elliot washor & charlie mojkowski – leaving to learn

elliot and charlie bw

just in time learning

huge grazie @ChazMojkowski & @Elliot_Washor (&  @Dennis_Littky )  for @LeavingtoLearn

Elliot Washor andCharles Mojkowski on their new book, LEAVING TO LEARN: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates.


via interview with Peter Wise: http://media.all4ed.org/webinar-may-22-2013

Elliot boils it down to 3 things:

1. personal narrative/interest (authenticity)

2. connect to adult (attachment)

3. believe nothing is impossible (taking hopes/dreams of #1 seriously)

He also said that one of his favorite questions to ask/share is

when do people go deep?

His findings – to that inquiry:

when they have an illness and are away (from school) for a long period of time. key – time and space where they are not interrupted. 


leaving to learn

book links to amazon

“We have a bold strategy for revitalizing schools and for graduating and preparing young people for success in their future learning and work. This “leaving to learn” strategy is driven by our image of that future. Our goal is not merely to graduate every student but to prepare graduates who are uncommonly ready for success in their workplaces and their communities.”–Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski

It’s an alarming fact: in the U.S., one student drops out of school every 12 seconds. Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski, both of Big Picture Learning, have a proven, innovative solution for stemming the flow of drop-outs and breaking the cycle of disengagement that leads up to it. It’s called leaving to learn. Leaving to Learn helps us deeply understand the real reasons kids drop out and the essential conditions for productive learning that today’s adolescents require. The authors then make a compelling argument: in order to retain students through to graduation, schools must offer experiences where students do some of their learning outside of school. With common sense “rules of the road,” the authors offer nuts and bolts guidelines for implementing a high-quality Leaving to Learn program, including:examples of the many forms of out-of-school learning: internships, travel, community service, independent projects, and moreseamlessly integrating students’ outside learning with in-school curriculum
assigning academic credit for out-of-school accomplishments.
Isn’t it time to try more innovative ways to address the challenges of our nation’s dropout rate? We can keep kids in school and prepare them for life after graduation by delivering authentic learning experiences that matter to them. The first step is taking down the barriers between school and the outside world. The first step is letting them leave, to learn.


Elliot via work with Dennis Littky

co-founders of big picture learning


crazy ton of notes… from book

Leaving to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Student Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates
by Elliot Washor, Charles Mojkowski

Posts from this Book

Implementing leaving-to-learn programs is a large, multiyear undertaking.
Note: unless…
Reverend Frederick Eikerenkoetter “Ike” Jr. observed, “When you discover who you are, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been”
With a robust leaving-to-learn program, schools not only can offer college-level experiences to all their students but also can customize this college experience to students’ interests and talents.

Many of the students’ projects have influenced or become current programs.

Many students design and market entrepreneurial projects geared to improving their community. Their learning receives academic and graduation credit.

Many students design and market entrepreneurial projects geared to improving their community. Their learning receives academic and graduation credit.

students build social capital by developing relationships with adults who have similar interests; they have a network for finding future work.

the high school wouldn’t give her a diploma because she didn’t have the proper number of credits. She convinced them to at least give her a vocational diploma and went off to Yale, probably the only student ever to have been accepted there with that credential.

Collins left school to pursue his learning. He developed and implemented his learning plan, school playing no more than a bit part in his learning journey. Over time he identified the important competencies, worked his way through the learning funnel, and created heuristics and algorithms that set standards for craftsmanship, mastery, and artistry. His schools might have added value to his work if they had had a leaving-to-learn program.

Often, young people need to pursue their learning funnels outside school, because the school controls nearly every aspect of a project, from the questions students might address to how the project is framed and conducted to how credit is awarded for answers and outcomes.

‘There’s only one school, the school of, “Can you play?”

It’s not just jazz musicians who need to learn how to improvise. The yin and yang of play and practice are essential in all careers and therefore essential to learning and working in the funnel.

