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National Leaders Conference

The 2019 National Leaders Post Conference Call for Workshop Proposals are open until December 7. Apply here.

Strengthen Your School Leadership

CAIS values the constant and deliberate quest for excellence, and we recognize the vital leadership role that governors play, in partnership with Heads, in the success of our schools. We want all of our schools to have strong Heads who focus on supporting the students of the present, but we also want strong Boards that focus on supporting the students of the future.

The Governance Guide include new learning on a number of areas, including Human Resources, Risk Management, Head Transitions, and Consent Agendas.

CAIS members and non-members can purchase a hard copy here. And CAIS members can also view the full PDF in CAIS Connect here.

In 1948, George Orwell was in the process of naming his newly completed novel, when he decided to flip the last two digits of 1948 to create the title for his futuristic novel, 1984.

When CAIS was looking to name our Future of Education Research Initiative and Incubator in 2015, we borrowed Orwell’s idea.

What is The Project 2051 Challenge?

In July 2015, CAIS brought together 22 academic and 22 business leaders, all from different schools, to address the question, “How do CAIS schools ensure their strength and permanence through academic and business innovation?”

In April 2017, the 2051 Project continued with the 2051 Challenge.

The 2051 Challenge Incubator Report

The exploding capacity of digital technology as well as new research on teaching and learning are impacting what and how students learn. It is well documented that student potential can be enhanced by personalized learning - an approach that recognizes and values differences in how they learn and are assessed. Read the report to learn more.

The 2051 Project Report

To initiate innovation and change in our schools, both in the academic realm and business realm, in order for our students to experience an education that prepares them for a future we cannot yet imagine. Read the report to learn more.

Meet the 2017 Participants

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Our Mission:

To create opportunities for school leaders to research international best practices and develop strategies to grapple with the dual challenge of designing innovative academic programs, while managing cost per student.

Our Vision:

To continuously explore academic and business innovation to ensure independent schools’ strength and permanence, while shaping the future of education.

Our Values:

To provide our members with professional development opportunities and research resources that will push schools to look externally at global education trends and internally at their strategic priorities, and discover what their role will be in shaping the future of education in their schools, their staff and their students.

Why Innovate?

Internationally, independent schools face dual, interconnected challenges: ensuring that we continuously improve our academic program while at the same time maintaining strong, sustainable business plans to preserve our long-term heath and viability.

The international educational landscape continues to change and become more competitive. Our increasing use of technology – as well as new research on teaching and learning – influences the education we provide tomorrow’s leaders. So also our financial realities continue to change and become more competitive, including such effects as school demographics, increasing tuition fees, the nature of parent demands, and the need to balance traditional education with the increased desire for job skills.

What is Innovation?

George Couros (Educator, author and consultant) defines innovation as:

“innovation is a way of thinking that creates something new and better. Innovation can come from either “invention (something totally new) or “iteration” ( a change of something that already exists), but if it does not meet the ideas of “new and better,” it is not innovative.”

What have we accomplished?

Student Focus Group

The 2051 Project Students are the reason we exist. We learned from them that they want change in our schools. More than that, they expect change, and they have some great advice on what the future will look like.

View Student Focus Group

What did the 44 original participants do?

44 CAIS school leaders, nominated by their Heads, applied to participate in The 2051 Project. The Advisory Board selected 22 academic leaders and 22 business leaders to participate in a strategic conference held at St. Margaret’s School in Victoria, BC, on July 4-6, 2015 (Appendix A).

Liz Falco and Paul Bennett conducted a global scan of schools currently meeting the dual challenge of designing innovative academic programs while managing their business innovation and cost per student. These 22 international schoolswere selected as the focus of the participants’ pre-work. A pre-work exercise paired our 44 school leaders – one academic leader and one business leader – with one of these 22 international schools. Six comprehensive questions were designed to drive the research on the assigned school

Three months prior to the Victoria meeting, the participants’ preparation began. They were assigned a list of articles and videos from experts and leaders in design thinking, innovation, and independent school trends (Appendix D).

The pre-work questions served to facilitate a deep dive into the international schools. Participants were asked to identify how the academic innovations were defined in terms of time and space, professional growth, curriculum and program, technology, and community partnerships.

Similarly, participants defined how the business innovation addressed fee and revenue creation, cost reduction, human capital, time, place and space, partnerships and sponsorships, and communications, branding, and marketing.

Participants were also asked to answer or address the connections between academic and business innovation; what challenges the international schools faced while implementing their innovations; and how could these innovations affect Canadian schools to enhance their competitive advantage.

