In the U.S., one student drops out of school every 12 seconds.
That's a lot of students so far this school year.

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Schools Innovation Influence

Leaving to Learn

Every 12 seconds in the U.S.,
a student drops out of school.


Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski have a proven solution for stemming the flow; leaving to learn. When students leave the school building to pursue learning opportunities in real-world settings, and these experiences are then blended with their in-school learning, the results are life-changing.  Motivation, engagement, and creativity soar.  Kids don’t ever want to dropout, because suddenly, finally, school really matters.  We can keep kids in school and prepare them for life after graduation by delivering authentic learning experiences that mater to them.  The first step is taking down the barriers between school and the outside world.  The first step is letting them leave, to learn.


Purchase Leaving to Learn
In this provocative book, authors Washor and Mojkowski observe that beneath the worrisome levels of dropouts from our nation’s high school lurks a more insidious problem: student disengagement from school and from deep and productive learning. To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school as a formal part of their programs of study. All students need to leave school—frequently, regularly, and, of course, temporarily—to stay in school and persist in their learning. To accomplish this, schools must combine academic learning with experiential learning, allowing students to bring real-world learning back into the school, where it should be recognized, assessed, and awarded academic credit. Learning outside of school, as a complement to in-school learning, provides opportunities for deep engagement in rigorous learning.

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The 10 Expectations

We hear often of the “high expectations” schools must have of and for their students, yet we seldom hear of the expectations students have of their schools. Students’ expectations constitute the new “rules of engagement” in the relationship that young people want with their schools. Visit or for more information.
Additional Leaving to Learn videos are available on the L2L YouTube Page


Getting Inside the Outside

Who would have thought that to increase student engagement and reduce the number of dropouts, schools needed to have them leave school to do a good part of their learning?

How can schools with high levels of student disengagement and large numbers of potential and actual dropouts turn the situation around? We think one important component of a solution to the dropout problem is to let students leave – to learn that is – and to bring that learning back into the school.

To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school. All students need to leave school—frequently, regularly, and, of course, temporarily—to stay in school and persist in their learning. To accomplish this, schools must take down the walls that separate the learning that students do, and could do, in school from the learning they do, and could do, outside.



We have been laying a foundation for Leaving to Learn for several years.  Here are links to articles that provide more depth around some of the issues we address in our book.

Student disengagement: It’s deeper than you think
At the Core of the Apple Store
College Juggernaut
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
It’s Deeper Than You Think
Life to Text
Living Literacy
One System
Seeding the Edge


People are talking… 

Have you read Leaving to Learn? If yes, you might want to add your review to those of others.

 “This book is for anyone who wants to understand how schools can ignite the passions and interests of all children and help them make a difference in their world. Supporting learning out in the world is the key to unleashing their potential and to learning who they are and what they want to become.”

— Susi Amis Cameron, Founder, Board Chair, MUSE School California

 “School isn’t something that kids are trying to do. Rather, they want to succeed at important things. Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski show the remarkable transformations in schools and their students when this becomes their focus.”

— Clayton Christensen, Harvard business professor and author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and How Will You Measure Your Life?

“Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski rightly identify student disengagement as the central cause of our nation’s dropout crisis. Their solution — “leaving to learn” – connects education to the real world of life and work, creating highly engaged learners in the process. Their strategy – redesigning schools in fundamental ways – is made understandable by this vivid and compelling account.”

— Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University

“I applaud Elliot and Charles for their passion in serving students, impacting positive change, and ensuring we truly think about the education of our nation and beyond.  This excellent book resets expectations and reengages us in the core of leadership in learning!”

— Stedman Graham, educator, entrepreneur, and author of Identity: Your Pathway To Success

 “This is one of the most important books about education that I’ve ever read. Through the pioneering practices of Big Picture Schools, Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski layout a new approach for all schools that unleashes the potential of students, allowing them to learn while exploring their passions.”

— Jonah Lehrer, journalist and author of Imagine: How Creativity Works

 “For newbie’s or hardcore warriors with battle scars born in the American civil rights crisis of our time: reforming our schools (and the dropout crisis)– this book and the work of its authors are important.  I fully subscribe to the tenants and practices that are the work of Big Picture Learning and its leaders. Charlie & Elliot– just “get it” and make it clear in common sense English. Read this book!!!!!”

— Marc Ecko

“The unique insights of young people and personal revelations of artists, athletes, and other accomplished leaders in their fields are interwoven, creating a thought-provoking tapestry that challenges our understanding of how learning becomes real and why people leave school early.  Its truth and authenticity will inspire introspection.  Its concise conclusions lead to clear implications for policy and practice.”

— Talmira Hill, Former Executive Director, Association for High School Innovation

 “The authors get inside young people’s heads and hearts in order to understand why and how they disengage from learning and often drop out. It’s deeper than you think, the authors say, and they are right. Their solution is spot on–start with students’ interests to break the cycle of failure. Here’s hoping schools will listen.”

— Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, New York University

 “Leaving to Learn puts forth a provocative and powerful argument: A significant number of capable young learners are dropping out of high school not because they can’t meet their schools’ expectations, but because schools don’t meet theirs. The authors have worked with these young people and have some exciting insights to share about student engagement and intrinsic motivation. If you’re concerned about the drop-out problem, you owe it to the young people in your life to pick up this book.”

— Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

“Elliot Washor and Charles Mojkowski have written a book that moves us significantly beyond the everyday rhetoric of dropout prevention and school reform.  These seasoned educators draw on decades of experience in creating learning environments that honor students’ interests and connect them with grounded and relevant opportunities to acquire wisdom.  This is a book that broadens our understanding of what it means for young people to see themselves as creative and inspired learners, who are prepared to always learn and learn more deeply.”

— Margaret Honey, Ph.D., President & CEO, The New York Hall of Science

“Leaving to Learn is an important and engaging book that underscores how every member of our society has the capacity to contribute through creativity and innovation.  The featured stories offer inspiration and models for refocusing schools to cultivate the diverse strengths of our country’s greatest resource — our children.”

— Dorothy Dunn, cultural producer and education consultant; former Director of Education, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution and Director of Visitor Experience, The Philip Johnson Glass House



Many thoughtful people have written about some of the issues that we address in our book. Here are links to their sites.

Pedro Noguera
Sir Ken Robinson
Dan Pink
Tony Wagner
Stedman Graham
Mike Rose
Linda Darling-Hammond
Margaret Honey
Road Trip Nation
Make Magazine
Fires in the Mind

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