Noble Impact Seeks Lead Engineer To Scale Access To Opportunity For K-12 Students

Noble Impact Seeks Lead Engineer To Scale Access To Opportunity For K-12 Students

We are looking for an education-obsessed Lead Engineer to join our team in scaling access to opportunity for students in the K-12 system. If you or someone you know gets pumped about the idea of building a tech team and a product that helps students use technology to share their personal stories and experiences with their communities, while connecting with college and work opportunities, read on and let’s chat!

The Position

As Lead Engineer at Noble Impact, you will be responsible for scaling a social-enabled digital portfolio platform while being the Captain Kirk of our U.S.S. Enterprise: “running point on big projects, midnight deploys, spearheading technical debt efforts, [creating and] following best practices, digging into the nastiest bugs, etc.”

Working within an Agile development methodology, you will lead and collaborate with other engineers and work closely with the Product team to deliver an exceptional user experience to our key stakeholders: student, teachers, and school administrators. In addition, you will stay atop new technologies and frameworks, assist with prototyping and proof-of-concepts, and ensure a high level of code quality from the team.

Beyond being a generalist developer with a will to lead and an ever-expansive desire to learn, our ideal candidate would be passionate about disrupting education, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and possess a background in managing startup tech teams, particularly with a focus on social networking-based products. This person would care a great deal about making an impact on the world and building an exceptional product within the EdTech space. He or she would be not only willing, but excited to get down and dirty with code as an early-stage startup teammate and founding tech lead.

In this role, you will:

  • Lead the development team in execution of the development pipeline and delivery of the organization’s software products to QA and ultimately to production
  • Maintain a hands-on role with both front-end and back-end web (and eventually mobile) development
  • Serve as Scrum Master in agile development process, as key connector to product team
  • Work closely with product owner and team members to decompose stories, design features, and prioritize tasks
  • Tackle arising technical challenges strategically and collaboratively as the tech lead
  • Lead hiring for technology talent, including two junior developers immediately
  • Onboard new tech talent and demonstrate an innate sense of duty for following best practices
  • Mentor junior developers, challenging them to be independent, while also providing necessary guidance

You’re our ideal teammate if you have:

  • Experience recruiting and managing great engineers and designers
  • Experience as technical lead on an agile scrum team
  • Thorough understanding of agile software development
  • Full-stack development experience, especially building scalable web and mobile apps
  • Passion for education
  • Ability to direct technology stack decisions that aligns with product vision
  • Customer-focused development philosophies
  • Love for Little Rock, Arkansas (where we are based)
  • A desire to change the world

On the technical side, we’re looking for a lead with:

  • Advanced knowledge of HTML, JavaScript, and CSS
  • Proficiency with Git, having experience managing multiple branches of code into development, beta, and production deployment environments
  • Professional experience with the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP).
  • Professional experience with Laravel 5+ or other mature PHP frameworks
  • Professional experience with Vue.js or other advanced JavaScript frameworks
  • Experience with Bootstrap and CSS Preprocessors such as SASS or LESS
  • Experience with automation tools such as Gulp
  • Experience integrating external service APIs, especially the following: SendGrid, ZenDesk, and Google Analytics
  • Experience managing servers and deployments using Enoyer.io and Laravel Forge

You can expect:

  • A full-time position with competitive salary
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Flexible working hours and at-home working options
  • Opportunities to attend and speak at conferences
  • Passionate and impact-minded teammates
  • A collaborative, growth-focused, fast-moving culture
  • High-level connectivity within the education ecosystem
  • A vetted, existing, and active beta user base of 500+ local students to jive with

The person who fills the role of Lead Engineer at Noble Impact will collaborate with VP of Product Erica Swallow, who managed the technical MVP building process with a local web development shop. For a look under the hood of the portfolio product or to discuss this role, email or tweet Erica at erica@nobleimpact.org or @ericaswallow!

The Product

Noble Impact Portfolio Builder

Noble Impact is an education non-profit that provides relevant and purpose-driven education to K-12 students through a project-based and portfolio-driven learning experience. We currently offer a digital portfolio product to 500+ students in Central Arkansas. After running a non-technical MVP built on Weebly and connected to in-class curriculum, we validated customer value from multiple user segments, including students, teachers, school administrators, employers, and college recruiters and built a technical MVP to share with our beta customers.

