A Message From Our Team
2023 was a year of change at Getting Smart. We brought on new team members, kicked off two new campaigns, hosted a New Pathways Convening in our own backyard (shoutout to Tacoma), and launched a Learning Innovation Fund.
We brought on new partners, hosted monthly conversations with our community and walked along many leaders as they worked hard to bring innovative, high quality learning opportunities to every learner within their schools.
2023 brought new opportunities including the increased power to compute, new pathways and skills matching for jobs. And of course we are all talking about, learning about and seeing the potential, and challenges, that generative AI brings to the education community.
Despite the technological progress and slow (but impactful) change at the systems level, young people have been handed a raw deal. Generation Alpha is the same group of teens who lived through a global pandemic facing the traditional demands of school while learning remotely. They are the same generation who has inherited an uncertain and inequitable economy, polarized politics and the climate crisis. Daily, they struggle with the addictive influence of social media and are skeptical of both the feasibility of cost and the long-term value of college.
Despite the challenges, the opportunities for middle and high school learners have never been greater both in and out of school. We hope that our coverage in 2023 highlighted new and different ways of thinking about youth voice, youth action and how adults can play a role in the next generation.
Our vision is an education ecosystem that empowers all learners to thrive. We focus on ensuring equity and inclusion as it relates to learning design, learning science, educational leadership and the day-to-day work that we do with districts, teachers and learning organizations. That way, when we say we’re producing valuable work and making an impact for all learners and the planet, we mean it.
Getting Smart actively builds the future of learning by designing, accelerating and amplifying equitable innovations that empower all people to thrive and lead in a complex world.
Getting Smart is committed to holding anti-racism, inclusion and equity at the center of all of the work we do. We believe that the best ideas happen when diverse thinking leads to truly powerful and regenerative learning.
We acknowledge the long and continued history of systemic racism and colonialism in our country and education system. We also acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to create truly equitable communities where every individual has the same opportunity to succeed in and contribute to the world. Our team strives to support organizations in creating student-centered learning environments that are equitable for all regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, gender, disability, socio-economic status, sexual orientation and learning differences.
We persist in our work to support school systems and learning organizations that elevate and amplify traditionally marginalized voices and identities. We advocate for policies that reduce barriers to access.
We will honor our commitment by growing and fostering a diverse staff, partnering with organizations also committed to racial equity, embedding equity in all strands of work, providing relevant programming where all participants feel welcome and engaging diverse perspectives and voices for our blog and community.
Justice and stewardship of our planet are a core piece of our DEI work. Respecting, protecting and ensuring the planet’s immense biodiversity and unknowable magnitude remains an essential part of the work that we do. This manifests through partnerships, inspiring changemaking and encouraging engagement with place.
We pledge to keep learning, advocating and taking action.
In 2023 we continued our New Pathways campaign which is supported by American Student Assistance (ASA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Stand Together and the Walton Family Foundation. In this campaign, we’ve been exploring how access is expanded and personalized, how learning can be guided and supported, and how new capabilities are captured and communicated. When well implemented, these advances will unlock opportunities for all and narrow the equity gap. We have published over 150 blogs and over 40 podcasts to date. We also created 5 publications this year as a part of the campaign:
We held 5 Town Halls focused on:
- Agriculture Technology Pathways: Building K-12 Pathways to The Future of Agriculture
- Support & Guidance: The Importance of Robust Advisory Systems
- Apprenticeship Pathways: Tech and Teaching
- Portrait of a Graduate in Practice
- Raise the Bar: Policy Shaping Pathways for All
In collaboration with American Student Assistance (ASA), Tacoma Public Schools and Puget Sound Educational Services District (PSESD), Getting Smart hosted a New Pathways convening in Tacoma, Washington in October 2023. By showcasing the inspiring work already underway in Washington, the convening gathered attendees ranging from K-12 districts, higher ed and after-school programs, to policymakers and nonprofit organizations, as well as elevated national voices. The conference aimed to inspire stakeholders across the region to embrace and implement New Pathways and pave the way for a purpose-driven learning ecosystem that empowers every student to thrive! Stay tuned for another conference in 2024 and check out a quick highlight reel below!
There is a growing need for and interest in real world learning (also called work-based learning and professions-based learning). It is relevant to a rapidly changing employment landscape and engaging and valuable for youth. However, it is challenging to create and support opportunities for work-based learning and it is challenging to capture and communicate the value of these experiences. To support a movement to better credential and capture valuable learning in and out of school, we launched the Credentialing Valuable Experiences campaign in partnership with American Student Assistance (ASA). The campaign will highlight what the new system will look like that moves courses, credits and grades into the background.
Learning Innovation Fund
The Learning Innovation Fund is the grantmaking arm of Getting Smart Collective that makes innovation investments to ensure equity and access for every learner.
The Fund’s first grant program, A Big Push for Small Schools, is a multi-year initiative aimed at catalyzing innovation and growth in microschool models. These small schools, rooted in a historical tradition of cooperative and small-scale learning, are envisioned to become diverse, sustainable, and impactful alternatives within the educational landscape. The grant program focuses on promoting quality, equity, and accessibility by fostering a network of microschool leaders, providing technical assistance, and offering grants to propel the development of these innovative learning environments. The Walton Family Foundation provides funding.
Case Study: Kauffman Principal Fellowship
In 2018, the Real World Learning initiative was launched in Kansas City, MO with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Partnering with 31 superintendents across state lines, the initiative provides immersive experiences for learners to jumpstart their career goals. The region is committed to ensuring that all students graduate with one or more Market Value Assets (internships, client-connected projects, entrepreneurial experiences, industry-recognized credentials, and college credit) to guide them towards employment.
