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Every Child Matters: A Reflection on the State of the Union

Written by: Celia Alicata, Director of Marketing & Communications

“I want our actions to tell every child, in every neighborhood: your life matters, and we are as committed to improving your life chances as we are for our own kids.” President Obama closed the 2015 State of the Union address with this powerful statement, undeniably a nod to the challenges of income inequality and upward mobility, gaps in opportunity, and even race relations that became part of our 2014 dialogue spurred by Ferguson.

At Classroom, Inc. we believe that at the core of improving life chances—the core of opportunity—is access to high-quality education. We live and breathe this mantra on a daily basis as we address our nation’s literacy crisis. This idea that every child must have an opportunity to succeed in school, work, and life is the foundation for nearly all the decisions we make at Classroom, Inc.

It’s in our decision to always connect our learning games to the world outside of school. When students are empowered to be decision-makers in a simulated career, they can envision their futures while sitting in the classroom. These students—especially those who may have struggled with academics throughout their schooling—see that their voice matters in entirely unique and new ways. They begin to understand that opportunities for successful futures rely on gaining critical reading and writing skills.

It’s in our game development. Our Product Development team pores over the latest literacy research on how best to reach students where traditional methods have been unsuccessful. The team deeply examines advanced game mechanics to ensure students are both engaged and learning, while also considering what data is provided to teachers and how best to make that data digestible.

It’s in our Research team’s agenda as they sift through mounds of data. The department works through seemingly endless Excel sheets and dashboards to extrapolate key findings, student responses and outcomes, and teacher feedback. All of this evidence informs and improves our content and products, and ultimately aims to improve student achievement.

It’s in the partnerships that we form. Whether we’re exposing our funders to the vast digital divide that exists between low-income and more affluent communities, or teaming up with another nonprofit to scale our reach, we know that we must tackle challenges of access from all angles. It’s in the relationships that we form with educators, working to understand their challenges and increasingly tough demands of being a teacher in the 21st century.

It’s in our weekly meetings, our strategic priorities, and our water cooler conversations. Each day through this work, the Classroom, Inc. team asks the question: How can we close the literacy gap that persists across America and is exaggerated in communities long-stricken by poverty and unequal access to resources? We don’t do this because it’s easy. We do this because we must—the statistics alone implore us to act: nearly 2/3 of 8th graders score below proficiency in reading (NAEP, 2013). Too many kids are moving perilously into their futures without adequate literacy skills, an unacceptable fact in the most resource-rich nation in the world.

We do this work because every child matters.