Our product is built upon Laravel 5 and utilizes Vue.js, MariaDB, Bootstrap, and numerous open source plugins. As Lead Engineer, you should be comfortable guiding architectural and product development decisions based on industry best practices and your experience. You should be highly cognizant of today’s increasing mobile use, especially amongst young people and help us develop with a mobile responsive and performance mindset. We’re looking to build a pleasant and intuitive experience for our student and teachers.

Noble Impact Portfolio Login

The beta product launches in mid-July under management of an exceptional team of contract developers, and we’d like to bring on our full-time development team in August, starting with our Lead Engineer, to take over development.

Our vision for this tool is that it will be the social network and digital portfolio tool that scales access to opportunity for elementary, middle, and high school students. To do that, we need a technology visionary to join our ranks!

We hope you are as excited about changing education as we are. If so, please contact us to talk about joining our team, by connecting with VP of Product Erica Swallow, at erica@nobleimpact.org or @ericaswallow. The Noble team is also accessible at joinus@nobleimpact.org. Please attach your resume, LinkedIn, GitHub, portfolio, and/or other resources that speak to your experience.

Join Us at the Noble Impact Educators Summit!

Join Us at the Noble Impact Educators Summit!

The Noble Impact Educators Summit, a three-day professional development event where educators will challenge one another to rewire education for purpose and relevance, is kicking off this July 27-29, 2016 — will you be there?


Register for the Noble Impact Educators Summit at nobleimpact.org/summit.

Powered by Noble Impact and presented by the Arkansas Department of Career Education, the Summit will convene educators to collaborate, tackle problems, and propose solutions for key educational issues, while also taking a deep dive into interactive sessions focused on facilitation, classroom culture, entrepreneurship education, digital tools, and storytelling.

Featured Speakers

#NobleTalks Speakers

#NobleTalks Speakers. From top left, as listed below:
Jahana Hayes, José Vilson, Rainbow Chen, Patrick Jones, Lisa Gelobter, and Jacob Johnston.

We’re honored to welcome a roster of outstanding educators, students, and education advocates to Little Rock to speak about how we can improve education for all students. Our lineup of featured speakers includes:

  • Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year
  • José Vilson, Founder of EduColor and NY-based Mathematics Teacher
  • Rainbow Chen, Student Representative, Vermont State Board of Education
  • Patrick Jones, YouTube Math Tutor and Author of “Calculus for Dummies”
  • Lisa Gelobter, Chief Digital Service Officer, U.S. Department of Education
  • Jacob Johnston, Student Entrepreneur and Co-founder, Landme.org

Throughout the conference, we’re also excited to highlight Noble Impact scholars as speakers on the third day of the Summit, which will showcase student outcomes from within our programs.

Schedule of Events

Noble Impact Educators Summit Schedule of Events

Taking place across three venues — the Clinton School of Public Service, the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce — the Summit kicks off on Wednesday, July 27th, with #NobleTalks, a curated series of talks given by national innovators about inspiring educational moments and achievements. The second day will be focused around a team-based CTE Civic Innovation Challenge, where teachers and community members will collaborate to tackle problems and propose solutions for key education issues proposed by the Arkansas Department of Career Education. On the third and final day of the Summit, teachers will take a deep dive into interactive sessions focused on classroom culture, apprenticeships, digital tools, entrepreneurship education, and facilitation methods.

The Summit will be unlike any other professional development you’ve experienced. Teachers will be presented with opportunities to connect with local business leaders and entrepreneurs, visit Noble Impact’s Innovation Studio, and attend student presentations that result from the Noble Impact classroom experience. Our aim with the Noble Impact Educators Summit is to amplify teacher voice while providing tools to help students reach their full potential.


Register for the Noble Impact Educators Summit at nobleimpact.org/summit.

Noble Impact Educators Summit is a three-day professional development event for educators and school administrators to reimagine what education could be. The summit will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 27-29, 2016. See you there!

