STC Logo InvertedContact: Casey Lamb
Chief Operations & Development Officer,
Schools That Can
470-440-0782  (mobile)

District, Charter, and Private Schools Come Together to Improve Real-World Learning Opportunities for Economically Disadvantaged Students

School leaders from Chicago, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis are working together in Professional Learning Groups to improve real-world learning practices in their schools.


NEW YORK (November 2, 2016) —We are teaching today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders, but do we really know what tomorrow will bring? By some estimates, 65% of today’s students will work in careers that do not exist. Yet instead of responding to this challenge, the system writ large has maintained the status quo, resulting in disengaged students, disheartening high school and college graduation rates, and distressing youth unemployment.

In a recent survey, 4 of 5 high school dropouts said they might have stayed in school if there were “more opportunity for real-world learning and… experiential learning.”  Schools That Can (STC) is tackling this challenge by working with a diverse cohort of schools across five cities to integrate real-world learning practices in order to motivate and engage students now and better prepare them to fulfill their future potential.

Pittsburgh educational leaders see real-world learning in action at Avonworth

Pittsburgh educational leaders see real-world learning in action at Avonworth

During the 2016-2017 school year, STC is facilitating concurrent Professional Learning Groups (PLGs) focused on real-world learning in Chicago, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Forty-three (43) schools – including 20 district schools, 14 charter schools, and 9 faith-based schools (click here for the full list) are participating in these networked improvement communities. In a time when it is rare to see educators cross sector divides (district/charter, public/private), these schools are uniting to improve opportunities for their students. As one Pittsburgh school leader said, “A cross-sector network is a great idea – and what a diverse, dedicated cross-sector group we are!”

In the coming months, PLGs will visit schools to see real-world learning in action, reflect on practices, analyze challenges, implement new change ideas that advance real-world learning, and monitor the success of their changes. Schools in the PLGs represent the whole spectrum of real-world learning practices. Participants shared their thoughts:

  • Melissa Authement, Instructional Guide at Polaris Charter Academy in Chicago, which brings more evolved practices to the group, said: “As a school… rooted in experiential learning, we sometimes feel alone in this work locally. We are very happy to be part of a group that includes other Chicago schools, all exploring the topic of real-world learning.”
  • Amanda Gewirtz, who works in KIPP NJ’s KIPP through College program, which in recent years has strived to integrate more career readiness into their college prep programs, said “Real world learning is something the education sector is still grappling with – it encompasses so much and is not easy to teach. I’m excited to be part of this PLG where I can explore this further with others who are thinking about it at their schools!”
  • Chris Perpich, Chief Academic Officer of a small network of district schools in Newark said, “BRICK is so excited to see how we can bring more authentic real-world learning into our K-8 schools and further empower teachers to make connections and opportunities for our students. STC’s PLG will help us think through this process and support us along the way!”
Leaders from Tech High School in Newark analyze their own challenges related to real-world learning

Leaders from Tech High School in Newark analyze their own challenges related to real-world learning

All five PLGs launched in the past two weeks. Schools gathered to articulate their particular areas for growth, surfacing needs related to teachers’ expertise in real-world, non-school workplace experiences; the development of critical non-academic skills like collaboration and critical thinking; lack of engagement in classes; and effective use of community partners and experts. Schools will reconvene in November to begin building solutions to these challenges.


STC is a 501(c)(3) organization that connects educators and leaders within its cross-sector network of urban schools to share innovative practices that support a cohesive education to employment pathway. The network includes 170+ charter, district, independent and faith-based schools in 15 cities — all of which serve predominantly low-income students of color.


For more information about PLGs in each city, email us – for Chicago, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis.