The need to transform our K–12 schools grows more pressing each day. But here’s the hard truth: transforming existing schools is nearly impossible. The primary obstacle? Value networks. 

What is a value network? It’s the environment that an organization exists within—the external entities that provide key resources and define the rules for staying in business.

So how does a school’s value network stand in the way of transformation? Parents feel uneasy when school doesn’t look like the schools they grew up with. Teachers don’t like discarding practices they’ve refined through years of experience. Students who are comfortable with the routines of conventional schools don’t like having the rules changed mid- game. State officials expect innovative schools to still follow the policies made for conventional schools. And the list goes on.

Bold school leaders work hard to give their value networks a new vision of the future. 

But in the end, most value networks only accept improvements to an existing school, not a different idea of what school could be.

So, if we want to transform education, we need to start creating alternative schools, virtual schools, and microschools with new value networks where new versions of schooling can take root, evolve, and expand.

Check out our report on how to start thinking about new value networks, share your thoughts in the comments, and follow for more.


  • Thomas Arnett
    Thomas Arnett

    Thomas Arnett is a senior research fellow for the Clayton Christensen Institute. His work focuses on using the Theory of Disruptive Innovation to study innovative instructional models and their potential to scale student-centered learning in K–12 education. He also studies demand for innovative resources and practices across the K–12 education system using the Jobs to Be Done Theory.