Next Generation Learning Challenges Accelerates New K-12 Personalized Learning School Designs
$6.6M in grants will support the launch and planning of breakthrough school models that accelerate student learning by integrating online learning with traditional instruction
July 15, 2013 (Washington, D.C.) – Public education in the United States is facing a critical challenge: how to close the achievement gaps among K-12 students and meet significantly increased expectations for all of the nation’s high school graduates to be college- and career- ready.
To help meet this challenge, Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) today awarded $6.6 million in funding to 38 grant recipients working to personalize learning through whole- school models for students spanning grades 6-12. The grant recipients, which represent school districts, charter schools and charter management organizations, reform organizations, and state agencies, are developing what NGLC calls “breakthrough” model schools that integrate personalized, blended, competency-based approaches in creative, promising ways.
The first of two rounds of NGLC’s Wave IV funding (the next round will be announced in April 2014) includes:
- 8 Launch Grants of $150,000 each, plus an additional $300,000 for each recipient that is contingent on a 1:1 funding match, to support schools that will open this fall.
- 30 Planning Grants of $100,000 to support teams that are planning to launch schools in fall 2014.
The grantees collectively reflect a degree of innovation that is “striking and compelling,” said Andrew Calkins, NGLC deputy director. “These breakthrough model grantees are not just pushing the edge of the envelope on school design. They are bursting through it with ideas and approaches that place higher student achievement and genuine college readiness first – and accept no limits on the school and learning designs that might best bring them about.”
Less than two years after NGLC originally announced the breakthrough model grant program, the organization is seeing growing interest in whole school models from a more diverse pool of applicants, receiving nearly 100 eligible proposals. In fact, the pool of applicants for the planning grants in this first round was so strong that NGLC awarded the full allotment of 30 planning grants originally slated for this entire fourth wave of investments. (Additional funding will be made available for more planning grants in Wave IV’s second round, which has a December 2013 deadline.)
Additionally, NGLC is seeing much greater diversity among the pool of applicants. While charter networks dominated the previous round of funding, Wave IV includes far more school districts moving in the direction of breakthrough-learning models. Of the 38 grantees, 19 are either districts or districts in partnerships with external organizations. (To learn more about all of our grant recipients, see below and visit http://nextgenlearning.org/wave-iv-launch for launch grants and http://nextgenlearning.org/wave-iv-planning for our planning grants).
“The bright line between districts and charters has begun to fade as more and more districts give visionary school leaders autonomy and work closely with the charter sector to facilitate school-based innovation,” said Calkins. “Change needs to happen at all levels—systems, policy, and infrastructure—to bring about breakthrough learning for all students. But right now, the most pressing need is to get it right at the only level where it really counts: the student level, with schools that are fundamentally re-imagining how learning is ignited and supported. We’re encouraged by the partnerships and diversity of approaches among the Wave IV grant recipients in their efforts to catalyze vastly improved student outcomes.”
In addition to providing funding, NGLC provides an opportunity for grantees and other adopters to learn from the successes of peer organizations working to solve the same barriers to student success. To kick off their grants, NGLC is bringing all 30 planning grantees to San Francisco for a three-day School Design Workshop, in conjunction with Indianapolis-based CEE Trust, to support them in planning for school launch in Fall 2014. Topics to be covered will include financial modeling and sustainability for blended learning, reimagining human capital and staffing for next generation schools, and the integration of online content providers. The launch grantees will gather this fall for similar purposes.
In addition to the grants announced today, NLGC has already provided nearly $40 million in support to 75 grantees in all, including 39 new breakthrough secondary schools and other educational entrepreneurs and tool-builders focused on college readiness. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has been the initiative’s major supporter, is providing the funding for the grants announced today.
Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) accelerates educational innovation through applied technology to dramatically improve college readiness and completion in the United States. This multi-year program provides investment capital to expand the use of proven and emerging learning technologies, collects and shares evidence of what works, and fosters innovation and adoption of solutions which will dramatically improve the quality of learning in the United States, particularly for low-income students and students of color. NGLC is managed by EDUCAUSE in partnership with the League for Innovation in the Community College, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. Funding for Wave IV, Breakthrough Model Schools for College Readiness, was provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (www.nextgenlearning.org)
Summary of NGLC’s Wave IV Grants
With this round of funding, NGLC is seeking significant student success results – outcomes that reveal themselves in the successful pathways that students take following graduation from high school. Specifically, grantees will need to demonstrate plans to support 1.5 years of growth annually on Common Core State Standards, graduate 90% of middle school students and 90% of high school students (using federal definitions for transience,) and matriculate 80% of students to postsecondary education. Grant applicants will also need to produce a financially-sustainable business plan. NGLC is also seeking approaches that are designed to extend beyond the Common Core standards, helping all students develop the skills, knowledge, and aptitudes necessary to lead productive lives in the 21st century – especially low-income students and students of color.
NGLC considers a “Breakthrough School” to be a new, whole-school model that incorporates all of the following design principles:
- Student-Centered: designed to meet the diverse learning needs of each student every day
- High Expectations: committed to ensuring that every student will meet clearly defined, rigorous standards that will prepare them for success in college and career
- Self-Pacing and Mastery-Based Credit: enables students to move at their own optimal pace, and receive credit when they can demonstrate mastery of the material
- Blended Instruction: optimizes teacher and technology-delivered instruction in group and individual work
- Student Ownership: empowers students with the skills, information, and tools they need to manage their own learning
- Financial Sustainability: sustainable on public per-pupil revenue within four years
- Scalable: designed to serve many more students if it demonstrates impact
Launch Grants ($450,000/grantee including $300,000 1:1 match)
Danville Independent Schools (KY)
This small district south of Lexington, designated by the state as a District of Innovation, is completely redesigning its middle school and high school to a competency-based, problem- based, and blended learning model to fulfill the district’s goals of powerful learning experiences, global preparedness, growth for all, excellence in communication, and an informed and involved community.
e3 Civic High (CA)
This district- and community-supported early college high school, located in San Diego’s new downtown public library, has an intentional civics, service, and internship focus aimed at developing deeper learning, ownership, and inquiry-based thinking skills. Students in grades 9-12 learn through a mix of self-paced online instruction, small-group work, direct instruction, project- based work, internships, and college courses.