CEO Eric Wilson Honored as Arkansas Business “40 Under 40”

CEO Eric Wilson Honored as Arkansas Business “40 Under 40”

Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson, 31, was honored in Arkansas Business’ 2016 “40 under 40” class of local movers and shakers.  The Noble Impact team would like to congratulate him on his success with being nominated and chosen as a recipient of the award. Eric not only is a steadfast steward of our focus to provide “every kid a relevant and purpose-driven education,” but he also strives to embrace Arkansas’ legacy of entrepreneurship within the state. “We live and work on some of the most fertile entrepreneurial soil in the world,” he said at the honorees’ luncheon this week. We stand strongly next to him in believing that Arkansans will continue to work hard in developing solutions that can change the world.

Photo courtesy of Steven Veach.

Welcome Digital Strategist Trevór Collins to Team Noble Impact!

Welcome Digital Strategist Trevór Collins to Team Noble Impact!

We are pleased to announce that digital strategist Trevór Collins joined our team this week as Noble Impact’s very first Digital Marketing and PR Manager. Trevór will lead the charge in growing Noble Impact’s digital marketing and communications strategy, while also lending his talents in graphic design and videography towards content that will power those initiatives.

Prior to Noble Impact, Trevór worked as a digital media strategist at publishing company Leisure Arts, digital agency Team SI, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), where he is finishing up his bachelor’s in E-Commerce.

Trevór came highly recommended through the Little Rock entrepreneurial scene, and when I met him early on in the recruiting process, I knew he was going to give the applicant pool a run for its money. We received more than 50 applications and interviewed the top 15% of applicants, and in the end, Trevór’s experience, enthusiasm, and demonstrated excellence pulled him to the top of the pool.

We are excited to bring such a talented digital strategist onto our team and look forward to seeing how Trevór transforms Noble Impact’s digital presence and reach. We also look forward to helping him grow as a young professional and learning from his experiences along the way!

Please join me in welcoming Trevór to the team; if you see him out in the Little Rock community, give him a hearty hello!

Noble Impact Educators Summit: Why Arkansas, Why Now?

Noble Impact Educators Summit: Why Arkansas, Why Now?

This year, Noble Impact is launching its inaugural professional development conference, the Noble Impact Educators Summit, taking place this summer (July 27-29). It’s been three years in the making, and for each of us at Noble, it’s been a personal journey, one that I hope many educators and innovators will join this summer.

Register for the Noble Impact Educators Summit at nobleimpact.org/summit.
I moved to Little Rock in July of 2008 to attend the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. It was the best educational decision I’ve ever made.

Old Arkansas License Place
Arkansas, formerly known as the “Land of Opportunity”

Since that move, I’ve come to realize how special Little Rock is and what opportunities the state of Arkansas has to offer. Before being called “The Natural State”, Arkansas was called “The Land of Opportunity,” and I identify with the latter.

Over the past 15 years in and out of the education and entrepreneurship sectors, I’ve had the opportunity to attend many different conferences. These experiences run the gamut… from Fast Company in San Francisco to Gardner-Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs to SXSWedu in Austin and even the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. All these conferences were awesome in their own right.

When we decided to create our own “conference,” we reflected as a team on our different experiences at past events… what we liked, what we didn’t like, what inspired us, what bored us. After much deliberation and planning, we have come up with what I believe is an offering for Arkansas teachers that will prove to be a transformational experience. In the same way design and development agency Few has coined its annual Made by Few conference experience as “Not your traditional tech conference,” #NobleSummit will not be your traditional education conference!

Little Rock: The New Center of Education Innovation

TIME Magazine Arkansas WInthrop RockefellerLittle Rock has been in the news lately, and it hasn’t been positive in regards to public education. However, I think we have a unique opportunity staring us in the face. Social change is at the core of Little Rock, deeply rooted through the lens of the “Little Rock Nine” and onto the grounds of the Clinton Presidential Center. Our entrepreneurship culture is growing, innovation is happening, and we have an opportunity to continue this movement for teachers, through our Summit.

Our inaugural Noble Impact Educators Summit is focused on solving problems and emphatically not just complaining about them. The Summit will engage teachers, community leaders, and students in what former Arkansas Governor Winthrop Rockefeller called every citizen to do: “…Participate in the search for solutions.”

