Wave IV Grants: Breakthrough School Models for College Readiness

Do you have a vision for a form of secondary education that dramatically improves student outcomes through personalized, blended, mastery-based learning enabled by technology? If so, now is the time to act.Do you have a vision for a form of secondary education that dramatically improves student outcomes through personalized, blended, mastery-based learning enabled by technology? If so, now is the time to act.

Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) announces a Request for Proposals (RFP) for two types of grants - Launch Grants and Planning Grants - from developers of new, whole-school, breakthrough schools at the secondary level (students within grades 6-12).

  • Launch Grants are intended for leaders with an established business plan who intend to open their school doors in the fall of 2014.
  • Planning Grants are intended to support an individual, team, organization or partnership earlier in the school design process. Planning grantees benefit from additional time, support and resources that may be needed to generate the level of readiness required to apply for a launch grant. Planning grantees are targeting fall of 2015 to open their school

And, if your school is to be located in the city of Chicago or the District of Columbia (DC), you will want to check out the new NGLC Regional Fund challenges launching this fall in those two cities. Special partner supports and additional planning grants are available, with some eligibility changes from the national challenge. (For example, K-5 schools are eligible.).  Be sure to click these two city links to access the grant details for those two regions.


Grant Type Amount Due Date Anticipated Grants


($150,000 guaranteed plus up to $300,000 available in 1:1 matching funds)

December 2, 2013

(*Wave IV, Cycle 2 Launch applications are now closed. Thanks to those of you who submitted proposals.)

Planning $100,00 January 13, 2014

10 (national)
Up to 6 (D.C.)
Up to 6 (Chicago)

*Planning grantees from Cycle 1 are encouraged to apply for a launch grant in Cycle 2.

Breakthrough schools are designed around seven design principles with the goal of preparing students – especially those traditionally underserved by our system – to enroll and succeed in college. Breakthrough Schools (see Wave IIIa and Wave IV Planning and Launch) serve as proof points and help to accelerate the rate of adoption of next generation learning models for students nationwide.

NGLC seeks to invest in the creation of a large and diverse portfolio of Breakthrough Schools. These models can be created by a public school district, charter management organization, or through a partnership arrangement (between a nonprofit or for-profit organization and an entity authorized to open and operate an eligible public school). NGLC aspires to find entrepreneurs and innovative organizations and agencies that recognize the potential of technology-enabled breakthrough school models to catalyze broad, transformative change across public K-12 education in the United States.

In June 2013, NGLC announced the awards for Wave IV, Cycle 1. A total of thirty-eight grantees (8 launch and 30 planning grantees) were announced, representing a total investment of $6.6 million.

To find out if your plan or idea for a Breakthrough School would meet NGLC’s criteria and be competitive for a grant, learn more about the Cycle 1 grantees.
Here’s how:

  • NGLC funded 8 Launch Grantees who opened their Breakthrough Schools this fall 2013. View the narrated power point presentations from these winning proposals.  (Note that all launch applicants must submit a narrated power point). Downlaod a PDF summary of these launch grantees here.
  • NGLC funded 30 Planning Grantees to refine and further develop their proposed Breakthrough School model on a timeline for opening in the fall of 2014. (Note that planning applicants submit a five page written proposal. A narrated power point is not required). Planning grantees from Cycle 1 are encouraged to apply for a launch grant in Cycle 2. Download a PDF summary of these planning grantees here.


Eligibility, Application Process and Selection Criteria


Grant Eligibility

  • Applicants must ensure that at least 40% of students who will attend the proposed school meet the guidelines for the federal Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program;
  • Schools must serve students at the secondary level – specifically, three consecutive grade levels between 6-12 (this requirement is not in place for the DC and Chicago regional fund challenges);
  • Proposed schools must be a public school or public charter school and not a selective, private, for-profit, or tuition-charging school.

Note that school designs must incorporate the seven design principals and meet or exceed the performance expectations articulated in the RFP.


Who should apply?

