Impact Report

Transforming Education in a Period of Unprecedented Disruption

Transforming Education in a Period of Unprecedented Disruption

Schools are struggling to find the right model of 21st-century education, to enhance student achievement and prepare them for success in a changing economic landscape. Covid-19 only made these long-term challenges more acute.

The Challenge

Covid-19 required educational institutions around the world to draw up new plans for educating and caring for students. They had to do this on the fly and without precedents. Long before the pandemic, schools were already struggling to find the right model of 21st-century education, one that enhances student achievement and prepares them for a changing economic landscape shaped by automation, providing the skills and experiences required to succeed in good jobs.

Our Approach

We believe in the power of great schools to make an enormous difference in the lives of students. We focus on helping school systems and education nonprofits move beyond traditional approaches to create new pathways to success. Increasing the number of great schools depends on great leadership, so we work with our partners on the recruitment, training, development, and support of highly effective teachers and school leaders. We also help build career-connected learning systems that give students access to classroom instruction along with relevant, real-world experience. In all this work, we develop deep partnerships with school systems focused on student-centric reforms. 

UN Sustainable Development Goals This Work Supports

UN Sustainable Development Goals This Work Supports

It was mid-March 2020 when Sinead Mullen started thinking that her team at KIPP St. Louis needed to change focus. The team of five consultants was several weeks into working on strategy for the six charter schools that make up KIPP St. Louis when Mullen, a partner in Bain’s Chicago office, started to really worry about the pandemic.

Covid-19 had only begun to affect St. Louis. Spring break was coming up, and administrators expected they might have to extend it by perhaps a week. In Chicago, things looked worse, and Mullen began to lobby Kelly Garrett, the executive director, to pause the strategy work and set up a “Covid war room.”

He agreed, and the Bain team shifted gears, approaching the case as they would an Agile corporate transformation. A daily stand-up meeting launched, at which KIPP leadership ticked through all the most pressing issues of the day. Each member of the Bain team was partnered with a member of Garrett’s leadership group, and together each pair took on a specific issue. Almost all of KIPP’s students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, so in addition to navigating the shift to virtual learning and ensuring staff and student safety, KIPP had to distribute food and technology to current students and alumni forced home from college.

Making an Impact: Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)

Making an Impact: Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP)

“This had never happened before. There was no playbook for how to keep school going,” Mullen notes.

Nor was there time to write one. Each day became about “solving tomorrow” with creative ideas like mapping a bus route to drop off lunch and work packets to students who couldn’t get to school to pick them up. With so much going on, communication was critical, so the team adopted another corporate transformation tool: weekly town halls for all teachers and staff. Locked down in their own homes, the Bain team embraced the chance to contribute on so many dimensions at a time when it was often easy to feel helpless.

Before the case wrapped, the team did go back and finish the longer-term strategy. Indeed, Bain’s partnership with KIPP’s national network and local communities is long term, and finding solutions to the problems educators face is a central pillar of our social impact efforts.

Our Work in the Education Sector

Over many years, we have seen that making progress in this sector depends on creating more great schools, developing more transformational leaders, supporting early childhood development, and fostering systems that connect education to work.

  • Great Schools

    Great Schools

    Great schools make an enormous difference in the lives of students. To help multiply the number of great schools, we have worked on many dozens of pro bono school system projects in the past 10 years. Our efforts most often focus on topics that are top of mind for leaders and that aim to improve student outcomes. These include managing human capital by helping districts and alternative school systems attract, develop, and retain great talent; managing growth and serving more students; improving performance; and scaling innovation. In addition to school networks like KIPP and Ark in the UK, we have worked with school districts including the District of Columbia Public Schools, the Denver Public Schools, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, among others.

  • Human Capital

    Human Capital

    Great leadership is essential to a school’s success​, yet we systematically underinvest in the recruitment and professional development of our teachers and future school leaders (see Transforming Schools: How Distributed Leadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools and Building Pathways: How to Develop the Next Generation of Transformational School Leaders). In 2020, one Bain team spent nine months working with Teach for America, a nonprofit focused on finding, developing, and supporting leaders who can transform education and expand opportunity for children. In that time, we helped strengthen Teach for America’s incoming teacher class with an updated approach to recruiting, improve teacher and alumni satisfaction, and sharpen the budget process and overall strategy.