We will do this through our Civic Innovation Challenge format, in which we present teachers and community leaders with an opportunity to tackle pressing issues in the Arkansas education landscape.

2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes
2016 National Teacher of the Year
Jahana Hayes receives honor from
President Barack Obama

We are committed to providing Arkansas teachers a voice in this search, and we will begin that commitment on Wednesday night, July 27th with our #NobleTalks opening event.

Launching at the Clinton School, we will hear from powerful student and teacher voices, including high school senior, Rainbow Chen, who is a voting member on the Vermont Board of Education. We will also hear from the 2016 National Teacher of The Year Jahana Hayes and EduColor founder José Vilson, and YouTube math tutor Patrick Jones. This will begin a three-day experience that will inspire, motivate, and charge teachers to impact Arkansas education with their own stories and solutions.

This is our state, and yes, it is naturally beautiful. But I came here for opportunity, and it presented itself through a great public service education. Now, it’s time for us, at Noble Impact, to create the best opportunity for teachers to express their thoughts, harness their insight, and act on what could make an impact in the great state of Arkansas. It is time for us, too, to open up access to opportunity for the students we serve.

There is no “Why not?” in this equation… there is only here and now. It’s time. See you in July.

Register for the Noble Impact Educators Summit at nobleimpact.org/summit.

Noble Impact Educators Summit is a three-day professional development event for educators and school administrators to reimagine what education could be. The summit will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 27-29, 2016. See you there!

Header image courtesy of Sandra Owens

We’re Hiring a Digital Marketing and PR Manager!

We’re Hiring a Digital Marketing and PR Manager!

Update: This position has been filled! Learn more about our new Digital Marketing and PR Manager, Trevór Collins, here.

Noble Impact is growing faster than ever, and we’re looking for a Digital Marketing and PR Manager to lead and grow our digital marketing and communications strategy. Located in downtown Little Rock, Noble Impact is an energetic, growing, and passionate team of education-obsessed change-makers looking to rewire education for purpose and relevance. And now, we’re looking for a marketing extraordinaire to help tell our story.

If you or someone you know gets pumped about managing marketing and communications for a growing education initiative, let’s talk!

The Position

As the Digital Marketing and PR Manager, you will be responsible for exponentially growing Noble Impact’s user base and digital footprint. You would be in charge of developing, implementing, managing, and analyzing Noble Impact’s digital marketing and public relations strategies, and you would also have the opportunity to assist with event management, community building, and product development efforts.

The ideal candidate would have a proven track record in creating and implementing online traffic and lead generation strategies through email, SEO/SEM, social media, and content marketing. You must be a self-starter that can excel in an entrepreneurial environment and aggressively grow our online presence.

Ideally, you would also be passionate about education, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and possess industry experience in marketing, public relations, and/or journalism. Like our teammates, you should also care a great deal about making an impact through education.

Parents, press, and onlookers gather for Arkansas High School Startup Weekend
Parents, press, and onlookers gather for Arkansas High School Startup Weekend student presentations.

In this role, you will:

  • Create, manage, measure, and report performance on all digital marketing (email, SEO/SEM, social media, and content marketing) campaigns and efforts
  • Manage content generation initiatives, such as our Community Blogging Program
  • Grow the subscriber base of the monthly email newsletter, while also reimagining what the newsletter could be
  • Garner local and national press for Noble Impact initiatives and programming
  • Collaborate with the product team on website and digital product projects
  • Assist with event planning and management

You’re our ideal teammate if you have:

  • Experience managing high-growth digital marketing initiatives
  • Proven excellence with landing press features within relevant media outlets
  • Strong communications/writing and math/analytical skills
  • Expertise in Google Analytics
  • Expertise in Excel (or Google Spreadsheets)
  • An engaged social media following across platforms (i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, blogs, etc.)
  • Accurate understanding of performance and success metrics and knowledge of how to analyze and improve these key performance indicators

Noble Impact at SXSWedu
Noble Impact colleagues Chad and Erica attend SXSWedu. You could, too!
You’re a total dream candidate if you:

  • Are passionate about education
  • Geek out about design and data analysis
  • Stay up-to-date on marketing, PR, and technology trends
  • Consider yourself a storyteller
  • Enjoy working in small, entrepreneurial teams

You can expect:

  • A full-time position with a competitive salary
  • Health and dental insurance
  • Flexible working hours and remote working options
  • Opportunities to attend and speak at conferences
  • Passionate and impact-minded teammates
  • A collaborative, growth-focused, fast-moving culture
  • High-level connectivity within the education system

The person who fills the role of Marketing and PR Manager at Noble Impact will collaborate with VP of Product Erica Swallow, who currently manages all marketing efforts at Noble Impact. Erica is excited to hire a partner-in-change who can take Noble Impact’s marketing, communications, and story to the next level. If you’d like to get insight into the position, she’s your gal. Tweet or email her to connect.