Breakthrough School Developers. NGLC seeks breakthrough school developers from a range of organizations including:

  • School districts
  • Charter management organizations (CMOs)
  • Aspiring charter entrepreneurs
  • Non-profit (and for-profit) school developers
  • State education agencies
  • Postsecondary institutions
  • Related organizations that serve and support schools, students and teachers


Applying on Behalf of Existing Schools
. Our experience with the Wave IIIa breakthrough models and other research suggests that new school startups provide the optimum conditions in which to implement innovative school designs. However, we do believe that existing schools can undergo this transformation process with the right conditions and capacity in place. (NGLC did fund redesigned school models in Wave IV, Cycle 1). There are two specific mechanisms by which a school developer could apply on behalf of an existing school:

  • Complete Redesign School: Districts or Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) may elect to redesign existing high-performing schools that demonstrate evidence of strong capacity and, at a minimum, proficiency rates that meet or exceed state averages (while meeting this RFP’s student population requirements, below). Complete Redesign schools must propose a comprehensive reinvention of their academic, organizational, and financial models and must demonstrate sufficient operating latitude and support from the LEA/SEA/Charter Authorizing Authority.
  • Restart School: School districts that seek to address an officially-designated failing school (under federal School Improvement Grant guidelines) through the SIG “Restart” option and are working with an outside operator to launch a Breakthrough School.


NGLC Target Populations. 
When fully launched, schools must serve at least three grades, or their non-age based leveling equivalent ideally within the traditional 6–12 grade range.

  • Eligible Schools: K–8, K-12, 6-8, 6-12, 9-12, etc.
  • Ineligible Schools: K-5, 4-7, 8-9

K-8 and K-12 schools are eligible to apply, given that they will serve, when fully built out, students in three consecutive grade levels within grades 6-12 as specified in the Wave IV RFP. 
Please note that preference will be given to schools that serve the targeted grades within a four-year window.  However, K-8 and K-12 schools are eligible to apply even if they will not serve the targeted grade levels by year 4 (i.e., if they are adding grade levels beginning with first grade).These applicants must specifically address their proposed secondary model in the application. All the other requirements still apply.


Application Process

Applicants for a launch grant are expected to submit the following:

  • A 5-7 page narrative summarizing the proposal
  • A narrated PowerPoint presentation (no more than 10 slides) describing the school's academic model in detail
  • A financial model/narrative using a short template provided online

Applicants for a planning grant are expected to submit the following:

  • A five (5) page concept paper about the proposed Breakthrough School
  • Resume(s) of the key applicant(s)


Selection Criteria

Reviewers will use the following criteria to select awardees:

  • Alignment of the prosed school and academic model to NGLC's seven design principals and performance expectations. (Note for Launch applicants this includes the coherence of the proposed model- Do the parts hang together?)
  • Boldness of the school design and concept
  • Assessment and articulation of a solid strategy for scaling
  • Evidence of any additional assets, partnerships, funding, or promising efforts.
  • Value of the proposed school model to the diversity of NGLC's overall portfolio of next generation school models
  • The 'fit' of the proposed school in the local and national networks, either by bringing in value or significantly benefiting from the cohort experience
  • Launch applicants are also evaluated based on the overall quality/viability of their financial model

All application materials should be submitted through the NGLC proposal submission website. For more detailed information and application criteria please review the Request for Proposals.




Generic NGLC resources

See the links in the box at the top right hand side of this page. Such resources include:


Resources for Cycle 2 Launch Grant Finalists




Webinars (Cycle 1)


Webinars (Cycle 2)


Upcoming Webinars

This 5-part webinar series is focused on supporting school teams planning on opening in the fall of 2014 or 2015 to begin thinking about choices around digital content and educational technology. The webinars will be hosted by Education Elements and will allow time for Q&A.

  • November 21, 2013 @ 4-5pm ET: Introductory webinar on Ed Tech and Digital Content (download presentation slides)
  • December 18, 2013 @ 4-5pm ET: Common Core State Standards and Digital Content (download presentation slides)
  • February 21, 2014 @ 4-5pm ET: Digital Content Trends
  • March 2014 (day/time TBD): Best Practices I
  • April 2014 (day/time TBD): Best Practices II