February 25, 2015
Growing Enthusiasm for “Rethinking How Students Succeed”
By Craig Wacker
Education Strategy Lead, Raikes Foundation

How Children Succeed, Paul Tough’s influential 2012 book, got people thinking about what we can do to help every child be successful, not only in school but in the face of life’s many challenges.  Tough’s argument that much of student success is driven by non-cognitive factors such as learning mindsets resonates with us and is borne out by the evidence. 

Tough and others recently revisited these themes in “Rethinking How Students Succeed,” a Stanford Social Innovation Review article that discusses findings from a convening last fall hosted by the Bridgespan Group. The meeting, which I attended, was convened to study the practice implications of learning mindsets, social-emotional learning, and broader notions of non-cognitive skills and dispositions. 

We were pleased that learning mindsets were an important part of the dialogue. At the Raikes Foundation, we’re focused on the critical role of teachers in developing learning mindsets and skills and, by extension, the supports that teachers need to develop these attitudes and behaviors in their students. We’re working with teachers, parents and leading researchers to develop evidence-based, teacher-tested tools and resources that be used to help students develop learning mindsets and skills.

For example, the SSIR article highlights one of our earliest efforts to partner with and learn from teachers, the 8th/9th Teacher Network in Chicago.  In 2012 we provided a grant to the Consortium on Chicago School Research (CCSR) that included support for CCSR researchers to work with 35 eighth- and ninth-grade teachers across seven Chicago public schools to develop actionable strategies to develop students’ learning mindsets and skills.  The partnership has helped CCSR researchers refine their understanding of how best to help teachers’ create classroom environments and tools that have the greatest impact on students learning mindsets and skills.

This year we have also made a grant to the New Teacher Center (NTC), another organization mentioned in the SSIR article, to support the design and distribution of tools that teachers can access and share to help their students develop learning mindsets and skills.  Teachers will be heavily involved in the creation of the toolkit, as will leading researchers from CCSR and PERTS, a center at Stanford University.

We are also supporting a networked improvement community launched by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The network, which is national and includes different grade-levels, learning environments, and locations, focuses on common challenges such as improving course completion in Algebra I and helping students who are behind grade-level in reading. Employing improvement science, the network is tapping practitioner insights to design, test, prototype and share teaching practices that develop learning mindsets in support of better student outcomes.

We will have much more to say in the weeks to come about these and other projects we are supporting.  But for now, I encourage you to read “Rethinking How Students to Succeed” and learn more about why we and many others are so excited about the potential for learning mindsets and skills to help all kinds of students succeed.