Does this role sound perfect for you or someone you know? If so, we want to talk. Contact the Noble Impact team at joinus@nobleimpact.org. Attach your resumé and/or LinkedIn profile, so we can get to know your professional experience, and tell us about yourself and your interest in the role! We’re in the process of scheduling phone interviews and are looking forward to bringing on a full-time teammate in June!

About Us

Noble Impact is an education non-profit that provides relevant and purpose-driven education to K-12 students through portfolio-driven and project-based learning experiences. Headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, we currently serve 400+ students in elementary, middle, and high school.

Noble Impact at eStem Public Charter Schools
“Noble Impact is a factory for student stories.”
– Co-founder Chad Williamson
Come help us tell our students’ stories.
Announcing the Inaugural Noble Impact Educators Summit!

Announcing the Inaugural Noble Impact Educators Summit!

Over the past two years, we’ve learned quite a bit in our classrooms, where Noble Impact scholars pursue their passions and interests in search for purpose and relevance every day. We’ve also worked with hundreds of educators to share best practices and beef up our own skills. Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of our inaugural Noble Impact Educators Summit, a three-day professional development event for educators and school administrators to reimagine what education could be. The summit will take place in Little Rock, Arkansas on July 27-29, 2016. Sign up on our summit website to receive more information once the speakers and schedule are announced, and stay tuned to the Twitter hashtag #NobleSummit!

Our vision for the Educators Summit is that we’ll be able to convene educators, whether they be teachers or administrators, to collaborate, tackle problems, and propose solutions for key education issues, while also taking a deep dive into interactive sessions focused on facilitation, classroom culture, entrepreneurship education, digital tools, and storytelling.

Noble Impact facilitates PD at EAST Initiative's Summer Seminar 2015.
Noble Impact facilitates PD at EAST Initiative’s Summer Seminar 2015.
We want to provide a space where educators can share conversations, meet new people, and listen to each other’s stories. In all reality, when I go to professional development events, swapping business cards or sharing lunches proven to be the most valuable; those are the relationships that continue on.

Everyone likes experiences that energize them and challenges them to think differently or in new ways about certain topics and issues — a lot of teacher professional development opportunities lack that engagement. In fact, only 29% of teachers are satisfied with current professional development.

Last week, attending SXSWedu, an Austin-based education conference, I was hyper-engaged. There were panels, hands-on activities, networking events, pitch competitions, happy hours, parties, coffee sessions, breakfast gatherings, and Wifi-enabled lounge spaces. These are the types of thought-provoking and energizing activities that kept my colleague and me going. We were constantly facing a change of content style, location, or activity. The conference kept us sharp and on our toes!

For the past year, the Noble Impact team has been brewing on ideas… What if every teacher and administrator could experience the level of engagement I just described? What if we hosted an experience that facilitated relationship-building while also offering great content and tools for educators to bring back to their classrooms and schools? What if we gathered amazing teachers to collaborate and share new methods and ideas that work? What if students took part in professional development?

Noble Impact Civic Innovation Challenge Brainstorming with Post-It Notes
Collaboration and problem-solving are big in our classrooms and will also drive our PD.
We’re proud to unveil our plans for the Noble Impact Educators Summit, where all of the above will take place. Teachers will be presented with opportunities to connect with local business leaders and entrepreneurs, visit Noble Impact’s Innovation Studio, and attend student presentations that result from the Noble Impact classroom experience. We hope the Noble Impact Educators Summit will amplify teacher voice while providing tools to help students reach their full potential.

