Chan Zuckerberg Initiative awards $200K in grants for KC metro education initiatives

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Silicon Valley money is coming to the metro for a study to help schools, and kids, succeed.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative awarded $200,000 to the KCMO based nonprofit Lean Lab Education for a study on innovation in education and the purchasing decisions districts make.

"What this grant allows us to do is really understand what innovations, whether it be new curriculums or new technologies are working for children in real classrooms, and what's preventing those innovations when they are working from growing to impact as many kids as possible across the KC metro area," Founder and CEO of Lean Labs Katie Boody said.

Boody said public education is changing rapidly and needs help to make best use of their funding. She said that's where this study will come in and believes Kansas City will be a good model for the study.

"What we know is that we’re at a unique place in public education," Boody said. "Our schools need to rapidly innovate for our children to be truly prepared for this ever chaining future that’s becoming increasingly complex, and our theory is that our school community should be part of that process."

Many schools across the metro, especially in Kansas City, on both sides of the state line will be part of the study. Schools like Pitcher Elementary who has worked with Lean Lab before on their inquirED study.

"inquirED really helped us with that because it gave us an inquiry approach to science," instructional coach Jeannette Ashby-Welter said. "It was very hands on. It provided tools for the teachers and for us as coaches to help the teachers with the students in the classroom."

"It changed the way that our teachers teach," instructional coach Lori Bestgen said. "It made the students so they could understand concepts and retain the concepts for a long period of time."

"Just Kansas City, Missouri alone with 15 different school districts and over 20 different charter school systems," Boody said. "Which means we have lots of different schools trying different things in silos. So when they do have a breakthrough it might just happen for a few hundred kids or a couple thousand kids versus the 70,000 kids that live in the KC metro area."

Both Ashby-Welter and Bestgen said they're excited for what this holds for their kids at Pitcher and schools across the metro.

"I'm really excited that they're reaching out beyond the borders of the Silicon Valley to the Midwest, to other communities, and spreading that help and that wealth and that knowledge to other districts in other states," Ashby-Welter said.

"It's always changing," Bestgen said. "That's a guaranteed part of education, and will always change, so we need to be ready to change with it, and be ready to find learning concepts that help students."

Boody said by doing this study in the Midwest it shows the choices and challenges schools across our nation face, and they will be able to help solve and innovate solutions.

"We're interviewing and surveying each of these school districts to understand how they try new innovations and when they are working how are they sharing them with other school districts, or other classrooms, if they are," Boody said. "What allows those innovations to reach as many kids as possible outside of just one school district, or one classroom at a time."

"We are able to see a lot of new ideas come into play within the last year, and giving us a new idea of how education works," Bestgen said. "How people are just coming up with things and ideas to help students, and help teachers understand, and there’s so much out there that we’re always looking for more and more."

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative also awarded $50,000 in grants to Citizens of the World Charter Schools based in KCMO for general operational support.

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