An amazing journey
Just a few short decades ago, the American educational landscape included a healthy mix of public schools and private faith-based schools in most every community.
Fast forward several decades, and the landscape had changed. Today one half of our nation’s children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Faith-based schools are closing or consolidating, succumbing to financial pressures. We have massive gaps in academic achievement between urban and suburban schools in the U.S., between the economically advantaged and the economically disadvantaged. What’s more, there’s a widening achievement gap between the best U.S. schools and those in other nations. While the debate continues on how to improve academic scores, our children are missing the opportunity to develop what Dr. King called a key component of education: character.
Out of this context emerged a passionate group of people who wanted to create fresh options for education in America, including models that are publicly funded and privately delivered. These leaders determined that a full and lasting education was built on three pillars: excellent academics, character formation, and faith formation if families choose it. They also determined that this full and lasting education should be accessible and affordable for all, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status.
That vision led to the formation of the first HOPE Christian School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2002. The founders of HOPE saw the impact this type of education could have on a child, a family and a community, and this drove them to find ways to open up more seats for more children. Growth with sustainability became the vision.
Growth can be accelerated using key levers, such as technology or public policy. In the case of HOPE, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) was a key policy lever that enabled growth. MPCP is the nation’s pioneering and longest-running voucher program. Through this program, nearly 2,000 students have the opportunity to attend one of six HOPE Christian Schools in the city and receive an education focused on the 3 Cs: Christ. College. Character. Similar policy in the form of the Racine Parental Choice Program enabled HOPE Christian School: Via to open in that city in 2015.
Throughout this growth period for HOPE, those founding leaders never lost sight of their original purpose – to deliver options for a three-pillared education to as many children as possible. Scanning the educational landscape, they applied innovative thinking that led to the development of public charter schools (EAGLE College Preparatory Schools), and preschool and wraparound care (Compass Educational Programs) for communities seeking high-quality charter school providers. EAGLE schools deliver the excellent academics and character formation pillars. In addition, parents could choose the third pillar – faith formation – through wraparound care provided by Compass Educational Programs.
The birth of EAGLE and Compass required the formation of a separate entity that would allow for this new, broader approach to serving more children in more communities. The entity was called Educational Enterprises Inc. (EEI), and it was created to support, inspire and equip the serving leaders of HOPE, EAGLE and Compass as they delivered the three pillars to a growing number of children.
Getting intentional about character
The leaders of EEI saw yet another opportunity to innovate in the area of character formation. EEI commissioned a group of veteran educators to develop the Character Formation Project, a licensed set of character formation content and programming with two versions — one for public schools based on civic character, and the other for Christian education based on Christian character. An innovative platform for delivery of this content creates the opportunity to catalyze the character formation of thousands of children and adults across the world. This platform will be extremely valuable as education becomes more self-directed and personalized around the world.
HOPE, EAGLE, Compass and the Character Formation Project – Each of these entities plays a role in delivering one or more of the original three pillars. All told, we’re serving more than 4,000 children enrolled in our schools today, plus many more children who opt into Compass Educational Programs and the growing number of participants in the Character Formation Project. We are truly grateful for the accomplishments of the past and the diligent work of our teams in serving children, families and communities.
As we look forward, we know there is still more to do. We have a long way to go to ensure all children have access to a full and lasting education, with freedom to pursue their full potential, live flourishing lives and serve Greater Purpose.
In 2016, EEI officially changed its name to Open Sky Education, a name more fitting of the entrepreneurial spirit that has been in the heart of its serving leaders since the very beginning. We continue to press forward tirelessly, committed to continuous improvement and innovation, with a boundless energy befitting of the significance of our work in the lives of those we serve.
And so the journey continues.