Monday, January 30, 2023
HomeEducationThirty-Two Incredible Reasons For Optimism In Education

Thirty-Two Incredible Reasons For Optimism In Education

Guest post by Amar Kumarfounder and CEO of KaiPod Learning, a national microschool company and semi-finalist for the 2022 Yass Prize.

An invisible one flywheel is working today in public education.

The best teachers are considering leaving the profession en masse, fearing that teaching won’t earn them a living wage or the respect they deserve. If these teachers leave, schools will have to pay more to keep the rest.

With rising spending, district bureaucracies have been forced to cut back on investments in basic infrastructure and new learning pathways. It’s not surprising that when great teachers leave and schools close programs, academic results drop and parents look for alternatives. When parents leave, public education dollars follow, as they should, exacerbating the funding gap, causing a whole new round of teachers to leave.

The Result: we spend more money, attract more people, only to get the same or worse results. And the flywheel turns.

As if all this wasn’t enough, school budgets are about to hit a “cliff” the likes of which we’ve never seen. More than $190 billion was allocated for education stabilization in the COVID era, equivalent to ~$3,800 per student, all expiring in September 2024 – just as the system begins to recover.

If there was ever a case in all of American history for more educational innovation, it’s now.

Accelerate innovation

COVID gave parents a personal view of the quality of their children’s education. And for the first time, parents are using these insights to be more actively involved in their school. When their voices are not heard, they leave to pursue alternatives such as charters, private schools, online schools and micro schools. Interest in these alternatives is greater than ever and continues to show signs of growth.

Second, it is now undeniable that technology should play a role in teaching and learning. With more millennials becoming parents, this horse has left the stable. School systems must now struggle with how to effectively support their teachers with these tools.

In this landscape, the Yass Prize was created to stimulate more innovation. Their stated vision is suitably ambitious: “to be the Pulitzer of education and the Oscars of innovation.” More than $10 million will be awarded to innovative educational ventures in a variety of school models: public, private, and charter schools; online schools; micro-schools and learning pods; educational technology and other school-focused resource providers.

The award is ideological in all the right ways: it prioritizes those who pursue lasting solutions rather than relying on permanent philanthropy, those who holistically transform education and not just provide point solutions, those who have demonstrated outstanding results who handily earn the status beat the quo, and those who can grow without waiting for permission. To me, the latter really speaks to the cultural and political context in which we find ourselves.

Unlike other awards that focus on the application and the winner, the Yass Prize does things differently. The entire cohort participated in a 4-week Accelerator with guest speakers from diverse backgrounds and plenty of free time to build community. Towards the end, we started to realize that the lessons we learned and the relationships we built will last much longer than the cash prizes.

And therein lies the clear insight of the Yass Prize team: being an education innovator is lonely work. You get into politically hot water, you get discouraged easily, and your impact can feel like a tiny drop in a vast ocean. But being in the room with my cohort reminded me that there is power in numbers, that my ideas matter, and that our collective impact will shake the very ground we stand on.

32 pitches for the future of American education

The Accelerator’s capstone was a 3-minute pitch in which each of the contenders made an argument for how their innovation is clearly about improving education in a sustainable, transformative, outstanding, and permissionless way. The rapid fire format reinforces the cohort’s incredible diversity and breadth. Three clear themes emerged.

A.) reinvention: Nearly half of the semifinalists are innovating and reinventing core components of the K-12 learning experience. The majority of American kids still go to brick and mortar schools and these innovators are reinventing the parts that don’t work for kids. This group included charters, private schools, and additional providers that enrich the high school experience.

B.) Sources: A second group of organizations provides important resources to families, students or schools. They recognize that a school building needs to focus on more than just the core subjects and make connections with the community, with parents and with careers.

C.) Replication: And the final group of semi-finalists presented their successes in innovating entirely new models for learners and families. This group consists of learning pods, autism-focused charters, and career intervention programs. This group shared a vision of how to replicate their model and reach more students.

KaiPod Learning fits right into this last bucket. For 18 months, we’ve been building KaiPod Learning with a mission to empower more parents to take charge of their child’s education. We operate a network of personal learning pods in five states where students come for academic support, enrichment activities, and a social learning environment. Our students make 3x the progress of their traditional peers and we have 100% year-over-year retention.

With 5 million students expected to be interested in online or homeschooling, we want to make it easier for parents to choose these alternatives. To meet this growing demand, the Yass Award enabled us to launch KaiPod Catalyst, a first-of-its-kind accelerator for entrepreneurial educators to launch their own learning pods in their own communities.

We buy open our playbook to make these founders successful. We will use our online school partnerships to help them fill seats, our software to run their pods more efficiently, and our professional development to help them achieve outrageous academic gains.

Incentives are important

The whole Yass Prize experience made it clear to me why a prize of this type is so useful: it creates a giant incentive to create, share or scale innovations in a way that traditional systems cannot.

And while there can only be one grand prize winner, everyone still wins by benefiting from the lessons and community we’ve built.

See also  UP News: बलरामपुर में फर्जी शिक्षकों का हब बना माध्यमिक शिक्षा विभाग, सभी से स्पष्टीकरण तलब
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