The Great Oaks Foundation (NY)
This charter organization is opening the Great Oaks Charter School of New York City (GO- NYC), a 6th-12th grade school with a significant proportion of English language learners. GO- NYC’s model integrates Swedish-based Kunskapsskolan Education’s (operating in the U.S. as KUSA) competency-based Learning Portal and resources.
Ingenuity Prep (DC)
This new civic leadership-based charter school located in the nation’s capital will span preschool to 12th grade at full maturity. The model creates more learning time for students through an extended day and year as well as more efficient and effective educational delivery provided through a four-tiered staffing approach (from resident to master teacher), looping and small-group, discourse-rich blended learning instruction.
KIPP Bay Area Schools (CA)
This network of seven charter schools is opening its newest high school this August, KIPP San Francisco College Prep. As the first high school within the national KIPP network to adopt a personalized blended learning approach, KIPP SF College Prep will prepare its low-income student population to attend college and earn a degree.
Lebanon School District (PA)
A founding member of the Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Initiative, this medium-sized district in central Pennsylvania, serving a socioeconomically diverse student population, is implementing a hybrid learning model in Lebanon High School to personalize learning in a cost-effective manner and demonstrate that transforming a “mainstream” school toward blended learning is possible without starting a new school or securing special waivers.
The Workshop School (PA)
In partnership with the School District of Philadelphia, this nonprofit organization is launching a new school that is fully organized by projects related to real-world problems rather than by academic subjects. The school’s model integrates blended learning and mastery-based progress with problem-based learning in grades 9 to 12 in order to unleash the creative and intellectual potential of young people to solve the world’s toughest problems.
Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (NH)
For 5th to 12th graders, this statewide online charter school is redefining “school” to mean wherever learning occurs, whether in a classroom, online, or in the community through VLACS Aspire, a 100% self-paced competency-based approach (rather than a course-based curriculum) that harnesses the face-to-face learning potential of internships, service-learning, and distributed learning team-based projects.
Several major themes emerged from the broad range of planning grant recipients, including the following:
Moving from successful to breakthrough
Districts: Public school districts with high-capacity and successful track records of school performance –some of whom are leaders in the national Digital Promise initiative – will be completely redesigning their traditional school models into breakthrough, personalized, competency-based, blended learning models. Innovative districts among the Planning Grant winners include Lakewood City School District (OH), Piedmont City School District (AL), Utica Community Schools (MI), and West Allis-West Milwaukee School District (WI).
Charters: Successful charter management organizations (CMOs) also are experimenting with redesigns that integrate additional breakthrough approaches. This set of winners includes Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy (RI), Education for Change (CA), and the Academy of Innovation and Leadership (a new CMO started by VOISE Academy leaders).
Partnerships: The Planning Grant winners include organizations with deep experience in school reform – such as BattelleEd (OH), Building 21 (PA), Internationals Network for Public Schools (NY), and New Tech Network (FL) –that are joining in “Breakthrough School Developer Partnerships” with districts or charters to incorporate breakthrough personalized, competency-based, and blended learning approaches into their existing academic models.
Inventing new approaches that are innovative, unique, and bold
The academic models of some Planning Grant winners defy categorization in their one-of-a- kind breakthrough approaches that integrate different strains of school-model design. For example: Self-paced alternative school model meets adventure-based leadership training meets blended learning for Boston Day and Evening Academy (MA); “no excuses” model meets blended learning meets Montessori for grantee Montessori for All (TX); and “no excuses” model meets game-based adaptive learning meets a high-need, English language learner, special education student population for Design Innovation Factory, LLC (NY).
Moving from virtual to blended
Nearly all of the winners in this round are starting with a traditional brick-and-mortar, face-to- face model of school and moving toward a blended learning approach. But Florida Virtual School joins Launch Grant winner Virtual Learning Academy Charter School as it develops a face-to-face component that will integrate with its online offerings to create a blended learning experience for students.
Turnarounds and restarts through blended learning
The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, previously funded by NGLC to turn around Nolan K-8 in Detroit, is now designing its high school-level breakthrough model to reinvent the state’s “Persistently Lowest Achieving” high schools. PHILO Finance Corp. (TX), created by a co-founder of KIPP, is developing a model to partner with districts to turn around failing schools using an adapted KIPP-style approach.
Other planning grant recipients named in this wave include the following:
Caliber Schools (CA)
San Mateo Union High School District (CA)
Future Is Now Schools (CA)
New York City Department of Education (NY)
Lane Community College (OR)
Out of the Box Learning Studio (WA)
Center for Teaching Quality (WA)
Educate Texas (TX)
The New School for Men (OH)
Thrive Public Schools (CA)
Valor Collegiate Academies (TN)
Jefferson County School District 509-J (OR)
World Class Schools (NC)
Visit: http://nextgenlearning.org/wave-iv-planning for the full list and descriptions of the 30 planning grant recipients.