A solid education can lift people out of poverty, improve their lives, and improve the lives of future generations. A nation such as ours should not leverage wealth to contain and dispense knowledge. Regardless of where a child comes from, knowledge is supposed to be what helps them rise above and achieve their dreams. We believe that all children deserve equal access to opportunity. As a philanthropic organization, we are fighting to ensure they have it.
Over the years, we’ve received an education on this fact from educators and parents alike who have helped us see just how dysfunctional the system is as a whole. A system that enables for-profit interlopers to turn public dollars into shareholder value is dysfunctional at its core and makes an organization like our necessary to disrupt it from its core. Today’s system fails to assess students adequately, compensate and evaluate teachers fairly, involve and inform parents consistently, and energize communities effectively. Our schools aren’t failing…the system is.
We believe charter schools create new problems without addressing the real issues in our public education system. Charters are creating a system of publicly-funded private schools, and an educational reality that we just cannot support. While there are a few that provide an excellent education, charter schools represent our nation’s penchant for replacement over repair. Instead of fixing the issues that exist with our current system, we’ve allowed the creation of a new regime where accountability and standards are limited, and charter management organizations (CMOs) can turn public dollars into privatized profits.
Not only do we believe standardized testing is a flawed approach, but we can also prove so. Standardized tests fail to assess students at all – today’s tests are boring, take a very myopic and culturally biased view on how students learn and are geared toward memorization and not comprehension. We believe that assessments are important, as you cannot improve when you do not understand what needs improving, but today’s model is flawed and incapable of producing the level of individual student understanding that is necessary to have an impact on educational outcomes. Moreover, we are deeply concerned with the $1B+ annual price tag of standardized tests. Companies, some not even based in the U.S., are turning these useless tests into huge profits, which is damaging to our educational system. Teachers do not receive data that is actionable, and they often receive it well after the student has left that grade. Parents receive information that labels their child as a score against the median and are no better off post-test than they were before. Simply put, we can and must do a better job assessing our children, and those assessments should not be at all tied to teacher evaluations.
We believe the integration of science, math, technology, and engineering disciplines into the lesson plans of other subjects like social studies, art, music, and English will accelerate learning in amongst today’s highly mechanical student population. Such an integration would represent an approach that applies difficult subjects to more easily understood and adopted ones, enabling students to comprehend how to apply scientific, mathematical, and technological solutions to real-world scenarios. Making tough subjects like math more fun will increase absorption, and remove the typical stigma of “why I am learning this, I’ll never use it.” A departure from traditional pedagogy, we know – but one we believe will transform American education in the long-run.
The arts and music help children learn how to tap into their emotions, learn about different cultures, imagine possibilities, and express themselves. Sports and play help them burn off energy, learn the importance of teamwork, developing coping skills when things do not go their way, and lessons in sportsmanship help children develop strong leadership skills. All of these skills are disappearing from an educational system that promotes whole weeks of standardized test preparation. We want to see the arts, music, and play integrated into all curriculum from K-12.