“Education is the Hardest Work You’ll Ever Love”

So said Thom Jackson, CEO of EdisonLearning, as he spoke to a gathering of their senior leaders at the Edison Leadership Development Academy in October.  “We are part of a massive war to change the future—and to change the lives of our kids.”    

In education, said Jackson, we sometimes forget who our customers are—the families and children we serve.  Educators impact eternity.  Teachers can never tell how far their influence goes or where it stops.

EdisonLearning has gone through many changes since it began over a generation ago.  Yes, there have been bumps in the road along this journey.  Pioneering is not easy.  But we learn from the past to create the future.  Their mission of today is this:  To provide education solutions which help partners eliminate the persistent disparity of academic opportunities and outcomes for students as a result of their socioeconomic circumstances.   So what does that mean to the former EdisonLearning general counsel and COO who recently assumed leadership of the organization?

“When we refer to ‘students,’ we are referring to young human beings who are looking to us to help them chart their future course in life,” Jackson continued.  “In this new world, we need to change the conversation.  We will no longer accept a ‘closing’ of the achievement gap—we will strive to ‘eliminate’ the achievement gap.  Meeting ‘Adequate Yearly Progress’ is just that –adequate.  Our outcomes will no longer be based solely on test scores—but on graduation rates, college acceptances, and meaningful jobs.  In doing so, we will save lives.”

And what does that whole new world look like?  Check out this graphic of Thom’s presentation by Graphic Facilitator Brandy Agerbec of loosetooth.com, which she created in real time as he presented.  You can feel the passion.

Today EdisonLearning serves about 100,000 students in 14 states in partnership with both charter public schools and district public schools.  In 2011 EdisonLearning began the Magic Johnson Bridgescape program to confront the fact that today over one million students fail to graduate high school with a diploma.  The high school graduation rate for African American males is just 52%–26 points below the national average of their white counterparts.

The task is huge.  But we can’t give up. Thom Jackson is a visionary.  He thinks big.  He is an advocate of “disruptive learning” to pioneer change in education through openness to new knowledge and fresh outlooks.  He and his leadership team are committed to asking different questions for a different world.  Our K-12 education system needs more such pioneers.