K-12 Teaching and Learning

Overview

Imagine an eighth-grade classroom in a public school where students are building wind turbines to generate electricity. They had to redesign the blades several times, but they persevered, inspired by the story of a Malawian man who built a wind turbine out of scrap metal for his village. The students in this classroom are engaged in deep learning. They are drawing on knowledge and skills from many subject areas and experiences to build something together. The exercise is preparing them for real life and the types of applied learning they will take on beyond the school environment.

We know that effective learning focuses on more than just mastery of Math and English. Students need a variety of skills, knowledge and mindsets – distinctly different competencies than those measured by standardized assessments –  to achieve their own goals. They need a strong sense of agency and identity, and to engage with people beyond the classroom walls. And these types of learning opportunities need to reach every student – including those from underserved and low-income communities, students of color, recent immigrants or those who are differently abled.

Unfortunately, too many schools continue to fail to provide what this diverse majority needs — access to the supportive, flexible learning opportunities that will develop the knowledge, skills, and mindsets necessary to achieve their goals. Teachers lack the agency and resources they need to reach all their students, and schools are restricted in what, how, and when they can improve. Since our country works best when everyone has the chance to contribute, this waste of human potential weakens our society and democracy, leaving us less prepared to tackle the most pressing issues our nation faces today.

Our K-12 Teaching and Learning strategy works with educators, schools and their communities to learn what it takes to turn schools into places that empower and equip students for a lifetime of learning, and to reach their full potential. We support organizations, school systems and educators that are demonstrating the enormous potential of deeper learning. We help states, districts, schools, teachers and students embrace this dynamic way of learning. We want to ensure that the U.S. public education system prepares every student to set and achieve their own, authentic goals.

Goals

New exemplars of teacher practice

Many teachers see themselves as facilitators of student learning, organizing instruction so that students learn not just content, but also social and academic skills and mindsets, and an appreciation for life in a complex democracy. To facilitate these enhanced forms of teaching, we seek out and support schools and systems that already explore different approaches to instructional improvement and empower their teachers to deepen their practice.

New knowledge about transforming education systems

The last decade of work in education reform has largely focused on change at the school level, which will always be necessary. But reformers and researchers have paid considerably less attention to the problem of how to help systems spread and support best practices in all schools. We provide grants to support school systems in exploring new structures and processes for improving instruction, and we have a strong interest in studying these efforts to share what is learned.

New voices in our discourse about public education

We know from research and experience that when students and parents feel heard — when they see school as responsive to their needs and learning as relevant to their lives — learning outcomes improve. We’ve also seen how organized, informed communities can bring productive pressure for school systems to change. Our grantmaking supports efforts to build and amplify the diverse voices of teachers, students and parents in conversations about public education.

New conversations about teaching and learning

Our schools should be understood and supported as centers for learning. Yet, negative stereotypes about education abound, and those charged with setting up schools and teaching environments often define “success” in ways that do not resonate with parents or employers. Intentional leadership and action are necessary to socialize broad narratives about the education system. Our team’s role is to listen carefully to teachers, students, and parents, and equip them with what they need to share their stories, so that we can change the language and perceptions surrounding education in this country.

Our Grantmaking

American Educational Research Association
for a fellowship program for postdoctoral and early-career scholars
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
for evaluation, support, and knowledge building about research-practice partnerships
University of California at Berkeley
for support of a research practice partnership
American Institutes for Research
for identification of deeper learning schools and steps needed to scale deeper learning models

Our Team

Kent McGuire 
Program Director
Raquel Abdala 
Program Associate
Kevin Crouch [Headshot]
Kevin Crouch 
Program Fellow
Neha Singh Gohil 
Communications Officer
 @nehasgohil
Charmaine Mercer 
Program Officer
Peter Rivera 
Program Officer
Brooke Treadwell 
Grants Officer

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