Over the past year, we have driven professional development by launching a Real World Learning Principal’s Fellowship, organizing superintendent retreats, leading school tours across the country, and showcasing our work through various conference sessions, blogs, and podcasts.
Case Study: Bostonia Global
In collaboration with Cajon Valley Unified School District, our organization spearheaded the design and development of Bostonia Global, the district’s inaugural high school. Recognizing the challenges faced by a fledgling and rapidly growing school, our joint efforts aimed at creating an environment where students could discover their voices and pursue personalized pathways for their high school education. While Cajon Valley has established itself as a K-8 district with a reputation for fostering happy and healthy children, the creation of Bostonia Global marked a crucial step towards providing a tailored high school experience.
Acknowledging the inherent complexities of establishing a new educational institution, we worked closely with the school district, leveraging our expertise to co-design a model that aligns with the needs of the students and the communities they come from. Throughout the process, we not only served as coaches for the school’s leadership but also played a pivotal role in connecting them with a diverse network of partners. As the lead connector, we facilitated collaborations with organizations that complemented the vision of Bostonia Global, ensuring a rich and supportive ecosystem for the students. Moving forward, our commitment extends to amplifying and sustaining these connections, ensuring the ongoing success and growth of this innovative high school.
Pro Bono Work
This year we started the development of a pro-bono project offering and look forward to releasing a more formalized offering of pro-bono support in 2024. Our team has spent over 500 hours supporting ed leaders, edtech founders and educators this year with free strategic advisory, thought partnership and advocacy.
This year we worked on engaging students in internships and had our first two Getting Smart interns! These students (one recent high school grad and one current high schooler) supported our Marketing and Website teams at optimizing content, brainstorming content strategy and supporting our visual footprint.
As part of our commitment to community, Getting Smart, with the team’s guidance, donated to the following organizations:
- Lead Prep
- Northwest Harvest
- The Hidden Genius Project
- Social Justice Fund NW
- Latinx Education Collaboration
- Sunrise Community Health
- Rural Schools Collaborative
- World Central Kitchen
- Mentoring Urban Students & Teens
- KC Friends of Alvin Ailey
- Lillies Foundation for Change INC
- Greenwood Charter Academy PTO
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Getting Smart has an active internal DEI committee that measures and calibrates work with partners, our internal systems and processes and so much more. We are dedicated to never letting our equity statement fall short. This year our DEI Committee has:
- Evaluated how we can involve more learners in our work.
- Read Bias Interrupted and dissected how the learnings apply to our organization.
- Updated our onboarding materials and process to ensure equitable, accessible and welcoming onboarding for new hires.
- Updated our hiring process to ensure equitable hiring practices.
As part of our commitment to equity, we want to make sure our partnerships are with organizations and leaders who are also committed to equity. This year we continued to utilize and adapt our partner rubric that we work through before kicking off any new project or participating in any new event, alliance, etc. And, to make sure we’re continuing to improve our practice we send out regular surveys to partners and use their feedback to reflect, create new processes, and celebrate successes.
Back in 2021 we created a book club that prioritizes selecting and reading books that expand our world to new voices and experiences and/or provide the foundation for difficult and urgent conversations. In 2023 we read the following books as a team:
Getting Smart is a fully remote team with no formal office space. By maintaining this model, we are able to lessen our environmental footprint day in and day out.
But, there’s no secret we love to attend great conferences and visit schools which means we travel far and often. To help us offset our travels, Getting Smart is a member of Terrapass. Each month we purchase carbon offsets based on the total estimated carbon footprint of our team. To date, we have purchased 90 mT of carbon offsets through Terrapass and will continue to monitor and act to combat our carbon footprint.
What Is Our Audience Thinking About?
Top 5 Blogs
- Three Ways AI Can Help Teachers Save Time Now
- AI in Education Publication
- Credentialed Learning Publication
- Tough New Growth: A Combination Mindset that Can Build Resilience
- How High Schools Can Successfully Accelerate College Pathways
Top 5 Podcasts
- Students from Notre Dame de Sion on Global Impact and Being Solutionaries
- Dr. Dennis Johnston on Student and Educator Agency with AVID
- David Weinberg on The Art of the School Visit
- Bodo Hoenen on Generative AI For Curriculum
- Kelly Niccolls and Abby Benedetto on Assessment as a Revelation Framework
Top 3 Town Halls
As indicated in our Equity Statement, we know this work is ongoing and dynamic. We have identified the following goals for continuing to grow our impact in 2024:
- Further develop our pro bono programs.
- Continue to monitor the impact our work has on learners, educators and leaders.
- Tell stories and create resources to help reach outside of the innovation bubble.
- Continue to expand our network to increase diverse voices that shape our thought leadership.
We extend our heartfelt appreciation to our current and former partners. Serving you throughout 2023 was a privilege, and we eagerly anticipate the opportunity to continue doing so in 2024.
Our gratitude extends to the dedicated members of the Getting Smart community, including fellows, advisors, teacher bloggers, columnists, and guest authors. Thank you for your unwavering support for our initiatives and campaigns and for choosing to share your voices and stories with our audience.
To our Getting Smart readers, listeners, and followers, your engagement means so much to us. Sharing stories, best practices, lessons learned, and innovations is our passion, and we hope you’ll consider spreading the word about our blog, podcast, and social content next year.
Lastly, our heartfelt thanks go out to our exceptional team, whose tireless efforts have made a significant impact on the communities we serve and have allowed us to serve our partners to the best of our abilities.