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Who is Generation A?

The clock is ticking for Generation A–children born today into an education sector that struggles to prepare all students for education, work, and life after high school. How can we fix the system as it exists right now, let alone make changes to address the uncertain future of the next two decades?


of students in the Kansas City, Missouri district boundaries (district + charter) are proficient in English/Language Arts and Math, versus 56% for the state, for the 2015 – 2016 school year.

85 of 100

low-income, first-generation students do not graduate from college within six years


of jobs will require a postsecondary credential by 2020


Generation Z or the iGeneration – will be the first of many total technology natives.

We already see this changing the workforce even before these students get to middle school.  The workplace will require advanced degrees and a specific set of skills.  In fact, by the year 2020, 65% of jobs will require a post- secondary credential.

Looking further ahead, we know that the job market will undergo a revolution due to advanced technologies and automation.

It’s not science fiction. It’s happening. Robots have gone beyond replacing jobs on assembly lines or self-serve registers at retail outlets. Algorithms are now used to do the work of accountants, attorneys and health care professionals. Warby Parker just launched a mobile application to conduct an eye exam. Yes, an eye exam.

This leads to a fundamental question – what can we do for Generation A – children born today into an education sector that struggles to prepare all students for education, work, and life after high school as it exists right now, let alone the uncertain future of the next two decades?

Investing with Urgency

At the recent Social Innovation Summit, Kauffman VP of Education Aaron North made the case for radically remaking the school experience by the time today’s infants reach high school.


While trying to solve for the future, we also have to address today’s reality for many young people. Too many of our schools in the nation are failing their students.

The achievement and opportunity gaps are pronounced when looking at race, household income and parent education. The best indicator of student success is whether a child is born to parents with college degrees.

The reality is that urban, suburban and rural districts all face achievement gaps, but the concentration of students coming from a lower-educated and lower-income family is higher in urban and rural areas.

Yet rather than solve this problem for undereducated kids, adults have politicized and polarized the education debate – making it an ideological contest rather than a pragmatic course of action. Adults have arguments that result in divisive rifts between urban, suburban and rural educators, poor perspectives of teachers, and generally create confusion for parents and families regarding what a quality education really looks like and how to know if their children are being prepared for life after high school.

In the end, students get a high school diploma that is the validation of their entire K-12 careers, but has diminished in value to the point where it signifies nothing more than staying in school long enough to finish. The diplomas received by 3.5 million students in 2017 are no longer a predictor of adequate preparation for college or careers.

For some students, this is beginning to change. Districts and some charter networks across the country have “boutique” programs that enroll small percentages of their overall student populations in programming that is immersive, personalized, experiential, and aligned to preparation (and in some cases credentialing) for education, life, and work after high school.

But these smaller programs are not easily scaled and thus we are still left with millions of students who are not prepared for success after high school.

The diplomas received by 3.5 million students in 2017 are no longer a predictor of adequate preparation for college or careers.

Looking Forward:

The education system as we know it – whether it is urban, suburban or rural – was created for a job market that is already changed, but will be almost unrecognizable in the next 20 years. We must look forward, set a big goal, be inspired by the work already underway and continue to leverage it for more and more students, and within a generation transform what high school completion means for all students in all schools.

There is a movement waiting to happen. The programs and approaches at the nexus of the future of work and the future of learning should be available to all students, not just those fortunate enough to be in relative small innovative district or charter programs.

Generation A can be the first generation to graduate from high school under a completely new diploma system. They can transition from the end of high school to the beginning of a college and/or career pathway with validated credentials signifying readiness for professional wage work (two-year degrees or certifications) and/or significant credits toward completion of a four-year degree.

The jobs both taken or created by Generation A will look different than what exists today, but a revised end-state to what we currently call high-school education can help us reverse engineer a more adaptable and relevant approach to the entire K-12 experience for all students.

Coming Together, Moving Forward

Launched earlier this year, SchoolSmartKC brings together schools and other key stakeholders dedicated to closing the achievement gap in Kansas City’s public schools.

A study of the AVID program revealed 10 keys to preparing students for college, including time management, peer groups and growth mindset.

Using what they’ve learned from creating leading technology companies, today’s billionaires are remaking schooling via their philanthropy.

Turn the Page KC was started by Mayor Sly James in 2011 to address the critical need for Kansas City third graders to gain reading proficiency.

What Do You Think?

We’d like to know what you think about the future of learning. Do you have predictions about how education might change? Do you see innovation happening now that might have a positive impact?