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A View from the Canopy: Building collective knowledge on school innovation

by Chelsea Waite

Sep 1, 2019

Databases and lists that offer information about innovative schools unintentionally contribute to the problem, as a lack of standard terminology and data structures forces them into siloes. As a result, knowledge of how schools are reimagining the learning experience for students remains deeply fragmented and woefully insufficient, creating real consequences—not only for funders, researchers, and school support organizations, but ultimately for the evolution and spread of promising practices.


Recognizing this challenge, the Christensen Institute has worked with a range of partners to launch a project we're calling the Canopy: an effort to build better collective knowledge about the diverse range of schools offering learning experiences designed with students at the center. More than just another list, the Canopy reimagines both where information comes from as well as how it is structured to address some of the fractures in the current system. By casting a wide net through a crowdsourcing approach, Canopy surfaced 235 schools making strides towards student-centered learning—72% of which do not appear on other commonly referenced lists of innovative schools. Nominators and schools also used a consistent set of "tags" or common keywords to describe each school's model, meaning the dataset can be filtered, analyzed, and built out over time.


This initial stage of the Canopy demonstrates how a process designed to advance collective knowledge has the potential to unveil a more diverse, complete picture of K-12 school innovation. We hope this leads to additional research efforts, and ultimately supports the development and scale of promising innovative approaches across the country.