Jason Schmidt is the Chief Financial Officer for the education nonprofit, New Classrooms. He brings 20 years of experience in finance, accounting, strategy and operations to developing business models and identifying new and creative financial strategies that advance the goals of the organization.
- What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As the CFO, with responsibility for finance, accounting, legal and business operations, my team ensures that we have all the pieces in place for the organization to execute on its mission. Ensuring that we have financial accountability, compliance and that we implement best practices is key to allowing our operational teams to do great work.
- What kinds of struggles has the New Classrooms Leadership Team had to overcome since you have been on staff?
Growing from a tech start-up with an idea to an organization with a learning model that is implemented in schools across the country is quite a task. This organization has risen to the challenge of implementing new and creative ideas in a diverse set of schools which has positively impacted the lives of thousands of students.
- What are some of New Classrooms’ major milestones in that time?
Two important milestones are prominent in my mind. First is the formalization of our efforts to drive a positive change in the education landscape to open the way for innovation and, in particular, models like Teach to One that can accelerate learning for so many students. The second is the drive we are now undergoing to advance the technology and platform that our model runs on. We have made significant progress and we should continue to see even better results from our students and be able to reduce our operating costs along the way.
- Why do you believe students fall behind in math?
There are myriad reasons why students fall behind in math. Math, by its nature, requires building skills one upon the other. When the foundational math skills are not there it becomes increasingly difficult for a student to keep up with grade-level material. That is why it is so important to be able to meet students where they are so that they can effectively build on the knowledge they have already acquired.
- What are some common characteristics of the schools that best implement Teach to One?
Our partner schools are innovative. They are interested in ensuring that their students are building the skills they need for success. They understand that to achieve the ultimate success they will need to find new and creative models for learning.
- How does New Classrooms take high school and higher learning prep into consideration when designing Teach to One?
Every aspect of our research and development work, our design work and our implementation is designed to enable schools and teachers to meet students where they are. From the back-end algorithms and systems to the front-end site teams that work directly with teachers and administrators, we are focused on increasing the velocity with which students, even those that are already behind, can achieve a mastery of math that is consistent with college and career readiness.
- What challenges do you expect will face personalized learning in 2020? What can we expect from New Classrooms in 2020?
Though we are seeing progress and movement in certain states, districts, and schools, there is a continuing effort required to open minds to new and innovative ways of thinking about educating our children. I expect that through 2020 and beyond, New Classrooms will partner with leaders in the education space to help bring an awareness of some of the hidden challenges facing educators today and to new solutions that are now available.
- What is one education trend that excites you?
The maturation of our understanding of the best aspects and challenges of Common Core and many of the other programs and initiatives that have helped the education sector improve itself in conjunction with the development of new technologies is potentially transformative. It is now possible, through technology and shared standards, for us to take a quantum leap in the next decade in how we educate our children.