(This video was recorded as part of our "Flip" chat series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can check out other videos in the series here, including our previous chat with Jake Porway, founder and executive director of DataKind.)
In 1983, a blue-ribbon commission tasked with assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the American educational system arrived at the following conclusion: "Knowledge, learning, information, and skilled intelligence are the new raw materials of international commerce and are today spreading throughout the world as vigorously as miracle drugs, synthetic fertilizers, and blue jeans did earlier. If only to keep and improve on the slim competitive edge we still retain in world markets, we must dedicate ourselves to the reform of our educational system for the benefit of all -- old and young alike, affluent and poor, majority and minority. Learning is the indispensable investment required for success in the 'information age' we are entering...."
Three decades after A Nation at Risk, the report based on the commission's work, was released to the public, the American educational system is struggling to keep pace with a variety of powerfully disruptive trends, from globalization and rapid technological change, to growing inequality and the country's changing demographics. One thing everyone agrees on, however, is that the system fails far too many kids. How we address that failure and create an educational system that is more equitable, flexible, and affordable is the great challenge of our time. There are no easy answers. But one thing is clear: innovation and experimentation will be on the test.
Recently, PND spoke with Dr. Michael Durnil, president and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Simon Youth Foundation, a national nonprofit that works to reduce the school dropout rate and increase college access, about Simon Youth Academies, the foundation's signature program. Located primarily in malls owned by Simon Property Group, Simon Youth Academies are non-traditional high schools that give at-risk students the same education they would receive in a traditional classroom but in a flexible environment.
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(Running time: 6 minutes, 10 seconds)
Have you seen a Simon Youth Academy or similar educational model in action? What was your impression? And what are some of the other promising educational experiments out there? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts....
-- Mitch Nauffts