Kansas City Area School Officials Look To Lean Lab To Help With Tough Issues
The Lean Lab started in October 2013, acting as an incubator for community members to pitch educational solutions to area schools.
To switch things up this year, officials from six area districts and educational programs gave participants specific issues to work on for 24 hours.
Lean Lab founder Katie Boody says the team shifted the model this year to try to be more deliberate in their approach.
"We thought it was an interesting structure and an interesting way to engage people at both the top-end bureaucracy and on the ground in the community," Boody said. "These school system leaders really know their needs, and it behooves us to listen to that."
Teams from as far as Washington D.C. spend Friday and Saturday forming their plans for addressing issues. One of the larger groups worked on a problem posed by Hickman Mills School District Superintendent Dennis Carpenter: reaching African American boys in early school years who struggle to read at proficient levels.
Catina Taylor is a teacher with the African-Centered College Preparatory Academy who helped coach the two teams that worked on Hickman Mills' challenge. She says the Lean Lab's open work environment is a breath of fresh air for working on educational problems.
"I think often times when superintendents work with their teams, there are restrictions created in that environment where people are afraid to say no," Taylor said. "These people here today don't have those limitations, they're just going for it."
Dr. Carpenter and the five other school officials involved with ReversED attended the pitch meeting Saturday evening. Carpenter says looking to community members for help is increasingly appealing.
"When there are complex problems, generally [school systems] gravitate toward experts in the field to solve problems," Carpenter said. "And what we're finding is that that really doesn't work. We're looking at a diverse group of educators, community members, parents and entrepreneurs."
Teams will now discuss their pitches with school officials to potentially implement in the near future. The Lean Lab is holding several workshops in the coming months that participants can use to further refine their pitches.
Cody Newill is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach him on Twitter @CodyNewill or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.