Learning begins when the learner encounters something she or he wishes to learn.

People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas. And they are deeply self-confident. Paradoxical? Only for those who do not see that “the journey is the reward” (142).

People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never “arrive.”

Malcolm Gladwell (2008) reminds us that ten thousand hours are required to approach mastery, but the number is less significant than the understanding that mastery requires a commitment to a life’s work and typically requires practice—alone and with others—that is carefully coached and critiqued, typically by other masters.

The prevailing focus in education on having all students meet the same standards in the same way and demonstrate their competence in the same way is giving standards a bad name.

Consider Algebra 2, the study of logarithms, polynomial functions, and quadratic equations. Although many states want to make the course a requirement for graduating from high school, there appears to be no need to do so. Northeastern University sociologist Michael Handel has found that only 9 percent of people in the workforce ever use this knowledge, and that fewer than 20 percent of managerial, professional, or technical workers report using any Algebra 2material.

Rachel’s time is much too valuable for just-incase learning when just-in-time learning resources are readily available.

using the learning opportunities and learning environments that the world outside schools provides in abundance will allow schools to nurture all of that pied beauty.


Student disengagement is the elephant we ignore at our peril. The situation recalls Nietzsche’s (1882/2009) observation, “One hears only those questions for which one is able to find answers”

The disengagement is built into the design and culture of the organization.

Students want to control timing as well as time. They want schools to see time and timing as variables to be exploited in accommodating their need for practice and play and their need for just-in-time rather than just-incase learning.

Nietzsche’s observation, “The struggle of maturity is to recover the seriousness of the child at play” (Lehrer 2011).

the reality is that schools look less and less like the real world of learning and work. The most successful companies are striving to increase purposeful (and even not so purposeful) play into their organizations and cultures to spark creativity and invention.

Providing different students with the same learning opportunities and learning environments is not giving them the same chance for success.

Schools fit all students to the same Procrustean bed, heedless of the “limbs” they may be chopping off to make each student fit the school’s agenda: in the process they ignore important aspects of who students are.

a February 2005 article in The Atlantic, “Lost in the Meritocracy: How I Traded an Education for a Ticket to the Ruling Class,” Walter Kirn describes the absence of authenticity in his education. He was a great test taker who went off to Princeton and realized what he didn’t know and why: I’ve been fleeing upward since age five, learning just enough at every level to make it, barely, to the next one. I’m the system’s pure product (para. 17)…. I gave no thought to any goal higher or broader than my next report card. Learning was secondary; promotion was primary. No one had ever told…

Young people’s career interests evolve rapidly. They go from wanting to be a surgeon to a fireman to a dancer in a matter of months. They eventually decide on one, some as early as high school, others perhaps not until they have their first full-time job. Facilitating that discovery and decision is a school’s responsibility.

Another student was interested in medicine and in becoming a physician. In junior year she took a biology class at the local university. In her senior year, she was selected to help the university biology faculty conduct original research on leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease soldiers have contracted in the PersianGulf.

Surveys I have conducted show that teens in the U.S. are subjected to more than ten times as many restrictions as mainstream adults, twice as many restrictions as active-duty U.S. Marines, and even twice as many restrictions as incarcerated felons (59)…. The truth is that [teens] are extraordinarily competent, even if they do not normally express that competence…. We need to replace the myth of the immature teen brain with a frank look at capable and savvy teens in history, at teens in other cultures and at the truly extraordinary potential of our own young people today. (63)
Note: via Richard Epstein

School restrictions come in many flavors, and students get a taste of them all. The inflexibility of the schedule, the lockstep scope and sequence, the regimentation, and the required readings are just a few of the restrictions that turn students off and impede productive learning.

As Brené Brown maintains, letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are is important, but it is even more important to create yourself and get support from your school as you, in Nietzsche’s words (2007), “become what you are.”
Note: be/becoming you

They get tired of delaying the gratification obtained from doing the learning and work they wish to do. They want to move ahead with their own life plans.

