A Cross-Country Roadtrip to Design a School

A Cross-Country Roadtrip to Design a School

What the Odyssey Initiative learned at 60 schools from Southern California to Maine

By Nick DiNardo     Jan 14, 2014

A Cross-Country Roadtrip to Design a School

What happens when you talk to successful teachers and school leaders across the country (and Finland), and apply that research in designing a new charter school in Brooklyn, NY?

Lots of driving, fast food, and inspiring stories that show how we can create new schools and redesign under-performing ones.

Last year, Todd Sutler and his co-founders embarked on a roadtrip--The Odyssey Initiative--to visit over 60 innovative schools across the U.S. Drawing from key lessons learned along their amazing journey, they started a new school: Compass Charter School in Brooklyn, NY.

I had the opportunity to chat with Todd recently on my podcast series, Meet Education Project, where we dug into:

  • Todd’s unique journey into education--and why he left a cushy post at Wall Street to be an assistant teacher making $9,000 a semester (8:00)
  • How the Odyssey Initiative got started (14:10), including the successful Kickstarter campaign that helped fund the effort (17:15)
  • Putting the research into action to design the Compass Charter School in Brooklyn, NY (34:42)

“It's a commitment to the school recognizing the different kinds of people that are in the building,” Sutler said, when asked about what his team learned about best practices in school culture. “Not just with the students; it's also the parents, the teachers, the other staff members, and the organizations and community groups that surround the school.”

One great example was Two Rock Union Elementary School in Petaluma, CA. With approximately two-thirds of the student population being English language learners (ELL), school-wide meetings are held in Spanish, with translators for the English speaking families. Sutler called this approach “breathtaking.”

Could this type of research, with its focus on school culture, teachers and best practices across different school types (public, charter, parochial, and private) be used as a model for redesigning schools across the U.S.?

Show Notes:

  • (1:22) Todd’s educational journey
  • (14:10) The Odyssey Initiative
  • (34:42) Application of research for Compass Charter School
  • (38:45) Is there a scalability to this approach? Should there be?
  • (50:55) If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
  • (52:20) How to follow Todd Sutler and The Odyssey Initiative

Full show notes are available here.

Nick DiNardo is the founder and host of the Meet Education Project, a podcast series focused on deep conversations with the teachers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders taking action on the future of learning. You can subscribe to his podcast on iTunes and newsletter to stay on top of his weekly podcasts with leading education innovators.

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