John Danner

Ashoka Fellow
San Jose, California, United States
Fellow Since 2009


This profile was prepared when John Danner was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2009.
The New Idea
John wants to close, at scale, the so-called achievement gap: The performance gap between students from low-income and middle/high-income families. He saw that by adjusting the traditional school day and staffing structure, he could achieve an overall higher-performing and scalable school network, characterized by teacher specialization, optimized student learning, and increased parent involvement.

The approach he and his team are introducing cuts by 20 percent the certified teachers needed for quality learning, freeing up $500,000 per school of 450 students and making it cash-flow positive on government funds alone from day one. This works due to a re-envisioning of the elementary-level school day, including the addition of a “learning lab:” A 100-minute session facilitated by non-certified, hourly staff (e.g. City Year volunteers). Facilitators earn less than teachers, and the “savings” is routed to optimize student achievement by focusing on developing teachers and school administrators, and stress-testing the industry’s promising but nascent technology tools.

John and his team have begun their work in San Jose, with two schools fully operating and an ambitious expansion plan. While he is growing his school network, he also believes that independent replication of aspects of the model by other schools will open new possibilities for innovation and greater efficacy in the charter movement as a whole, particularly as it seeks to serve low-income students.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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