Detroit, Michigan | @matchbooklearn

Sajan George got his start turning around troubled businesses. Then, in 2002, he began applying those skills to a much larger, more complex institution in distress: American public schools. More than 20,000 public schools are chronically failing; the 25 percent lowest-income students have only a 9 percent chance of getting a college degree by age 25. Part of the problem, George believes, is that instructional strategies and the ways schools are organized have barely changed in a century. “I dare you to find another industry that has changed so little in 100 years,” he said in a 2013 TEDx talk.

George’s company, Matchbook Learning, combines modern technology and data management with quality teaching to create what he calls “blended classrooms.” The approach relies on individual learning paths, real-time data on student learning, and ongoing coaching for teachers. Matchbook Learning’s turnaround model has been recognized by the Gates Foundation, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the NewSchools Venture Fund, and the Praxis 2012 Social Entrepreneur First Prize.

“My faith is both the catalyst and continuing source for my calling to this work,” George said. “The very best I can hope to achieve is to channel God’s… desire to see every child created in his image bear the potential of that image by cultivating and restoring it through a proper education for the common good.”

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