January 29, 2016
Transcending the Limits of Traditional School Models
By Zoë Stemm-Calderon & Lindsay Hill
Raikes Foundation Education Team

We are constantly inspired by what teachers are doing to create classrooms that empower all students with learning mindsets and skills. Check out this great example of Chana Stewart using “process praise” to encourage her East Palo Alto 1st graders to operate with a growth mindset. Or read the story of Eric Butler and other Oakland teachers replacing ineffective zero-tolerance discipline policies with restorative justice approaches that contribute to a sense of belonging for every student.

Still, as educators ourselves, we know that the basic architecture of most of our outdated factory-model schools inhibit rather than helps great teachers to cultivate learning mindsets and skills in their students.

Ability tracking, for instance, makes it difficult to ensure that all students feel they belong and can succeed in rigorous coursework. Requiring teachers to teach the same content to similarly-aged students for the same amount of time, regardless of how quickly each student masters the material, makes it difficult to ensure every student has the appropriate level of challenge and opportunity for practice to build a growth mindset. And daily schedules that minimize time for teachers to get to know their students’ interests are a road block to developing engaging learning opportunities that help students develop a sense of purpose and relevance in their school work.

We know many educators overcome these challenges and more to ensure their students develop the learning mindsets and skills to succeed in school and life.

But what if all educators could leverage the science of learning, insights into what students and families want in their schools, and their own professional knowledge to re-imagine schools that support transformative teaching and learning?  What if we could modernize our schools and our school routines so they truly prepare young people to thrive in today’s rapidly changing world?

The prospect of realizing that vision is why we are so excited to announce a partnership with Transcend, a new non-profit that is dedicated to accelerating breakthrough innovations in school design.  

Since demonstrating their user-centered, science informed methods with the Achievement First Greenfield project, Transcend has emerged as one of the most exciting organizations supporting existing school systems to redesign their approach to education. Transcend envisions new designs for learning that:

  • Start with learning goals that are broad, deep, and interdisciplinary across academic, cognitive and social-emotional aims; and, hold the highest of expectations of all students to meet ambitious goals
  • Give students the freedom and power to own their learning, choosing the pace and learning activities that work best
  • Personalize the experience to meet every student based on what she needs, how she learn and her goals and strengths
  • Equip parents -- and the broader community -- to be active partners with the school and with children
  • Foster a community of togetherness, with diverse groups of students, educators, and parents working together

Transcend works directly with school operators in the district, charter, and independent school sectors. They seek five characteristics in their partners: vision and courage; learning mindsets; a collaborative orientation; a proven ability to execute, and the time and resources to do school redesign right.

Through our partnership with Transcend, we’ll support them to integrate the science of learning mindsets and skills into the new school designs. We look forward to learning alongside Transcend as they begin the challenging but critical work of reimagining schools that cultivate students who will transform the 21st century. If you’re interested in learning more about Transcend’s vision for impact, read their recent white paper written by their co-leaders and board members, Dissatisfied yet Optimistic. Transcend is also building the team that will make this vision a reality and would appreciate your recommendations or interest for these awesome opportunities to join their founding leadership team.