Six community-based education organizations across the U.S. have been selected to participate in a new $25 million effort launched by Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC), intended to establish regional hubs of K-12 innovation. The Regional Funds for Breakthrough Schools––a first-of-its-kind national initiative that supports “breakthrough” schools to accelerate student progress––will grant funding to local educators whose approaches incorporate leading principles of personalized, blended, and competency-based learning.
NGLC defines breakthrough schools as those charged with generating rigorous outcomes for all students: at least 1.5 years of growth annually in math and English/language arts—an ambitious but necessary goal for students who are behind in specific subject areas or grade levels—a 90 percent high school graduation rate, and at least 80 percent of students meeting college readiness benchmarks and enrolling in college.
NH has eight schools involved in this work with 15 in our League of Innovative Schools. The schools who are involved with support from their local districts and communities, have decided to be a part of this incredible opportunity to form a professional learning community geared to personalizing education for each student. This is not new work. We have just gained the attention of a group of funders to support what we were involved in and will allow more capacity building in teacher effectiveness. Just like we have been doing—but now we have some financial support to build professional learning communities with more resources.
The League of Innovative Schools is an initiative of the New England Secondary School Consortium, a five-state partnership that promotes forward-thinking innovations in the design and delivery of secondary education throughout the region. Since 2008, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont have worked together to improve graduation rates, increase college readiness, close achievement gaps, and promote educational innovation. The Consortium is coordinated by the Great Schools Partnership, a nonprofit school-support organization based in Portland, Maine.
All six partner organizations were selected through competitive, national application processes by NGLC and the initiative’s funders: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Funding models vary across the sites, but each regional partner will be investing between $1.8M and $3M in local design teams to generate new or conversion schools, with a mix of national and in some regions, locally-raised funding. Some partners are working closely with single, big city school districts; others are working with multiple districts and larger regions. Each partner is aiming to enable design teams of innovative educators to open or transform at least three (and in some cases many more) new or redesigned breakthrough model schools by fall of 2016.
The six partner organizations include:
Leaders from each site will work with NGLC and its national network of 80 breakthrough model schools (funded with $23 million in grants awarded since 2012). A breakthrough school combines student-centered, personalized, blended, and competency-based learning approaches with high expectations for student achievement, all sustainable on public funding. In personalized learning settings, learning experiences are designed by teachers and students to address individual skills, gaps, interests and aspirations. Competency-based learning enables students to move at their own optimal pace and receive credit by demonstrating mastery of clearly defined expectations before moving on. Blended learning integrates teacher-led, in-person instruction with online learning and the use of technology-enabled tools in group-oriented and individual work. All of these strategies are at least partly managed by the student, and enabled by the seamless integration of technology.
The Regional Funds partner organizations were selected based on several criteria, including: clear leadership consensus supporting their vision of next generation learning; a high-capacity local organization to direct the work; a supportive policy environment to enable fundamental redesign of learning models and school structures and practices; and innovative, pioneering educators ready to lead this groundbreaking work.
NGLC is managed by EDUCAUSE, a non-profit association working to advance higher education through the use of information technology, in conjunction with the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), and the League for Innovation in the Community College. Additional program support for the Regional Funds partner organizations will be provided by CEE-Trust.