  • Early Childhood Development

    Early Childhood Development

    Education involves many stakeholders, and educational issues are complex to solve. In Australia, Bain has for many years been part of an effort to create a practical framework of leading indicators that can predict whether parts of the service system for early childhood development are working well or need adjustment.

    Built on the best evidence from global researchers, the framework helps communities identify whether their children are actually receiving the services that will aid their development. It emphasizes actionable leading indicators (Are we providing the right services with the right quality to the right children?) in a world where lagging indicators (What happened?) are much more common but far less useful. Participating communities have now started to use this data to shift how they allocate resources to their priorities and programs.

  • Career-Connected Learning

    Career-Connected Learning

    Preparing students to succeed in a rapidly changing economy means moving beyond the traditional educational construct of study-then-work to a study-and-work career-connected learning approach, combining classroom instruction with relevant, real-world experience. This requires programs that are both market driven and student centered (see Making the Leap: How to Take the Promise of Career-Connected Learning to Scale).

    Since 2018, for example, we have worked with the State of Washington to develop a statewide career-connected learning system. Last year our focus was on developing opportunities for students in two specific areas: data analytics, and energy and utilities. The system serves every Washington student, with special outreach to those furthest from opportunity. By the high school class of 2030, the goal is that 60% of students will participate in the most advanced of the State’s career-connected learning programs, to prepare for both college and career.

Great Schools

Great schools make an enormous difference in the lives of students. To help multiply the number of great schools, we have worked on many dozens of pro bono school system projects in the past 10 years. Our efforts most often focus on topics that are top of mind for leaders and that aim to improve student outcomes. These include managing human capital by helping districts and alternative school systems attract, develop, and retain great talent; managing growth and serving more students; improving performance; and scaling innovation. In addition to school networks like KIPP and Ark in the UK, we have worked with school districts including the District of Columbia Public Schools, the Denver Public Schools, and the Los Angeles Unified School District, among others.

Human Capital

Great leadership is essential to a school’s success​, yet we systematically underinvest in the recruitment and professional development of our teachers and future school leaders (see Transforming Schools: How Distributed Leadership Can Create More High-Performing Schools and Building Pathways: How to Develop the Next Generation of Transformational School Leaders). In 2020, one Bain team spent nine months working with Teach for America, a nonprofit focused on finding, developing, and supporting leaders who can transform education and expand opportunity for children. In that time, we helped strengthen Teach for America’s incoming teacher class with an updated approach to recruiting, improve teacher and alumni satisfaction, and sharpen the budget process and overall strategy.

Early Childhood Development

Education involves many stakeholders, and educational issues are complex to solve. In Australia, Bain has for many years been part of an effort to create a practical framework of leading indicators that can predict whether parts of the service system for early childhood development are working well or need adjustment.

Built on the best evidence from global researchers, the framework helps communities identify whether their children are actually receiving the services that will aid their development. It emphasizes actionable leading indicators (Are we providing the right services with the right quality to the right children?) in a world where lagging indicators (What happened?) are much more common but far less useful. Participating communities have now started to use this data to shift how they allocate resources to their priorities and programs.

Career-Connected Learning

Preparing students to succeed in a rapidly changing economy means moving beyond the traditional educational construct of study-then-work to a study-and-work career-connected learning approach, combining classroom instruction with relevant, real-world experience. This requires programs that are both market driven and student centered (see Making the Leap: How to Take the Promise of Career-Connected Learning to Scale).

Since 2018, for example, we have worked with the State of Washington to develop a statewide career-connected learning system. Last year our focus was on developing opportunities for students in two specific areas: data analytics, and energy and utilities. The system serves every Washington student, with special outreach to those furthest from opportunity. By the high school class of 2030, the goal is that 60% of students will participate in the most advanced of the State’s career-connected learning programs, to prepare for both college and career.