Real World Learning Case Study: Kansas City Region

Key Points

  • Students need a portfolio of experiences to showcase after high school.

  • When school systems and business leaders work together, student success is aligned and the workforce needs of the region can be met.

Real World Learning

Dubbed the City of Fountains, Kansas City, MO is known for its entrepreneurial spirit, its kindness and of course….the BBQ. Separated by only a state line, over 75 high schools from 31 different school systems across Missouri and Kansas collaborated to develop the Real World Learning initiative. 

One of the largest regional high school improvement projects in the country, the Real World Learning initiative was developed to ensure that all students are ready for life beyond high school. Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the sponsor of the Real World Learning initiative, recognized that the diploma was no longer enough and convened superintendents and business leaders to craft a new framework for students. 

After conducting a landscape analysis of the region, the data showed that the post-high school preparation wasn’t equitable across states and systems due to some students having great access to authentic learning experiences and others very little or none. As a solution, regional stakeholders collaborated to form community agreements called Market Value Assets (MVAs).

MVAs are a collection of experiences that a student has access to during their high school years. The goal of Real World Learning is for all students to earn one or more MVAs by 2030. The MVAs include:

  • Work experiences: internships and client-connected projects
  • Entrepreneurial experiences: starting a business or launching an initiative
  • College credit: at least nine credit hours
  • Industry recognized credentials

The collaboration between states and the inclusion of diverse stakeholders will allow Real World Learning to have the maximum impact on schools in the Kansas City region.

Rashawn Caruthers

The goals of Real World Learning were timely and important for the future of teaching and learning in the Kansas City region. The framework was structured, but flexible enough for school systems to personalize learning based on community needs. As a result of equitable funding distributed by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, districts were able to analyze needs and identify priorities that would help them reach the goal of every student earning one or more MVAs by 2030.

We learn from the Real World Learning initiative the equity that comes from creating a regional approach to learning that prepares students for life beyond high school.

This case study was produced by Getting Smart in partnership with the Kauffman Foundation’s Real World Learning initiative (visit The goal of the initiative is to provide students with authentic learning opportunities and skills that result in them being prepared for life after high school. The initiative is supported by regional stakeholders in Kansas City, MO that includes school systems, business executives and community leaders. 

Shawnee Caruthers

Shawnee Caruthers is the Director of Advocacy at Getting Smart and is a longtime educator with a background in marketing, journalism and advertising. She has a particular interest in CTE, words and empowering young people to control their own narrative.

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