View the 2015 participants

Academic opportunities to innovate

When asked about opportunities to innovate within the academic program, participants identified the following:

  • Timetable – flexibility in scheduling
  • Experiential learning opportunities – exchange and co-op programs
  • Online micro-school – extending the CAIS Academic Program
  • Blended learning and the use of technology
  • Personalized learning
  • Project-based learning
  • Self-directed learning
  • Learning environments
  • Assessments – students, parents, and faculty
  • Collaborative faculty PD

Business opportunities to innovate

When asked about opportunities to innovate within business and operations, participants identified the following:

  • Enrolment
  • Tuition
  • Boards facilitating strategic choice surrounding innovation
  • Flexible and adaptive financial plans
  • Partnerships
  • Extended course offerings
  • New hires designated to develop and initiate innovation initiatives
  • Leveraging the collaborative business culture of shared resources
  • Leveraging technology to reduce costs
  • Faculty structures and salaries

Discussion and Questions

Participants were encouraged to identify the most important challenges and questions confronting Boards, Heads and Leadership Teams as they plan for the future. Among the challenges and questions raised:

  • How best to ensure that the Board, Head and Leadership Team – already challenged to find adequate capacity for strategic planning – allow for the opportunity and time needed to address and confront these important issues?
  • Are some schools in danger of over-servicing their communities – especially considering the attendant costs?
  • Where should our strategic attentions be: short-term, medium-term and long-term?
  • How afraid should we be, especially considering the ease with which onlineschools can be created, and as we consider the many public schools that offer excellent education?
  • Where are CAIS schools’ continued strength and permanence most at risk?
  • To what extent are CAIS schools already innovating? How well are schools managing their innovation initiatives? Are these strategies being appropriately shared?
  • As schools develop innovative strategies, how will Heads and Boards articulateand share these strategies to help their schools achieve sustainable competitive advantages? How will success be measured?
  • What proportion of a school’s resources should be allocated to this task of identifying and funding strategic innovations?
  • As we innovate, how can CAIS schools best collaborate with other CAIS schools, some of which are competitors?
  • How can CAIS schools ensure that these innovations create value for their communities – including students, academic staff and parents – now and in the future?

Insights and Conclusions

There were a variety of insights and conclusions, including:

  • Strategy and innovation are two different ways to plan. Organizations are mostly built for ongoing operations with clear destinations, not to execute significant, foundational innovation.
  • Strategic planning is routine, analytic, focused on existing performance indicators, and assumes the future looks like today.
  • Innovative planning is disruptive, creative, focused on new insights, and assumes the future is dynamic.
  • Innovation is an imperative; threats to our schools are imminent; the status quo will not solve future issues and challenges; if we don’t act, there will be actions taken by the larger community that we have no control over. As one participant noted: “The burning platform is as important as the compelling vision.”
  • Independent school expenses will continue to increase at a rate above inflation, with the estimate being the Consumer Price Index plus 2%.
  • Data suggests that by 2019 roughly 50% of high school courses will be delivered online in some form or fashion.
  • The entire school community – teachers, students and parents – thrives by creating win-win-win relationships. It’s important to build continuous trust, secure engagement early in the process, look at problems from others’ perspective, and over-communicate.
  • We should continue to investigate non-traditional revenue streams, including online initiatives, facility rentals, etc.
  • As schools begin to focus on innovation initiatives, they must determine their strengths and weaknesses.
  • How schools implement innovation will vary from institution to institution.
  • Both academic and business leadership is critical to successful innovation.
  • In the new CAIS Accreditation Standards, schools are required to have an innovation strategy: “Standard 11, Indicator 5: the School is aware of and continues to search out new approaches to education and implement those aligned to the mission of the School.”
  • CAIS schools have more in common than we think, and there is strength and power in our numbers.
  • Student-driven passion – self-directed, project-based – can be a powerful force.
  • We should leverage connections within CAIS to enable students to learn on a national and international scale.
  • Schools around the world are embracing various forms of innovation. Great schools of the future will create strategies that focus on educational and technological innovation as well as business model innovation.

22 International Study Schools

The 2051 Project Schools are the 22 schools that researchers determined were meeting the dual challenge of academic and business innovation.

  • AltSchool, San Francisco, CA
  • American School of Bombay, Mumbai, India
  • Barrington High School, Barrington, IL
  • Chadwick School, Palos Verdes, CA and Incheon, South Korea
  • Classical Academies, San Diego, CA
  • The Drew School, San Francisco, CA
  • Eton College, Oxford, United Kingdom
  • Hawken School, Cleveland, OH
  • Lakeside School, Seattle, WA
  • Laurel School, Shaker Heights, OH
  • The Lovett School, Atlanta, GA

  • Maret School - Malone Schools Online Network, Washington, DC
  • NOLA Micro Schools, New Orleans, LA
  • Nueva School, Hillsborough, CA
  • Oaks Christian Online High School, Westlake Village, CA
  • Palo Alto Schools, CA
  • Punahou School, Honolulu, HI
  • Shattuck -Saint Mary’s School, Faribault, MN
  • 1Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Philadelphia, PA
  • St. Anne’s-Belfield School, Charlottesville, VA
  • Thomas Haney Secondary School, Maple Ridge, BC
  • The Virtual High School, Maynard, MA


The 2051 Project Report

is a resource for our schools to continue the conversation within their leadership teams and school communities about the future strength and permanence of our schools.

View Report

The 2051 Project Presentation

is a resource for school leaders to use to communicate the purpose, importance, and value of the project and begin the conversation within their own schools.

Access presentation

The 2051 Project Resources

are Articles, Videos, and Books gathered to further our understanding of key issues surrounding independent school education.

Go to all resources