If you’re an educator engaged in the conversation around the future of education, we’d like to see you at the summit! Sign up on our website for more information as it becomes available. And in the meantime, pencil us in for July 27-29, 2016. We look forward to seeing you!

Special thanks to Noble Impact 301 scholar Dakota Felder, who developed and designed the Noble Impact Educators Summit website as part of his Noble Impact apprenticeship at Little Rock-based design and development agency Few. You might recall from past posts that he’s also the great mind behind the Noble Impact brochure!

Noble Impact Seeks Facilitators For Middle School and High School

Noble Impact Seeks Facilitators For Middle School and High School

These positions have been filled. We thank you for your inquiry. If you have any questions regarding future employment at Noble Impact, please email: news@nobleimpact.org. We are looking for education-obsessed, purpose-driven facilitators to join our team in scaling access to opportunity for students in the Noble Impact program at eStem Public Charter School, located in Little Rock, Arkansas. Specifically, we are hiring for the roles of Lead Facilitator of Middle School (5-8) and Lead Facilitator of High School (9-12).

If you or someone you know gets pumped about the idea of facilitating content that focuses on the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship, read below for details and let’s talk.

The Position

Noble Impact WHO Map Exercise
Noble Impact middle and high school students visually map “WHO” they are.

Our perfect facilitators would be passionate about education, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and possess industry experience in both sectors. This person would care a great deal about making an impact through education while creating value in the EdTech sector for students around the world. The role of a facilitator in the Noble Impact program is much different than the role of a teacher in a traditional classroom. Our facilitators provide enormous amounts of feedback, embrace ambiguity while taking risks, and have a coaching mentality to create new methods of learning for students.

You’re our ideal teammate if you have:

  • Experience facilitating in middle and/or high school (no teaching certificate required)
  • Background in entrepreneurship and/or public service education
  • Empathy for student voice and student choice
  • Strong social media skills (i.e. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, blogging)
  • Understanding of growth mindset and design thinking

You’re our ideal teammate if you believe:

    • Culture sets the tone for engagement
    • Storytellers make the best leaders
    • Credibility is the currency of the 21st Century
    • Listening is the most powerful communication skill
    • Inclusion, equity, and justice are critical to the classroom
Madi Grace Carter Presents in Noble 201
Junior Madi Grace Carter presents to her class about her interests.

You can expect:

  • Competitive salary and benefits
  • Passionate and impact-minded teammates
  • A collaborative, growth-focused, fast-moving culture
  • High-level connectivity within the education ecosystem
  • Autonomy to create and challenge curriculum for relevancy

Icing on the cake if you:

  • Read Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, or other innovation-focused publications
  • Possess project-based learning experience
  • Follow startup accelerators, such as Y Combinator, The Brandery, Techstars
  • Follow influencers, such as DeRay Mckesson, Arianna Huffington, and Elon Musk
  • Know Google Classroom software or use other technology in the classroom

The roles of Lead Facilitator of Middle School (5-8) and Lead Facilitator of High School (9-12) will be collaborative roles and will be led by the Director of Facilitation for Noble Impact at eStem Public Charter School, Chris Forster, with guidance from Noble Impact co-founder and Director of Curriculum Chad Williamson.

Do either of these roles sound perfect for you or someone you know? If so, we want to talk. Contact the Noble Impact team at joinus@nobleimpact.org. Attach your resumé or LinkedIn profile, so we can get to know your professional experience, and tell us about yourself and your interest in the role! We’re in the process of scheduling phone interviews and are looking forward to inviting top candidates into the classroom for experiential interviews.

About Us

Noble Impact is an education non-profit that provides relevant and purpose-driven education to K-12 students through portfolio-driven and project-based learning experiences. Headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, we currently serve 400+ students in elementary, middle, and high school.

Noble Impact at eStem Public Charter Schools
A group of talented and purpose-driven Noble Impact scholars at eStem Public Charter Schools gathered for the Middle-High School Mentorship Program.
‘Most Likely To Succeed’ Film Spurs Education Conversation In Arkansas

‘Most Likely To Succeed’ Film Spurs Education Conversation In Arkansas

More than 200 Arkansans gathered to discuss the future of education at two Noble Impact screenings of this year’s most-talked-about education documentary, “Most Likely To Succeed.”

