL - Thu, 2014-06-12 14:43

Earlier this week I had a chance to chat with Larry Jacobs of Education Talk Radio and Elizabeth Merritt of the American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums about AAM’s Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem (see my excerpt on two scenarios for the future).  As the learning ecosystem expands, we see the potential for learning experiences to extend throughout community landscapes – both geographic and virtual – and for museums to play a key role as learning institutions and agents of change.

As I put it in my essay:

In the vibrant learning grid scenario, all learners would be able to move seamlessly across many kinds of learning experiences and providers, with learning agents from a variety of backgrounds supporting them in customizing and carrying out their learning journeys.  In the fractured landscape scenario, museums and other cultural institutions could help fill gaps left by the public education system, providing alternatives for at least some learners who might otherwise have access to few good opportunities.

Museums are great at fostering passion-based learning, which I’d love to see characterize the whole learning ecosystem.  They have much to share around cultivating inquiry, creativity, play, and other attributes that could support learners in following their interests in meaningful collaborative contexts.  And there is great scope for museums and other cultural institutions to extend how they contribute to local and worldwide learning landscapes.

What if we fostered community-wide ownership of learning, with learners moving seamlessly across place-based and virtual experiences as they followed their passions and pursued their learning outcomes?  What if urban mapping tools such as the fictional Community Learning Resources site helped surface and connect a community’s learning assets?  What if new kinds of learning agents, such as this learning journey mentor from the year 2025, helped guide and support learners in creating and pursuing truly personalized learning playlists?

We think that leaders from the education and cultural sectors can work together to integrate the nation’s assets into a vibrant learning grid that makes such possibilities work – and work well – for all students.


Categories: Blog

Museums: Agents of change in a vibrant learning ecosystem

Posts from WOL - Mon, 2014-06-09 14:20

Field trip! My kids loved them. It was a chance to get out of the classroom, experience what they read in a textbook or on a ditto (did I just date myself?) and experience learning in a meaningful way that inspired curiosity, thought and imagination. They crave more hands-on, inquiry-based opportunities to learn.

Museums. They’re educational powerhouses.

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three-quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
  • Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
  • Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
  • Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers

As KnowledgeWorks further explores the Future of Learning and expand the very idea that learning can and already does happen outside the classroom, we invite you to listen-in to this week’s EduTalk on

Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem.

When: Tuesday, June 10
Time: 9:00am (eastern time)

> Listen live

Our very own Katherine Prince, Senior Director of Strategic Foresight, and Elizabeth Merritt, Founding Director of the American Alliance of Museums’ Center for the Future of Museums will be discussing the American Alliance of Museums recently published a report, to which KnowledgeWorks contributed, sharing ideas coming out of a convening organized with The Henry Ford in September 2013. Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem explores how leaders from the worlds of education and museums can work together to integrate the nation’s assets into a Vibrant Learning Grid in which all learners have access to the best of the expanding learning ecosystem.

Listen in and tweet #futureoflearning. Think of it as a… fieldtrip.


Categories: Blog

Coding is Fun & Interesting! 4th in our Blog Series

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-12-20 07:40
Posted by Anonymous on December 20th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Authentic Learning Helps Students Prepare for College and Career

Posts from NewTech - Thu, 2013-12-19 11:58
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Categories: Blog

Coding in Elementary: Part 3 in a series

Posts from NewTech - Thu, 2013-12-19 07:30
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Categories: Blog

This is Why I Go to The Best School Ever

Posts from NewTech - Wed, 2013-12-18 14:51
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Categories: Blog

My Reflection on Coding: Part two

Posts from NewTech - Wed, 2013-12-18 08:39
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Categories: Blog

NTN Twitter Math Challenge!

Posts from NewTech - Tue, 2013-12-17 15:01
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Categories: Blog

Elementary Student Voice=>Coding! Part One

Posts from NewTech - Tue, 2013-12-17 11:16
Posted by Theresa Shafer on December 17th, 2013
Categories: Blog

Blending YOUR Learning

Posts from NewTech - Mon, 2013-12-16 13:45
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Categories: Blog

Redefining What It Means to be a Successful School

Posts from NewTech - Fri, 2013-12-13 08:58
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Categories: Blog

Video Collaboration: Two Tools I Use

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Categories: Blog


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