The Council On Competitiveness

The Council on Competitiveness is establishing a Learn to Compete Commission to identify and promote best of breed, highly-replicable elements of success in P-12 models featuring STEM-infused curricula, collaborative problem-solving, and creative solutions. Well-established with clear track records, these exemplars demonstrate how the United States can build innovation pipelines of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians (STEM) to support robust manufacturing and services.

The Commission harnesses the power of educators, business leaders, and labor advocates to produce American students who have what it takes to compete in an economy demanding so much more of its talent, and gives communities, nationwide, a major stake in the success of the American workforce. Intensifying fiscal pressures have states shrinking their education budgets precisely at the time of critical need. Learn to Compete models do more with less, and affect change quickly, with results.

Discovery and Innovation’s essential elements: flexible, project-based, and multi-disciplinary approaches that change the way students learn, unleashing creativity and imagination. There are discreet efforts across the country to fill the STEM pipeline with purposeful and flexible learners. Learn to Compete will champion them and enable their wider application. Consider, the ten-year track record of a California K-12 system, where, eleven months a year, large classes are subdivided into small groups, based on ability level, older students mentor their younger classmates, and students often move from one pod to another, depending on the amount of time they take to master the lesson. The flexibility allows everyone to master the material before progressing to the next level. Teachers are trained to spot challenges and to ensure each student’s success. The focus is on mastery, not pace. Group learning affords teachers the opportunity to focus on a smaller number of students and to measure, in real time, how each learner moves through the projects. Because there are no textbooks and the curriculum is online, learning is customized to meet the students’ needs. Having technology in every classroom and the curriculum online enables constant teacher communication about what works and what doesn’t, and refinement of coursework. Grades are paired in elementary and middle school with the fourth grade a bridge to middle school: (K-1), (2-3), 4, (5-6), (7-8), 9, 10, 11 and 12.

  • Large classroom; small groups (students learn in pods)
  • Inter-disciplinary, from the lab sciences to the visual arts
  • Project-based, STEM-infused, experiential
  • Technology a ubiquitous tool
  • Flexible curriculum, with substantial teacher input, revision and collaboration.
  • Does more with less: LTC schools cost less than public schools

The School as the New Community: Everyone has an important stake. Each student, each family has a compelling sense of purpose. Students are energized with a sense of belonging and in each classroom student-to-student mentors ensure a sense of place. The children are confident that their teachers are their advocates, and committed to their success as lifelong learners. Teachers are gratified by the student engagement, their constant professional contact with their peers, and their contributions to the curriculum. Parents and caregivers recognize that School is the central part of their children’s lives, and very much a part of the family’s focus. National and federal labs, local businesses and other learning institutions provide mentors, internship and training opportunities, and often equipment as well as facilities; because they understand that supporting the effective education of local students helps cultivate qualified graduates and a promising workforce.

It’s all Scalable and Replicable:

Integrated Proven System of Best Practices – All of the elements of the “Discovery and Innovation” model have already been proven previously in multiple locations. The integrated system has been in operation for 9+ years.

With Lower Costs – The “Discovery and Innovation Model” –once in gear, actually reduces the cost of the overall K-12 program.

No teaching to the test – Students learn by mastery, not by rout. The result: state standards are met, and student test scores exceed state averages… Student boredom and teacher burnout are out; engaging and enjoyable project-based environment is in.

Designed to be supported by National Technology Partners – Rollout strategy built around world-class hardware providers and telecommunications and systems integrators working together to manage cloud-based network that replicates the operations of the leading models.

  1. The national partners provide the core infrastructure to support countrywide rollouts.
  2. Model’s unique suite of K-12 curricula supports rapid rollout of basic software shells to any school and any district—for them to use as is, or to customize as they see fit.
  3. Customizing is easy and can be done on an ongoing basis. Software easily refreshed with minimal effort.

Standardized Technology Infrastructure (with flexible options) – Doesn’t require designing a technology plan for every district.

“Discovery and Innovation” Software – Provides a common framework so that each school can have a school wide operating system.

Professional Development – Online training can retrain thousands of teachers per year.

Discovery and Innovation Research Center – Allows teachers to design curriculum to share and distribute nationwide.


  • The school experience eliminates student boredom and teacher burnout. Students are energized and confident learners who know their teachers are invested in their success.
  • Test scores are high, especially relative to other public schools.
  • No social promotions. Each child advances on mastery of the material.
  • No dropouts. Teachers tune in and trouble shoot; families are dedicated to success; students aspire to their own high standards.
  • Graduates are prepared to adjust to rapidly changing job market.
  • The required internship – hundreds of hours (in science labs, architecture firms, on the factory floor, with plumbers, in libraries, as film production apprentices, as nurses aides, in law firms) – summons a powerful sense of “can do” as students decide on their first career paths. And they have connections, and sometimes the promise of a job.
  • College courses under their belt. Almost every student graduates with a number of college credits. Some complete a year of college before they graduate.
  • The required community service hours instill a strong sense of civic duty, and a compelling desire to “give back” to their respective communities.
  • Commanding changes in the way teachers train, with ample professional development opportunities and constant communication with their peers.
  • Health wellness: beating back obesity. Schools serve nutritious meals. Gardens on site. No junk food on campus.

Three to five year plan: Makes steady and striking progress, including the establishment of a Learn to Compete school in every state across the country.

  • Locate one school in every state capital to ensure a high profile with top government, policy, academic, and media leaders.
  • Locate one school within proximity to the country’s National Labs and research centers where the school can enjoy a robust relationship (teacher training, mentoring, lab access, internship opportunities, and technology transfer including simulators) with the Labs and the STEM industries they attract in their regions.
  • Adopt transformative practices: Tracy Learning Center in Tracy California, Thomas Jefferson Science and Technology High School’s thirteen unique STEM laboratories, U.S. Naval Academy STEM Camps model, among many others, have scalable and replicable elements of success.

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