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NGLC Grants Fuel Blended Learning Programs

In the first of three funding cycles this year, five education organizations have received grants from the Next Generation Learning Challenges initiative to support "new, blended whole-school models" for students in grades 6 through 12.

The Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) is an initiative that provides financial support for innovative, technology-centered solutions for improving college readiness and completion, with an emphasis on solutions for minority and low-income students. The program is led by the education organization Educause and is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), iNacol (the International Association for K-12 Online Learning), and the League for Innovation in the Community College.

The NGLC program is currently in its third wave of funding, which will total $12 million, dispersed over three investment cycles in 2012. In the first cycle, five organizations have received a total of $750,000--$150,000 each--with the opportunity to receive an additional $300,000 in matching funds. Funding for Wave III grants is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Past challenges have included open courseware, learning analytics, student engagement, and assessment, among others. The Wave III challenge calls on middle school, high school, and post-secondary institutions to develop new models for blended learning at the secondary and post-secondary levels.

Winners in the first cycle in Wave III included:

  • Alpha Public Schools, which is opening its first charter middle school in Northern California in fall 2012, combining in-person and technology-driven instruction;
  • KIPP Chicago, a "national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public schools," which is initiating a new blended learning model focused on developing "academic and character strengths necessary to create a path to higher education";
  • Leadership Public Schools, an organization that operates four charter public high schools in California, which will open a new Oakland campus that will serve as an "R&D incubator" for education solutions focused on urban schools;
  • Touchstone Education, whose upcoming Newark Prep Charter School in New Jersey will deliver differentiated instruction to students in grades 6 through 12; and
  • University of Southern California, which will launch a new high school in Los Angeles called "USC Hybrid High School," a blended school targeted toward students at risk of dropping out. Hybrid High will be open 10 hours per day, every day to accommodate the schedules of students, with an online curriculum and physical facilities for hands-on learning and in-person interaction with teachers.

"We were very pleased to see the high quality of responses to this RFP," said NGLC Executive Director Ira Fuchs in a prepared statement. "The laser-like focus on student success, including a major emphasis on college and career readiness, coupled with smart and sound strategic and financial planning for long-term growth and success signals the commitment that these organizations are making to students and the communities they will serve."

Applications are still being accepted for Wave III grants, with the majority of the year's funding still remaining for cycles 2 and 3.

"NGLC seeks to support and accelerate technology-enhanced solutions that change the way education is designed and delivered," said Fuchs. "We know that, around the nation, technological tools are transforming students' ability to master concepts and basic knowledge at their own pace, giving educators more time to focus on one-on-one learning. We see from these grantees, as well as the proposals coming in for cycle 2, that there are visionary leaders with groundbreaking ideas capable of transforming education and dramatically improving outcomes for disadvantaged students. We're eager to provide additional support and thinking to help them succeed."

NGLC Wave III applications are being accepted "on a rolling basis" until June 8. Cycle 2 winners will be named in May. Cycle 3 winners will be named in September. Additional details can be found on NGLC's Wave III portal.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .