12 For-Purpose Organizations Transforming K–12

12 orgs transforming K-12 edu
It’s true — teachers help transform education every day, but they can’t do it alone. With the support of administrators, parents and local communities, teachers are able to provide a well-rounded education to K–12 students. In order for students to succeed in their environments, however, it’s important that they have access to a quality education and enriching community resources and activities.

It’s in this spirit that the following 12 organizations are improving K–12 education.

photo via Pencils of Promise

photo via Pencils of Promise

In 2008, Adam Braun founded Pencils of Promise after having a conversation with a child in poverty in India. Braun asked the boy, “What do you want most in the world?” The boy replied, “A pencil.” This is a for-purpose organization that trains teachers, builds schools and awards scholarships. The organization is transforming education by building schools in under-served communities across the globe. Every 90 hours, Pencils for Promise breaks ground on a new school site.

“Pencils of Promise is transforming international education by focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. This means that we don’t just build a school and move on; we monitor and evaluate every project we undertake. We also train teachers and fund student scholarships to grow progression rates. Thus far, every school we’ve opened is fully operational and educating students daily.”
– Pencils of Promise

Roadtrip Nation
Roadtrip Nation first began in 2001 when four college friends, who were unsure of their futures, painted an RV green and set out on the open road to interview strangers about what fueled their passions. The organization provides schools with resources and curriculum materials designed to inspire students to create their own paths in life. They are transforming education by bringing real experiences, community resources and 21st-century tools into the classroom.

“Roadtrip Nation Education transforms education by taking a new approach to developing college and career-readiness skills: an interest-based approach. By giving students access and exposure to thousands of individuals who have forged lives doing what they love, students are able to ‘see’ themselves in others, and think critically about how they can link what they love to what they are learning in school. Additionally, by replicating the Roadtrip process — which includes making cold-calls to inspiring adults and conducting their own interviews — students develop a growth mindset in which they can imagine more concrete possibilities for their futures. In turn, they develop the self-efficacy, self-awareness, and tenacity needed to make decisions about college and careers that align with who they are as individuals.” – Roadtrip Nation


photo via 826 Valencia

In 2002, educator Nínive Calegari and author Dave Eggers cofounded 826 Valencia in San Francisco, the first center of what has grown to be the 826 National network. This organization offers eight writing and tutoring centers across the nation. 826 National is transforming education by working with underserved 6- to 18-year-olds and helping them improve their writing skills through individual tutoring and creative strategies. They strive to encourage young writers by helping them build functional skills for future success.


photo via Smart Girls

Amy Miles, Amy Poehler and Meredith Walker developed a Web series, “Smart Girls at the Party,” and offer online resources, advertising campaigns and summer camps to educate and strengthen young minds. Currently, the group is transforming education by empowering young girls and women to feel comfortable in their own skin and get involved in bettering their communities.


photo via UPKNYC

The UPKNYC campaign was inspired by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to enforce a small tax on New York City’s wealthiest residents to fund preschool for all children and narrow the achievement gap. UPKNYC is devoted to New York City’s grassroots campaign to provide full-day preschool and after-school programs to all. This group is transforming education by rallying families and community members together to gain access to free, quality programs for their children in an area where these programs are in limited supply and offered at exorbitant costs.


photo via NGCProject

The idea for NGCP first cropped up in 2002 when the Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology started the Northwest Girls Collaborative Project (NWGCP) in Washington and Oregon. NGCP is transforming education by breaking barriers and encouraging more girls to pursue future careers in historically male-dominated sectors. This organization unites groups devoted to providing STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) education opportunities to girls.

“NGCP is working to transform education by bringing programs together to share resources and increase opportunities for collaboration. High levels of collaboration among educators and programs engaging girls in STEM increases the efficiency, effectiveness and overall capacity of programs serving girls, and therefore improves opportunities and experiences for girls in STEM.” – National Girls Collaborative Project


2014 Regional Finalists and Business Plan Judges via NFTE

In 1987, South Bronx math teacher and former entrepreneur Steve Mariotti established NFTE to inspire his most at-risk students to stay in school and embrace entrepreneurship. NFTE works with teachers at predominantly low-income schools and trains them in engaging students. NFTE is transforming education by giving teachers the skills necessary to keep students from dropping out and enabling them to pursue successful futures.

Black Girls Code

photo via Black Girls Code

Kimberly Bryant founded this program after her own isolating college experience as a young, African-American woman with a passion for coding. Black Girls Code offers workshops and after-school programs to encourage marginalized African-American females to learn computer programs. The organization is transforming education by helping underserved girls become the programmers of tomorrow through the use of high-interest programming languages like “Ruby on Rails” and “Scratch.”

edmodo screenshot

photo via Edmodo

Edmodo was founded in 2008 by two educators, Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara, with the vision of bridging “the gap between how students live their lives and how they learn in school.” Edmodo connects teachers and students beyond the classroom walls by providing a virtual platform for classes, discussions and unique opportunities to engage with other learning communities and educators around the world. Similar to social media, Edmodo allows teachers to connect with other professionals online and learn from them while also sharing educational content with students.

“Edmodo’s mission is to connect all learners with the people and resources they need to reach their full potential … These powerful capabilities enable teachers to personalize learning for every student. Edmodo is free for teachers and students and always will be.” – Edmodo

Sesame Workshop

photo via Sesame Workshop

Sesame Workshop was established in 1966 when Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett asked the question, “Can television be used to teach young children?” Soon after, a study was conducted with the support of the Carnegie Corporation, and Sesame Street was born. This nonprofit devotes funding toward domestic and international projects, as well as child research and resources to promote the health and development of young children. The organization is transforming education by offering media resources that tackle tough issues like loss, poverty, obesity and HIV.

Google Teacher Academy

photo via Google Teacher Academy

Google offers a free, two-day academy for teachers to become Google Certified. Anyone can apply to attend, and 50 educators are chosen to become Google Certified teachers “based on the merits of their online application.” The Google Teacher Academy is transforming education by training teachers to implement innovative classroom technological tools and become part of a community devoted to making a true impact in education. The Google Teacher Academy is supported by Google for Education, which offers the latest tools for the classroom for free.


photo via K12

K12 offers free online public school for kindergarten to 12th grade
students. K12 is transforming education by offering an alternative to the traditional classroom, allowing children to receive a high-quality education from their own homes in multiple formats that appeal to multiple learning styles.
K12 was conceived in an effort to assist frustrated parents “whose children’s needs were not being met by traditional education models.”

“With K12, students experience education that’s tailored to their unique needs as individuals. They can focus on mathematics lessons on Monday and then focus on science and social studies on Tuesday. They can manage their own learning while always knowing what is expected. Being in a virtual school means students have responsibility for their own learning and can feel well prepared for the challenges that college holds. At graduation, families shout with joy when their child walks the stage and receives his or her diploma, just like a brick-and-mortar experience. The journey to the end is different, but the triumph at the end is the same.” –Margie Jorgensen, K12′s Chief Academic Officer

Are you interested in transforming education through your organization? We just launched an online doctorate degree in Education — could be a good place to start!