These students were not necessarily disinterested in learning. Rather, they were interested in learning things the school did not address.

This does not mean that they cannot learn but that they did not learn what, when, and how the school taught the curriculum.

Schools’ failure to validate such capabilities and achievements defies common sense. How can students make history and not get credit for it, while students in school do receive credit for reading a story about that history?

He realized that he needed more than school,
Note: more
it is rare to find whole-school leaving-to-learn programs that are open to all students in all grades, are an integral part of students’ learning plans, and are awarded academic and graduation credit.
Note: public

All students need to leave school—frequently, regularly, and, of course, temporarily—to stay in school and persist in their learning. To accomplish this, schools must take down the walls that separate the learning that students do,and could do, in school from the learning they do, and could do, outside.
Note: no walls

Forcing a disengaged student to stay in school—whether by social pressure or by government edict—is as severe an indication of the failure of our educational system as a dropout is.
Note: force

What if there were lots of places where students with similar interests could form learning communities to learn more, both within and beyond those interests, from experts and peers? What if the school embraced an extended world of learning resources that appealed to and engaged young people in learning? What if there were ways to provide and give credit for learning wherever and whenever it occurred?

We would like to ask successful dropouts: “If your teachers had asked you to bring your out-of-school interests into school and used them to engage you and shape your in-school learning, would you have stayed?” We think they would answer yes, particularly if that learning and work received recognition and academic credit.

A significant number of capable young learners are dropping out of high school not because they can’t meet their schools’ expectations, but because schools don’t meet theirs.

Reverend Frederick Eikerenkoetter “Ike” Jr. observed, “When you discover who you are, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been.”

Implementing leaving-to-learn programs is a large, multiyear undertaking.

Note: unless…
What if schools’ most powerful learning spaces were not classrooms hung off long, bleak corridors but artists’ studios, coffee shops, garages, makerspaces, and machine shops? What if these alternative learning places and spaces were increasingly more important than traditional school spaces in helping learners develop important skills and understanding?

Note: city as school
What all these resources require is a framework, a system for helping each learner make sense of these resources and integrate them into a personalized learning plan.

Note: curiosity app
“third places” (the home and the workplace are the first and second), where people congregate and form multipurpose communities. Schools need to infuse learning opportunities into third places where their students congregate; give credit for learning wherever and whenever it occurs;
Schools need to come up with new ways of credentialing learning that are based on demonstrations of skills and understanding developed in any setting.
Note: the brain-ish via curiosity app

Researchers have calculated the cost to society of dropouts but have missed the significantly larger cost of disengaged students who graduate from high school but are nonetheless unprepared for lifelong learning and whose talents and potential have been sadly ignored, often because those talents lie outside the traditional subject matter focus of a cognitive/abstract curriculum.

The most serious impediment is the failure to embrace the community as a place of learning where young people form relationships with adult mentors with similar interests, build their social capital, and add value.

Note: social capital..

do students who do a lot of their learning outside school develop more competence in acquiring and using social capital?

Note: social capital… from where..?
when our nation laments the decline in creativity and invention, it seems ever more imperative that schools create some significant alternatives to themselves, to think outside the box, the school box, that is. Such alternatives might question the need for all students to pass algebra or to attend a four-year college after high school graduation. Such alternatives might employ a wholly different structure for the school day focused not on subject areas but on the types of student work: projects, workshops, lectures, tinkering, exhibitions, and so forth. Teachers and principals must lead that redesign...

free to – leaving to


you go big picture


The new competition asks districts “to show us how they can personalize and individualize education for a set of students in their schools,” Secretary Duncan stated. “We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century.”

“We are excited to see these changes being encouraged in schools across the country,” states Dennis Littky, co-founder of Big Picture Learning. “For over 17 years, Big Picture Learning has been on the front line of innovative personalized education. Once you find their passion and invite the student to drive their own education, the end results are phenomenal.”