Choose to Learn 2022

Connecting in- and out-of-school learning in a post-pandemic world.

Across K-12, families have theoretically always had choices: namely, where their child goes to school and how they spend their time outside of school. But these choices present too many compromises. Families value school—it can be cost-effective, convenient, credible—but they rarely depend on it to deliver the full-range of learning outcomes—and joy—they aspire towards. Out-of-school learning can likewise be inadequate: children engage in programs to pursue their passions, but they rarely get “credit” for these experiences, especially as it relates to college and/or career pathway efforts. For a child to flourish, it can require an exhaustive amount of time and resources.

These choices are also not distributed equitably: children from historically underserved backgrounds have far more limited K-12 experiences to choose from—and, in turn, a more limited range of outcomes. For every one family that has the time and resources to select the ideal school setting for their child, curate music lessons and robotics courses, and send their child to sleepaway camp—to choose their own K-12 adventure—there are many who rely entirely on a local school, which has limited capacity, to deliver the same collection of experiences and outcomes. Parents have common aspirations—they want their child to flourish—but the ability for all families to achieve this in our current state is not yet realized.

How can our K-12 education system deliver a more credible union between academic growth, extracurricular passion, and personal fulfillment? How can we work to connect families more seamlessly to in- and out-of-school opportunities consistent with their values and needs and regardless of their life or economic circumstances?

It is in this spirit that Tyton Partners set out in Spring 2022 to better understand the landscape of K-12 experiences and outcomes U.S. families can pursue—inclusive of both in- and out-of-school learning—and explore the extent to which our current state aligns to parents’ values and needs. Our research includes a survey of K-12 parents that generated more than 3,000 participants, as well as a separate campaign to gather feedback from more than 150 K-12 suppliers—school and out-of-school operators who serve children and families directly.

In viewing K-12 through this broad lens, we aim to better understand issues impacting every family—including more than 40 million who send their children to public school. Relative to issues of equity and access, our local public districts play a crucial role. At the same time, out-of-system programs are critical to ensure ample supply and variety. Because of this, we focus this work not on one single category of K-12 education, but instead on the ways in which the K-12 ecosystem broadly can recenter around the needs of students and families.