Background and Challenge

Improving U.S. education has been one the most hotly contested national debates for more than a decade, with leaders advocating for drastically different solutions, ranging from high-stakes testing to charter schools to performance pay, and more. Headlines in national media have told the story of a deeply divided field, reporting the differing viewpoints of heads of teacher unions, leaders of the charter school movement, and champions for a wide range of reform strategies.

The CBI Approach

In the midst of the debate, CBI and its partner Convergence, a nonprofit that convenes national leaders to jointly address tough policy issues, brought together key education leaders for a dialogue to explore what an extraordinary 21st-century education might look like for all students. CBI and a co-facilitator designed a highly creative process that helped participants agree on the need for fundamental change, shed assumptions about what kind of change was possible, and then reimagine education by roleplaying great learning experiences in the future. As the dialogue unfolded, leaders discovered that a shared vision was emerging: learner-centered education. This vision is a paradigm shift, from a factory model of teachers imprinting knowledge onto batches of students to the individual learner’s curiosity and challenges becoming the driving force for learning.


These strategically facilitated conversations have produced a remarkable result: union and charter leaders, advocates for technology and social emotional learning, and many others who had been highly polarized came to the realization that they share a common vision for U.S. education. This vision was so compelling that leaders have begun the shift from arguing about how to fix the current system to establishing a national network of schools, educators, and learners engaged in learner-centered education -- an outcome almost none of them thought possible at the outset.