Our Vision

Students, educators, and communities partnering as agents of change to design:

Classrooms that empower
Schools that adapt
Systems that liberate

Our Mission

Highlander Institute partners with communities to imagine and create more equitable, relevant, and effective schools. Using research, we convene, coach, and build capacity to improve outcomes and experiences for all students.

Our History

Highlander Institute is named after the Highlander Folk School, a social justice leadership training school and cultural center located in New Market, Tennessee known for its role during the Civil Rights Movement.  Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others were trained as activists at the center, returning with new skills to create change within their own communities.From this lineage, we believe that innovative educational practices are a catalyst for social change.

Founded in 1990 as Children of Promise, the Institute was more of an idea than an organization until 1999 when philanthropists David and Kim Dunn committed multi-year gifts to help the emergent Institute develop programs and expand services.

In 2005, a dynamic collaboration with Highlander Charter School in Rhode Island was the catalyst for our new mission-driven strategy of supporting “all kids”, expanding our target audience from students with diagnosed learning differences (LD) to all students. Recognizing that proven interventions for LD students are also effective for a large percentage of struggling students, we expanded programming for students, teachers and families.

In 2006, the launch of the Hasbro Center for Teaching Excellence (through generous multi-year support from Hasbro Children’s Fund) established the Institute as a credible regional provider of high quality professional development.

By 2011, Highlander Institute shifted again- this time, realizing that the dawn of new educational technology was opening the door for “blended” methods to reach all students. It was clear that the innovation in personalizing education was not only in the approach, but in the ability to utilize technology to scale the impact beyond a few rockstar teachers, lighthouse classrooms, or lab schools.

Today, Highlander Institute services are directed at improving education by focusing on the educator: providing unique, tailored, embedded supports at the classroom, school, and district levels. Highlander Institute specializes in blended and personalized learning models that are focused on creating equity through education. The Institute designs and implements proof-of-concept work, building not only the tools that enable districts to diagnose problems and design solutions from a student-centered perspective but also the capacity-building strategies that energize local educators to customize Institute knowledge and experience, mobilizing home-grown teams of personalized learning specialists.