One of the few silver linings that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic is a renewed focus on education in America. During the pandemic, the vast majority of public schools refused to offer in-person learning, leaving millions of parents to fend for themselves when it came to ensuring their children received some semblance of an education.
Yet, out of this dark period, an education renaissance was born. From increased homeschooling to the proliferation of pod schools to a dramatic uptick in private and charter school attendance, the American people have done everything in their power to guarantee their children receive a quality education as our nation’s public schools continue to fail in their fundamental mission of providing access to excellent education for all.
Because the U.S. public education system has been derelict in its duty of preparing students to thrive in today’s world, private organizations such as the Yass Foundation have been created to fill this void.
In the summer of 2021, the Yass Foundation offered a $1 million reward, “to honor and advance the work of education providers that continued to perform for underserved families during Covid, and ensure they not only could continue but expand to serve more students and be a beacon for thousands more educators and innovators dedicated to education opportunity for all young people.”
What happened next?
“In just four short months, hundreds of inspirational education providers were uncovered. These outliers were doing everything from starting new schools in museums and churches to developing new models for learning with artificial intelligence. Twenty of the best providers were identified, and a robust evaluation and pitch process was held. In December 2021, in addition to the Grand Prize winner Discovery Center of Springfield, MO, the four finalists received contributions of $250,000 and the remaining semifinalists were surprised with $100,000 grants for their extraordinary work.”
What makes the Yass Foundation unique is its approach to education reform, which is predicated on “4 core principles that are at the heart of the Foundation’s mission because they have the power to drive educational change for every child.”
What are those four pillars?
First, “The work must be Sustainable over time, meaning it can be funded independently without continual philanthropy by utilizing public programs that fund the entity where students are learning, regardless of sector.”
Secondly, “The effort must be Transformational with innovative new approaches that employ 21st century knowledge and technologies, changing the way students are educated and rich in content that is relevant and impactful across all communities.”
Thirdly, “Programs must be Outstanding, or demonstrably successful by every measure that matters. We know what success looks like from the demand of parents for better options for their children.”
And, fourthly, “The work requires no permission — Permissionless — and is free to exist and thrive without dependence on regulatory bodies whose rules are often at odds with parent demands and student needs.”
The Yass Foundation has adopted these four principles into what it calls STOP 4 Education, which it hopes, “will drive a renaissance in education, based on the premise that every parent deserves the ability to provide their students with individualized, 21st century education opportunities offered in supportive environments alongside their peers.”
In 2021, the STOP Awards totaled $1 million. Not a bad start. Yet, in 2022, the Yass Foundation, “will award more than $16 million in grants to new and alumni organizations, including the prestigious $1 million Yass Prize to transform education, given to the group that most exemplifies the STOP 4 Education principles.”
We would be remiss to not acknowledge the people behind this endeavor: Janine and Jeff Yass.
Per the foundation’s website:
“For more than 25 years, the Yass’ have dedicated their time, their intellect and their resources to creating excellent schools for parents to have meaningful choices. But when the Covid crisis revealed and magnified the vast inequities that surround a majority of our students, they pivoted to a more impactful way to spend their resources to speed up the pace of improving student lives.”
The Yass Foundation represents the future of education reform in the United States. As the foundation states, “The STOP Foundation for Education is not just a philanthropy. And the STOP Award is not just a prize. It’s a movement intended to transform education for everyone.”