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Rethinking education – together

Learning together, we can envision a movement toward a future education that responds to the needs of many, not a few.

Last year, I had the opportunity to speak at the Social Innovation Summit in Chicago and challenged the audience with a statement, “The high school diploma is no longer a prediction of adequate preparation for college or career – but changing what students are required to do can change the model along the way.”

Rethink Ed is only the beginning of the conversation. Let us know if it’s a conversation you want to have with us.

Our society is at a new intersection of progress, one in which the fear of job loss to automation and broadening divides between class and race can easily create a pessimistic view of the ever-approaching future. The Kauffman Foundation recognizes that learning together can surface both the critical challenges and potential solutions that shape the future. We are building with the community a new approach to addressing what students need to learn, work, and live in an economy evolving at an increasingly rapid pace.

With this initial stake in the ground, we have gotten to work – connecting with educators, business leaders, families, students, disruptors, change-makers, and visionaries across the country and our own region to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing those who are transforming what “school” and “learning” mean. As we are learning with others, the ever-present stopwatch constantly clicking our children toward high school graduation sustains a source of urgency, and encourages us to keep learning even as we begin working together to build an investable plan for the Kansas City region.

This is the way toward a regional education strategy – one developed with collective voice, consistent engagement, addressing the needs of today, while activating the change necessary for tomorrow. We learn together, and we work together, so that we can invest together in the future all our students deserve.

Learning together: Rethink Ed

On April 26, we will host “Rethink Ed,” a community convening involving a cross-cut of the Kansas City region, including high school students that represent multiple communities. Inspirational speakers, a showcase with some of the growing number of community bright spots, and immersive sessions will provide a moment for Rethink Ed attendees to consider a new collective vision for education and contribute to what happens next.

Rethink Ed will launch a broader initiative to elevate community voice, empower student agency, and envision a movement toward a future education that responds to the needs of many, not a few. Through surveys, participatory events, volunteer workgroups, and student and parent engagement in partnership with our school district and business leaders, we can work collectively to transform together our education systems to foster a generation of learners fearless of their possibilities.

A collective vision for the future

A shared vision is required at the outset of any transformational endeavor. This vision may be catalyzed by an individual organization or initiative, but to be sustained, it must come from an inclusive process, one that is shaped by a multitude of diverse and unique voices.

The pending sea change to how we learn, work, and live allows us a rare opportunity to address systemic inequities at a ground floor level – transforming and building new systems at scale rather than only attempting to adjust and intervene in current structures.

The Kauffman Foundation is grateful to be with others at the beginning of this process. We have started with a small group of involved individuals, exploring the question, “What would it look like to transform high school to reflect the skills, abilities, and mindsets young people need to succeed in the real world?” This group of business, faith-based, education, and civic leaders have teased out this question with more than 200 other individuals within their networks, including the customers we all share – students.

We see the discussion of how we recognize and validate high school completion as an initial step in a comprehensive exploration of what it means to bring real world schools and learning to every student (of any age).

The very early work produced this year is intended to be a spring board to encourage a conversation across the broader community addressing an issue being explored on a growing number of fronts by both businesses and educators. Through a series of upcoming engagement opportunities, the Kauffman Foundation hopes to continue exploring with more and more people how we create shared vision, catalyze responsible change at scale, and ensure we are fostering the evolution of learning and the new opportunities that brings for all students within the rural, urban, and suburban communities in our Kansas City region.


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