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Voices: Education reform via 4.0 Schools

The founder of 4.0 Schools Matt Candler, a recent speaker at the Donnell-Kay Foundation’s Hot Lunch series, talks about the importance of taking risks on a small scale in order to figure out what works when it comes to education reform.

More than just a faster horse.

Scaling what works. It’s gospel for most funders, electeds and policymakers, especially when it comes to education reform.

I’ve spent most of my career scaling what works. Scale is a good thing, but it should not be our only thing. I’ve realized in the last few years that our school system isn’t actually as broken as I thought it was in my 20’s or 30’s. I realize now it’s just obsolete. And that’s changed my perspective on scale.

Work is already changing. Radically. What is school supposed to look like in this new world? I honestly don’t know. If you know, please ignore what we’re doing at 4.0. And ignore the amazing work in Denver at places like EdSeeds, designEDU, and the Donnell-Kay Foundation. Put all of your effort into scaling what we have so far.

But if you believe what I do – that schools designed for what kids needed 50, 80 or 100 years ago aren’t what our kids deserve – then we need more people, more philanthropy, more leaders allocating a thoughtful percentage of capital and energy towards figuring out what our classrooms should look like if they were not tethered to legacy systems that persistently resist change. Your kids’ school – my kids’ school – should not be the same as their grandfather’s school.

Henry Ford (probably) said that if he asked his customers what they wanted, they’d have said “a faster horse.” If you are an investor, a teacher, a leader, a philanthropist – ask yourself two questions: How much horse breeding should I be doing? Then how much car-building should I be doing?

A few weeks ago when EdSeeds launched, I felt like we’d found a brother from another mother. I’m psyched about what’s happening in Denver because it feels a lot like New Orleans. We are building communities. The reason I call EdSeeds and others in Denver part of the family is that we’re all in the same business – developing education’s entrepreneurial human capital.

Sure, there are incentives and resources for people who want to move through the funnel towards launching new ventures. But we also respect that each person’s going to move at their own pace and the occasion has to be right for each person. So we make sure that every event, training, experience we create has value for anyone there. They’re better the next day they show up at their day job. And they’re a little more pissed about all the kids for whom our education system is not working. And they’ve got a community of people ready to engage them in actual work to change education.

About our First Person series:

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others trying to improve public education. Read our submission guidelines here.

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