NGLC Grants | News

Urban Innovators Offered Grant Funding for Blended School Plans

The deep pockets of Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) have opened again — this time to fund innovation within two specific urban school districts to set up "breakthrough" learning models for improving student outcomes. NGLC is a collaboration of philanthropic organizations, educators, and technologists focused on supporting educational innovation through technology.

A new set of grants worth a potential $3.6 million will be issued in Chicago and Washington, D.C. in a two-part initiative named "Breakthrough Schools." In the first phase, up to six planning grants of $100,000 will be awarded in each city during spring 2014. The winners of those grants will have the chance to vie for additional funding of $150,000 guaranteed and up to $300,000 with one-to-one matching funds to follow through on the plans. The funding is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The ultimate goal is to open up six new schools in each city by fall 2014 or 2015.

The consortium has already committed $21 million to support development of about 60 new or redesigned blended learning schools nationally for grades 6 through 12. Eventually, NGLC said in a statement, the program could scale out to include additional cities next year.

The idea for the funding is fourfold, said Luis de la Fuente, senior director at The Broad Foundation, one of the supporting organizations of the new program:

  • To reach more "visionaries and entrepreneurs" in public education who have a vision for new kinds of schools that could engage students in their own learning;
  • To coalesce support for innovation through local partnering and the development of local school networks;
  • To encourage city-level cooperation among districts, city government, mayors, innovation incubators, community-based organizations, and state education agencies; and
  • To expand interest in blended and personalized-learning approaches by educators in the region.

In addition to the monetary awards, all recipients of the grants will be able to participate in a network of other innovators and entrepreneurs and connect with people from NGLC's organizational partners. They'll also get help in refining their instructional and business models and receive a third-party research study and validation of impact.

"Educators and innovators are working hard nationally to develop wholly new school models that dramatically change their students' learning experience, making it more engaging, much more personal, more relevant, and more effectively based on what we now know about how genuine learning happens," said NGLC Deputy Director Andrew Calkins. "This city-based extension of NGLC's national grant making will help school designers meet that challenge through local networks of like-minded, visionary educators, which should help them develop even more promising school designs."

NGLC defines breakthrough schools as:

  • Being student-centered;
  • Maintaining high expectations;
  • Using self-paced and mastery-based credit;
  • Implementing blended instruction;
  • Assuming student ownership of learning management;
  • Becoming sustainable on per-pupil revenue from public sources within four years; and
  • Being designed to grow to serve many more students if it finds success.

People can learn more about the planning grant process at the initiative's page on the NGLC Web site. The deadline for applications is January 13, 2014.

Previously funded schools include Ingenuity Prep, a charter school that offers small-group, discourse-rich blended learning instruction, among other practices; and KIPP Create, a new charter middle school in Chicago that unites constituents around the goal of building skills that will lead students into college.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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