The IDEA Blog

Break On Through to The Other Side!

Break on through to the other side... of the No Spectators campaign and the Learning Breakthrough Series! There are only 4 days left in IDEA's No Spectators fundraising campaign, and we need your donation now more than ever. So far we've raised about 50% of our $65,000 goal. We know we can get this number higher, but we're going to need your support. That's why we're giving you the details now on one of our biggest projects yet, and how your donations directly support the Learning Breakthrough Series.

The Learning Breakthrough Series is one way IDEA supports local power while generating knowledge and connections for the national movement towards more meaningful and relevant education. Over the course of two years, teams of educators, youth, and community and policy leaders from distinct communities are learning alongside each other about transforming and sustaining meaningful change in today's educational climate. The series concludes with a public summit where teams share their findings and discuss implications with a broad audience of educators, policy-makers, and the media.

Our first Learning Session was held in Jackson, MS in November, where teams of organizers from New York, Vermont, Oregon, Puerto Rico, New England, Jackson, MS, and Minnesota attended. Teams were able to take a deep-dive on education issues in their communities and support each other with "provocation rounds" to understand more clearly the ways they can contribute back home and nationally. Our community dinner welcomed mayoral office representatives, college and university students, and community members - check out this short highlight video from Wellington August. We established connection to and ways IDEA can collaborate with the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer. Some of the most powerful learning came from the honor and privilege of visiting the COFO Civil Rights Education Center where we all came face-to-face with history, stories, and songs of the Civil Rights Movement from...

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Posted on Jan 27, 2014 - 08:24 AM by Shawn Strader

Super Friends in the Legion of Cool

It’s January 6, 2014 - my first official day in the office at the Tougaloo College Owens Health and Wellness Center. I’m seated at my desk reflecting on what happened towards the end of 2013 as my colleagues greet each other with a “happy new year” and “how was your time off?” I think about how I should answer the question, but I really didn’t have any time off. I was busy writing, DJing, re-writing, thinking, designing, planning and driving - so I respond “happy new year” and “it was good.”

There were a few things I thought about most, my fiancée and our unborn child, the future of Tougaloo College, the small changes in the educational landscape of Jackson, Mississippi and how I fit into all of this. For my future wife and child, I have to be a husband and father concerned with the overall well being of my family. Currently, overall well being translates into get us out of a third floor apartment, obtain an affordable home in a safe neighborhood and maintain a steady income to support it all. As a Tougaloo College graduate and employee, I’m concerned with how to increase alumni support and student enrollment. As the Storyteller for the IDEA Jackson place based team, my interest is piqued by the small changes to educational landscape of Jackson, Mississippi and what these changes mean and why they mean so much.

In the very near future, I’ll be searching for a pre-school and elementary school where my little student can explore his/her own individuality and develop socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually. As well as the students of this educational landscape could potentially enroll at Tougaloo College (which would alleviate one of my concerns). I’m sure that it will all work out because I'm working with the "Super Friends in the Legion of Cool!"


GA and Skipp
The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) Mississippi Leadership Academy‘s first cohort completed a year long professional development opportunity...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014 - 12:38 PM by George Chuck Patterson

2014 Here We Come: No Spectators and Network Learning Call

Changing Education Means No Spectators

Six weeks ago we launched our annual fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $120,000 and having as much fun and making as many connections along the way as possible. It’s called No Spectators - because we think that’s very much what IDEA’s work is about -- encouraging our shared sense of responsibility and the need to act to make visible and connect work that is by, for, and with young people, educators, and communities.

And, we didn’t hit our goal. Not even close. We accept that. We’ve taken a hard look at our optimism, our messages, and our goal.

And now we’re back in January with a narrowed goal and 15 days of renewed effort. We need to get to $65,000 to keep from having to slow down as an organization and do all those things every passionate non-profit wants to avoid. And we need your help.

We are asking that you make a $10.00 gift today!

Donate here.

Every bit will go a long way and if you aren’t sure, email us and we’ll answer any questions you have.

Thanks for your consideration and support,




First Network Learning Call

On January 22nd, we are holding our first Network Learning Call. These calls focus on specific topics that can inform and support your work, be it as an educator, student, community member, policy-maker, or otherwise. Here's the information, and we hope you can join us on the 22nd.

Date and time: Wednesday, January 22nd from 6:30-8pm Eastern / 3:30-5pm Pacific
Topic: The history and impact of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) from the perspective of historically marginalized communities
Format: We'll be using Blackboard Collaborate for this call. We'll begin with a panel discussion with 3 speakers and then open it to questions and dialogue from those on the call. 
Speakers: Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions; Ana Helvia Quintero, Mathematics Professor at the University of Puerto Rico; Le...

