coffee menuTall, caramel macchiato topped with a half inch of foam.

Grande iced peppermint mocha with whip and chocolate drizzle.

Venti soy chai tea with a shot of espresso.

Starbucks baristas whip up hundreds of thousands of drinks every day, specially ordered by and made for unique customers. Each of us is able to choose the exact drink combination that satisfies our distinctive taste palettes and it makes our days a little better – and more caffeinated.

What if the education system offered something similar to learners and parents, replacing the coffee and tea with educational opportunities?

If the future of education were to provide a “menu” of opportunities, learners would be able to choose between many kinds of learning experiences and providers. They would choose to learn in a park, museum or classroom. They would be supported, not only by teachers, but by professionals, mentors, civic leaders and other learning agents throughout the community.

The idea behind offering multiple educational opportunities is no different than a providing a menu of drink and flavor options. In the end, it all focuses on who matters most. For Starbucks, the customer. For education, the learner.

Behar and ST teamYesterday, StriveTogether had the privilege of meeting with Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee Company North America and Starbucks Coffee International. Howard, now an author, is invested in improving education in his home state of Washington and throughout the country.

The StriveTogether team talked with Howard about leadership, education and life in general. But perhaps the greatest takeaway was focusing on who matters most.

“I had a wonderful career that was kind of accidental in a way,” Howard said to the team. “I was one of those places that fit me like a glove. But it was more about the people than the coffee. I don’t care what you do – make coffee, create widgets, work in education – it’s about serving the people who need us. That’s what it’s really about.”

Let’s build a future of learning that offers a menu of opportunities. Let’s focus on each individual learner. And no matter what your role in education, let’s serve the students who need us most.



The best thing about winter? It is once again socially acceptable to stay home, sprawl on the couch, and read the weekend away. Now that the weather has finally decided to turn itself towards winter, reading lists are a must. I’ve only just begun to follow the world of education non-fiction, but after devouring a few enthralling books (thank you, Amanda Ripley and Paul Tough), this is the season when I commit to fully diving in. Here are my picks for the next few months. I can’t wait to hear what I’m missing and what you think of these books!

allure of orderThe Allure of Order (Jal Mehta)

If I’m completely honest with you, I started this book with the intention of writing about it this fall. To my delight, it is a much heftier read than I had anticipated. Read if you have ever shaken your head or cheered along with today’s education reform movement and see that it’s not as modern as we may have thought.


teacher warsThe Teacher Wars (Dana Goldstein)

There has been lots of talk circulating about Goldstein’s tracing of the status of teachers throughout history. Like The Allure of Order, this book shows that there’s not much new under the sun. Read if you are a teacher, know a teacher, or ever had a teacher.


the testThe Test (Anya Kamenetz)

This book isn’t coming out until January, and the timing couldn’t be better. With the continued debate around who, what, where, when, why, and how to test, I’m hoping that this book offers insights into how we can limit test-mania without sacrificing the spotlight on equity that tests can offer. Read if you want to better understand the testing debate and potential solutions to over-testing.

no struggle no progressNo Struggle, No Progress (Howard Fuller)

This book is best introduced with an excerpt from Frederick Douglass’s speech that gave this book its title: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without demand. It never did and it never will.” Read if you’ve ever felt discouraged when working for positive changes.

building a better teacherBuilding a Better Teacher (Elizabeth Green)

In her recent book, Elizabeth Green runs with the idea that great teachers are made, not born. Having taught for a few years, I would argue that good teaching can be learned, but it takes a certain amount of natural talent. Read if you’ve ever contemplated the seeming unattainable power of the best teachers.


If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them in the comments below. I’m also always taking recommendations, so let me know what my list is missing!



Teaching for Competency Education and Beyond

by Katherine Prince November 11, 2014

How might adults support learning in an expanded learning ecosystem in which highly personalized learning environments could become the norm? In October, I presented a session on this topic at Grantmakers for Education’s annual conference with KnowledgeWorks colleagues Lillian Pace and Matt Williams and education systems change facilitator Richard DeLorenzo. Our session took a look […]

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Sharing educational insight at iNACOL annual symposium

by Mary Kenkel November 10, 2014

More than 2,500 experts and educational leaders explored the next-generation of learning at this year’s iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium in California throughout last week. Attendees learned and shared about K-12 online, blended and competency-based learning throughout the country and world. Throughout the week, our policy team shared insight into three important, innovative educational topics: […]

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TEDxColumbus: The Future of Learning through Katherine Prince’s eyes

by Mary Kenkel November 5, 2014

Our co-worker Katherine Prince, KnowledgeWorks Senior Director of Strategic Foresight, has an adorable, three-year-old daughter named Chloe. While Chloe obsesses over her Disney princess nightgown, her Wonder Woman costume and all things pink and purple, she also loves construction equipment, buses, tractors and anything with an engine. Chloe spends her days at preschool, where the […]

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Partisan Fear

by Jesse Moyer November 4, 2014

Strongly held beliefs. We all have them. It’s one of the things human are best at – holding on tightest to what we care about most. Even those of us who are very open to hearing differing view points, my wife will tell you I am NOT one of those people, have things they hold […]

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