Theory of Change

Public education has an important role to play in equitably preparing all students to lead successful and happy lives, and helping America to prosper. But it needs a new theory of change.

Learning must be more student-centered—that is, it must be built on a foundation of strong relationships, responsive to basic needs, driven by student interests, respectful of their identities, adaptive to their academic needs, relevant to their lives beyond school, and not confined within school days and walls.

Seven Principles of Student-Centered Learning

If student-centered learning customized to each student's needs is the goal, how do we get there? Our theory of change is two-fold:

  1. Teachers, who work closest with the students, must have larger professional roles in designing and leading schools.
  2. Policy must enable and support innovation, by creating space, removing barriers, and creating a climate of encouragement.
Theory of Change: How to Get to Student-Centered Learning

But change should not be orchestrated from the top-down or forced on anyone. Rather, bold innovation and continuous improvements to traditional school happen side by side in a "split-screen". Over time the system changes organically, as innovative approaches to learning are tried, refined, replicated, and adopted by others.

Below are six action points to move this new strategy.

Teachers design and lead schools

  1. Teachers work in close partnership with students, families, and communities to design student-centered learning
  2. More teacher teams collectively lead and run schools
  3. Teacher preparation prepares diverse, qualified candidates for these expanded teacher roles


Policy enables and encourages innovation

  1. Policy clears barriers to innovating with equitable, student-centered learning
  2. Policy moves decisions closer to students, granting autonomy to schools and teachers
  3. Schools are held accountable for broader and deeper outcomes students need to thrive in the 21st century