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Posted on Jan 16, 2014 - 09:56 AM by Dana Bennis

Netflix and Zappos and Agile - Oh My

I’m a change junkie. I have all the signs of a kind of joyful addiction that should temper this post and put extra attention on the word junkie.

It’s been an interesting few weeks of provocation within my inbox and FB as I’ve learned more about changes in how work gets done and noodle on what that offers IDEA, and what it signals for any place where people are trying to learn or do interesting stuff together, including those places called school (shout out to John Goodlad).

This article prompted another round of sharing (and my first time seeing) this Netflix “stack,” which is what all the hip kids call a powerpoint these days.

A few days prior, I learned via Facebook that Zappos, a company I find fascinating to learn from, welcomed everyone but their managers into 2014 as they embrace Holacracy with the likes of management and GTD guru, David Allen.

And a month ago, I began a crash course in learning about Agile, starting with the manifesto and moving onto various implementation efforts, like Scrum.

Taken together, I do feel a bit like Dorothy and company as they go from being scared to singing “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My.”

My very fast googling suggests some folks have been playing with crossovers in education for a few years AND, of course, many of these innovations have roots in the learning of many educators, philosophers, and teachers.

What I find most fascinating is that big companies are taking courageous risks to do work differently. And doing work differently is all about learning and adaptation.

Clearly schools are far more complex than selling shoes, streaming videos, or developing software code. But I can’t help but imagine a future where schools are dynamic centers of community that borrowed heavily on these kinds of dynamic and deeply democratic structures.

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Posted on Jan 10, 2014 - 08:29 AM by Scott Nine


IDEA MN History


In December of 2012, the first meeting of our group took place in the living room of Ofir Germanic (IDEA MN Senior Fellow). Our first, official Salon (“an assembly of guests in such a room, especially an assembly, common during the 17th and 18th centuries, consisting of the leaders in society, art, politics, etc” - took place on January 2013 at the Rice Lake Teen Zone. This is a place where youth in St. Paul came to engage in building a community together. Minnesota has long been a place where youth work is vitally important, yet schools and youth centers don't seem to be connected. We have a core group of members who are strongly connected. The efforts of IDEA MNer’s Steven Grande, Sarah Olson, Cari-Ana Garcia Luna, and Jerilyn Ezaki, along with many others helped get our group off the ground. We have grown organically since then and will continue to grow. This fellowship has many of us spending time connecting with each other outside of the time we hold Salons. We have found that our work with youth intersects in ways that we never imagined when we first got started.


In Minnesota, we tend to think we are “above average” compared to the rest of nation. This is especially true when it comes to education. It may be “flyover country” to people on the East Coast and West Coast, but Minnesota has long been a hot bed for rebel education initiatives, some of which include:

  • Open Enrollment - allowing students to attend a school of their choice, rather than based solely on their geographic location

  • Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) - allows students in high school to take college classes and receive dual credit (high school & college), free of charge

  • Charter Schools - charter school legislation was approved in 1991. City Academy (St. Paul) being the first charter in the nation to open.

  • Teacher Professional Practice (TPP) - an idea dreamed up by Education Evolving’s Ted Kolderie...

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Posted on Jan 09, 2014 - 07:51 AM by Aaron Grimm

15 Months in Virtual Charter Hell - Darcy’s Story

Her story has gone viral.

On January 6th Anthony Cody published Darcy Bedortha's personal account of working for a K12 Inc virtual charter school on his popular EdWeek Living in Dialogue blog, where it's been tweeted over 200 times. Then the next day Diane Ravitch shared about it on her widely-read blog, where it's spurred 75 comments and reactions. And then Ken Bernstein, otherwise known as Teacherken, posted today about her story on DailyKos, where it's been recommended nearly 200 times with over 80 comments. 

I'm so glad that Darcy's story is getting this kind of attention. Those of us within IDEA, where Darcy has been an organizer for over two years, know how beautiful her heart is and how strong she's had to be to go through the challenges of the past 15 months while giving all she could to her students. Darcy is a gifted educator with deep insight into the needs of young people and the societal realities that act as barriers to meeting the needs of youth.

Just a few of the points Darcy makes:

  • Teachers in K12 Inc schools are underpaid and overworked
  • K12 Inc schools disproprotionately serve disadvantaged students, who often have the least support and stability to do well in a virtual school
  • Only 37.6% of K12 Inc students graduate on time, and only 27.7 percent of their schools meet Adequate Yearly Progress (national averages are 79.4% and 52%, respectively)
  • The CEO of K12 Inc earned $19 million from 2009-2013 

But even more powerful than these stats is Darcy's personal story. Here is a snippet:

I was an English teacher, so my students would write. They wrote of pain and fear and of not fitting in. They were the kinds of young people who desperately needed to have the protective circle of a community watching over them. They needed one healthy person to smile at them and recognize them by name every day, to say "I'm glad you're here!"  Many of my former students do not have that.