Screened in Fort Smith and Little Rock this past week, the film questions America’s outdated education system and calls for communities to come together to reimagine education for the 21st century. These two screenings, too, account for the film’s debut in Arkansas, as it only premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January. The film was discovered by Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson and VP of Product Erica Swallow during a visit to the Tribeca Film Festival in April and the duo knew they had to bring it to the Arkansas community.

Ted Dintersmith at Fort Smith screening
Ted Dintersmith speaks up on education reform at the Fort Smith screening.
Attendees of both screenings included local students of all ages, educators, administrators, parents, and business leaders. Community members and contributors from organizations such as Teach For America, Arkansas Learns, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, City Year, eStem Schools, Walgreens, First National Bank, Acxiom, the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, the Arkansas Department of Education, Little Rock School District, and the state government filled the seats of each theater, eager to see the film and discuss ideas for change.

At both screenings, the film’s Executive Producer Ted Dintersmith headlined post-screening Q&A panels, both moderated by Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson. “Arkansas has the potential to transform its schools to be better than any — not just in the U.S. but around the globe,” Dintersmith told Arkansas Business prior to his trip to the Natural State.

At Fort Smith, Dintersmith — joined by Big Picture Learning Co-executive Director Andrew Frishman and Future School of Fort Smith Advisor Talicia Richardson — discussed the need for innovation in an ever-changing economy. “The price of innovation is the loss of job categories,” he said, noting that the jobs that our students will be filling in the next 20 years haven’t even been invented yet. He added one more piece of food for thought to the conversation — namely that 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. Clearly there is a mismatch of education attainment and market needs.

Noble Impact 201 scholars Breanna Tyler and Jones McConnell speak with Ted Dintersmith at the Little Rock screening.
Noble Impact 201 scholars Breanna Tyler and Jones McConnell connected with Ted Dintersmith after the Little Rock screening.
In Little Rock, the audience turned its attention towards the pains of change. “Is it even possible to overhaul the education system with all of the politics it entails?” one audience member asked.

Brave Noble Impact 201 scholar Jones McConnell, too, addressed the in-class issues that might persist even as educators try to shift to a more student-centered, interactive approach: “So many students get excited about ideas, but they’re often discouraged by teacher and peer feedback,” McConnell said, “If kids get turned down at school, how can we reach them?” Engagement, he accurately pointed out, is one of the key issues in today’s K-12 environment, particularly as students move further through school. Engagement drops year by year, as students find content less relevant and purpose-driven.

“We need to begin with the end in mind,” panelist and career educator Dr. David Rainey said at the Little Rock screening. “We have to learn how to learn.” What inspired me most about Rainey’s perspective was that he was steadfast on the purpose of reform. “I’m not advocating for charters. I’m not advocating for public schools,” he expressed. “I’m advocating for kids.” Indeed, no matter the strategy for change, we must always keep the purpose in mind. It’s time to work backwards from our goal and recreate the system.

Arkansas Times Associate Editor Benji Hardy and Arkansas Department of Education Assistant Commissioner of Learning Services Debbie Jones also joined the Little Rock panel, adding their own perspectives as analysts and practitioners, respectively.

Little Rock screening attendees talk education reform.
Little Rock screening attendees talk education reform.
These screenings wouldn’t have been possible without our partnerships with the Clinton School of Public Service, the Arkansas Times, the Ron Robinson Theater, the University of Arkansas Fort Smith, and the Future School of Fort Smith. Thank you to our colleagues at each of these organizations who set aside time and resources to help engage our community in a conversation about our shared future.

Making the massive changes we need in our education system truly is a community effort. We have a heavy lift here, but together we can do it.

As co-hosts of these film screenings, we at Noble Impact are incredibly grateful for the overwhelming support and engagement that’s been spurred. This is merely a beginning, though — let’s continue this conversation on how we’re going to change Arkansas’s education system.

For starters, if you’re interested in learning more about “Most Likely To Succeed” or our screenings, check out images from the screenings on Noble Impact’s Facebook page, and learn more about hosting a screening of the film in your community on the film’s website.

Now, we turn the mic over to you: How do you want to change education? Tweet us @NobleImpact with the hashtag #MLTSFilm.