The last thing these young people needed, I...

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Posted on Jan 08, 2014 - 02:59 PM by Dana Bennis

Connected Learning: The Experience of Education Reimagined

“How might education come to life if children were to possess a burning need to know?"

Nearly 8 minutes of pretty outstanding information, insight, creativity, hope, vision.... The film gives a provocative frame for thinking about how we reimagine education.

What does learning with like-minded or like-visioned learners look like? Learning with someone else who shares your interests is sure to create more sparks in the learning than with folks who could care less about what's being learned. Right?

Check the original website here. No matter where you view it, it'll keep your attention.

"Our core question is, “What’s the experience we want kids to have.” So the core question is around engagement, and as soon as you start with “Is the kid engaged? What is the learning experience we want the kid to have?” then you have to pay attention to the kid.

But how do you create a need to know in a kid? That’s an emotional question. That’s an intellectual question. That’s an identify question. And when you start designing learning experiences around that, then getting to the content and getting kids to engage in core questions related to academic core… that’s actually the easy part.”


I think it's cool when people got something to say. Share what you got in the comments here.

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Posted on Jan 03, 2014 - 09:40 AM by Shawn Strader

Happy Holidays!

It's New Year's Eve's Eve, and we simply can't resist the temptation to write to you and the rest of our amazing network to share some love and well wishes! We hope that your holidays in 2013 have been and are still the best, and that you're looking forward to 2014 as much as we are!

If you're looking to make a year-end contribution, we'd love your support towards our #NoSpectators campaign. Check out our funny new meme below. And if you're not looking to make some year-end gifts, no worries. It's most important that you have a lovely New Year celebration and that your holidays have been a good time. Nothing but love to you and yours from the IDEA crew. grin

Make a year-end contribution to the #NoSpectators campaign at

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Posted on Dec 30, 2013 - 03:28 PM by Shawn Strader

IDEA Boricua

As IDEA Boricua's Storyteller, I'm super excited to be writing this piece for the IDEA Blog. It feels a little surreal to be writing about the work our place-based team is involved in in Puerto Rico, because the fact is that there's so much incredible work going on here to strengthen, build, and support communities toward meaningful learning, rooted in values of love and democracy.

My original plan for this piece was to zone in on one of IDEA Boricua's current efforts. However, it occurred to me that everything we are up to is important, and in an early stage. That said I'm using this blog to help get anyone reading up to speed on everything we're up to. It won't be extensive, and I won't take any deep dives on any one effort. As IDEA Boricua grows as a place-based team, we will be documenting our progress via IDEA's Blog, and so each effort will become unpacked as the new year unfolds.

What you'll find below is a list of all of IDEA Boricua's current activities. It all came together after spending time strategizing, organizing, connecting, and strengthening relationships between our own team-members and other organizing teams from around the U.S. at IDEA's Learning Session A in Jackson, Mississippi - a part of IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series.

Important note: There are many incredible humans doing tremendous work in Puerto Rico for the betterment of education, community development, Puerto Rican empowerment, and more. IDEA Boricua welcomes these change-makers as part of our team, and celebrates any and all collaboration. Our two overarching objectives are Capacity Building, on and off the island, and Impacting the Narrative, nationally in Puerto Rico and internationally.

IDEA Boricua's Activity

IDEA Boricua is designing and hosting dialogues that bring together future teachers (current education-majors) from different higher-learning institutions around Puerto Rico. The goal is to influence their thinking in a way that promotes meaningful...

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Posted on Dec 19, 2013 - 09:52 AM by Shawn Strader

Providence Student Union is Killin’ It!

I've said it once, and I'll say it again - Providence Student Union (PSU) are real-deal-Holyfield changemakers. I'm gonna let this story speak for itself.

Check out how PSU organized to keep Alvarez High School from shutting down. As they say in the opening line, "It's hard to believe, but we did it!

Dear Shawn,

It's hard to believe, but we did it!


Yesterday, the Providence School Board announced that they will not be closing Alvarez High School.

PSU members demonstrate at School Board meeting


When the School Department presented the closure of Alvarez as the only realistic way to deal with Providence's enrollment and capacity issues last month, most commentators expected it was close to a done deal.


But members of the Providence Student Union's Alvarez chapter had something else in mind. Check out this short description of all the student organizing that led to last night's decision to see what goes into a successful campaign like this.


Our "No More School Closings" campaign started one month ago, when - less than an hour after students learned the district wanted to close Alvarez - a large group of Providence Student Union members were standing together in the Providence School Board's chambers, ready to respond to the district's proposal.


Because of our immediate response time, most School Board members (who had not been briefed on the proposal...

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Posted on Dec 16, 2013 - 07:40 AM by Shawn Strader

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